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New York Rangers Shift Focus to Veteran Stars: Jagr's Return a Must

Mike RappaportAnalyst IIJuly 2, 2008

After a month of speculation, Ranger fans were left heartbroken on Wednesday morning, as Sean Avery signed a four year/$15.5 million deal with the Dallas Stars.

In addition to Avery's departure, the Rangers lost on the bidding to get Marian Hossa, who only added to the Stanley Cup Champions' quest to repeat by signing a one  year deal with the Detroit Red Wings for $7.4 million.

With the free agent market quickly drying up, Glen Sather's attention now goes to two future Hall of Famers: Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin. Conceivably, the Rangers could land both of these players, although odds are long that both will be wearing Ranger Blue next year.

If Sather could only get one, the favorite between Jagr and Sundin to be on the team next year will be the Rangers captain for the last two seasons.

Jagr has always said that playing in the NHL was his first option, and the Rangers were his top choice. As late as last night, Jagr said that he was waiting to see what would happen with Marian Hossa before making a decision, and Sather said that the ball is in Jagr's court.

Hossa has made his decision, and all signs point to Jagr coming back to the Rangers. Jagr said that money wasn't necessarily his top priority (or he would have signed with Omsk in the Russian League a long time ago), and very few NHL teams will give him anything in the same ballpark as Hossa.

The Rangers are one of those teams, and without a marquee player on the wing, expect Jagr to be with the Rangers next season.

As for Sundin, the chance to center Jagr next year (providing Jagr returns of course) and finish his career in New York may be too good to pass up.

While Sundin has many offers on the table, including a reported two year/$20 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks, playing in New York would provide him with an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup and center a future Hall of Famer.

Sundin said in a statement on Wednesday that he has to reflect on the opportunities each team provided for him, and there is no doubt playing on the greatest stage in the world had to have crossed his mind.

From a personnel standpoint, signing Jagr and Sundin would then move center Chris Drury to the wing, probably on a line that would be centered by Scott Gomez. If that is the case, then it will be unlikely for Brendan Shanahan to return, at least not in the same role as he has had for the past two seasons in New York.

Either way, it should be very interesting to see what happens with the Rangers in the next couple of days. 

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