Well, I'm writing this sooner than I thought I would, but I had a few thoughts that I had to type here before I forgot them.
Despite the Rangers' conservative NHL Draft, Glen Sather sure wasn't tight during the first week of July. The only thing that I could think of as I was sitting at work checking TSN religiously on July 1 was how different this team was going to be this season.
However, I can honestly say that I didn't see any of the moves that Slats made coming (except for the Naslund and Mara signings, scroll down to earlier posts in my blog to back that up). Some of the moves made me wonder what the hell Slats was thinking, and because of this, I can confidently say that some Ranger fans I know wanted to hang him from the rafters of Section 420.
However, some of the moves he pulled off made me tip his cap to him, showing us a couple business strokes of brilliance we still know him to be capable of. Here is my take on the free agent signings and moves of free agency thus far:
- Signing Aaron Voros to a three year, three million dollar deal: The first signing by the Rangers of Free Agency, this move, although unspectacular looking at first, I think will turn into a great signing.
Voros is a big bottom six forward that surely can replace Hollweg on the fourth line and bring a similar game with more offense (I really hope so anyway). He scored seven goals, more than Hollweg's career total, and added seven assists to Minnesota's trap-system game.
I think he can blossom here into a legitimate fourth liner that is a threat to score when on the ice. It doesn't hurt that he isn't afraid to drop the gloves either.
- Signing Patrick Rissmiller: This is one of the few moves that made me scratch my head. However, with the recent departure of Josh Gratton, this turns into a very wise signing by Sather.
To be honest, I don't know much about him aside from the fact that he played for the San Jose Sharks and played his college hockey at Holy Cross. He looks like the same type of player as Aaron Voros, minus the willingness to fight. My bet is that he starts the season in Hartford.
- Re-signing Michal Rozsival to a four year, 20 million dollar contract: To be clear, I was never Rozsival's biggest fan to begin with. Although I do believe Rozy is a very serviceable middle pairing D-man, his offseason hip surgery and horrendous second half of the 2007-08 season raised a couple of concerns for me.
I hope he plays like the Rozsival in the first half of last season for the majority of his contract, for his own sake. Although I believe $5 million/year is overpayment for Rozsival, he was a good alternative to other high priced D-men on the market at that price, which brings me to....
- Signing Wade Redden to a six year, 39 million dollar contract: OUCH. That was my first thought when I got wind of the terms of the contract.
Redden is a legitimate No. 1 defenseman that the Rangers have desperately needed since Leetch retired. However, I do not believe that Redden was the answer at this point of his career.
At 31, he is in his prime years as a player, but the depreciation value on defensemen in the new NHL has been steadily declining recently. This makes me worry that the Rangers could potentially be stuck with his albatross of a contract for a good two to three years.
I do have faith that Wade will bounce back in New York and be a defensive leader that the Rangers need. Add this to the fact that he would be a GREAT mentor to Marc Staal, Redden could very well end up being worth every penny.
- Re-signing Steve Valiquette to a new contract: I like Steve, and think he is a very serviceable backup. He also appears to be a well liked figure in the locker room, and is a great team player. Great signing.
- Acquiring Dan Fritsche and Nikolai Zherdev for Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman: You have to go back four years to the 2004 trade deadline to see a better deal for the New York Rangers if all goes according to plan.
Simply put: Sather fleeced Columbus in this trade. Zherdev is a potential superstar in this league, and Fritsche is an upgraded version of Callahan. Although I am very sad to see Tyuts go, sending Backman and his salary with him, AND getting Zherdev and Fritsche in return dulls the pain.
I have read some scouting reports and commentary on Zherdev that hails him as having the potential to one day be as skilled as the likes of fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, albeit not as complete of a player.
This makes most Ranger fans, including myself, very excited for his debut on Broadway. Seeing him overcome knocks on his work ethic and defensive game at the Garden will make me even happier.
- Signing Markus Naslund to a two year, eight million dollar deal: Questions about his age arose as soon as he was signed, but I for one have no problem with the signing at all.
He provides more offense to a team that I think will outscore last year's goal totals this season, as well as some needed veteran leadership. Scoring 55 points on an anemic Vancouver offensive squad is no easy feat. With the right linemates, I see Nazzy lighting up the lamp a lot more than he did this past year.
- Signing Dimitri Kalinin to a one year, $2.1 million dollar contract: With the departure of Tyutin and Backman, another defensive signing was necessary.
His scouting report reminds me of Backman all over again, but playing on the third pair with a limited role should help him overcome his alleged confidence issues. Touted as a potential franchise defenseman since the day he was drafted, maybe this is the year when he lives up to the hype.
- Re-signing Paul Mara to a one year, 1.95 million dollar deal: My favorite signing of all. Mara had an excellent playoffs this past season to go along with the best playoff beard on the Rangers. Possessing an underrated mean streak and offensive game, getting him at less than two million dollars is a huge steal.
This is the same guy that scored 47 points with Phoenix three seasons ago, the first season after the lockout. I have no doubt in my mind that he has the potential to do it again if given the opportunity.
Under the pressure of a one year deal, Mara is at the crossroads of his career, as I'll be one of his biggest fans this year rooting for him to have a monster of a year.
Of course, with all of these new faces, we also had to say goodbye to a lot of familiar ones. First there is Martin Straka, who agreed to return to his native Czech Republic to become a player/representative for his hometown club. Best wishes Marty, you busted your tail every shift as a Ranger.
Then there's Sean Avery. He simply left New York for a bigger payday. Nothing wrong with that. I have no further comment on him.
Brendan Shanahan, although as of now unsigned, looks to be done as a New York Ranger, and possibly with his career. He is one of the greatest talents of our generation, but it is his time to hang them up.
Although he still possesses the wrist shot of a 20 year old, he looks like his age skating. You had an awesome career Shanny, nothing but a class act the whole way. I look forward to your Hall of Fame induction.
Finally, there is Jaromir Jagr. What can I say? He is one of the top 20, maybe top 10 best players of all time to play the game.
After the signing of Markus Naslund, Jagr saw the writing on the wall and took the three year deal worth over 30 million dollars to go play alongside Rangers top prospect Alexei Cherepanov in the KHL as a member of Avangard Omsk.
I have my hopes that Jagr passes along some great advice to Alexei, and talks to him about coming to New York sooner rather than later. At least I hope so anyway.
But I digress. Although being accused frequently of being a lazy primadonna, he has done nothing to show that. In his days as a New York Ranger, he has done nothing but give 100 percent on the ice, even going as far as playing through injuries for long stretches.
I will never forget his strength, skill, and imagination with the puck along with his patented wrister from the right circle right into the upper corner. I wish you nothing but the best Jags, and along with Shanny, I look forward to your day in the Hall of Fame. In tribute, you are my newest jersey purchase.
That is all for now from me. I will be writing more occasionally this offseason if a Rangers related thought pops into my mind. Please leave comments! I love to hear feedback!