The New York Rangers signed Markus Naslund during the first week of the free agency period and many have discussed their opinion on the deal. Some like Scott Burnside of ESPN believe it to be a very large gamble. I couldn't disagree more.
The look of the Rangers has changed dramatically this offseason and I believe the future is looking bright. The exit of Jagr and Straka with the addition of Zherdev and Naslund makes the team younger and more dynamic.
Naysayers around the sports world such as Mr. Burnside feel that Naslund is a shadow of the player he was just a few years ago, commenting on his goal total of just 25 this past season. Burnside also stated that Naslund as a replacement for Jagr is "a move that is Off Broadway"
Over the past 11 seasons with Vancouver Naslund has scored less that 20 goals only once, he has collected nine consecutive seasons with 20 or more. In 2002-03 he won the Lester B. Pearson award for most outstanding player in the NHL voted by the players.
He was the captain of Vancouver for the past eight years and has been a proven scorer when the game is on the line.
Has Naslund's scoring production dropped? Yes. There is a reason why this has happened.
Since the return of the NHL after the lockout, the one time goal scoring machine of the Vancouver Canucks has signed Roberto Luongo to a rediculous contract and has changed the style of their game to a defensive system relying on their goal tender, with scoring coming from transition. With less of a free wheeling style an offensive player like Naslund will always see a smaller production (see Scott Gomez).
In my opinion signing Naslund to a two-year $8 million contract is a no brainer. Putting him on the wing with either Gomez or Drury with the likes or Zhedrev or Prucha will see a increase of production from Naslund.
Don't be surprised if he nets 30 plus in the more offensive Eastern Conference. And let's not forget the intangibles he brings with him, leadership and experience. Naslund will be an immediate impact on the Rangers powerplay and in the locker room.
Jagr had is time in New York, and it was a great run. However with the change of the game and Jagr's inability to beat players one on one like he did in the past, it is time to build the Rangers around Gomez and Drury. Naslund will be a great fit on the wing and I see the Rangers competing for a top 3 seed in the East.
Sorry Mr. Burnside I believe you will have to eat those words come the end of the 08-09 season.
But then again what do I know.