New York Rangers Free Agents: Who Stays, Who Goes?

Greg CaggianoSenior Writer IMarch 31, 2010

Even if the New York Rangers manage to slip into the playoffs, they must begin to look to the future, starting with their own free agents. The blueshirts must decide who they will bring back and let walk when the offseason begins.

1. Olli Jokinen (C)

2009/10 salary: $5.500 million

For the past two seasons, Olli Jokinen has been a shell of the player that once scored 30 goals and 90 points with the Florida Panthers. The Rangers stole the one time superstar from the Calgary Flames, in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik, who have combined for a total of 32 games played, four goals, and two assists. Jokinen, meanwhile, has three goals and 10 assists in 20 games.

He has shown promise in certain situations since being acquired by the Rangers, but a lack of consistency has plagued him, and led to him being called out by head coach John Tortorella a few days ago. Because the Rangers will be in substantial need of offense next season, and Ilya Kovalchuk is on the market, letting Jokinen walk to save that $5 million would be the ideal move.

That’s what the trade really was—a salary dump. The Rangers should allow the course to run itself. However, if Jokinen were to take a pay cut, and accept a one-year deal for $4 million, then I would consider having him back. Though such a scenario is unlikely.

Final Verdict: Do not re-sign

2. Vaclav Prospal (C/LW)

2009/10 salary: $1.1 million (receiving $1.167 million from Tampa Bay due to a buyout)

The Rangers signed Prospal this summer to play center alongside Marian Gaborik this season. For the most part, the tandem worked, and Prospal sits second on the Rangers in scoring, all while being paid a modest sum of $1.1 million dollars. This signing can clearly be called the steal of the summer.

Prospal’s natural position for his entire career has been on the wing, and it only goes to show how poor a depth the Rangers have, since their No. 1 center for the majority of the season has been a career winger. But even so, he and Gaborik have found great chemistry, and he has even played well when being moved around on different lines.

The Rangers should look to re-sign Prospal, who will be getting a raise. Given that he is 34 years old and will be getting money from Tampa Bay until 2015, the raise should only be slight, and he should play on the wing if the Rangers can get a legitimate top center.

Final Verdict: Re-sign for two years/$3.6 million

3. Enver Lisin (RW)

2009/10 salary: $790,000 (RFA)

At the beginning of the season, Lisin showed flashes of brilliance with his lightning speed and heavy shot. Unfortunately, he soon fell into the doghouse of John Tortorella and has not been given ample playing time in months.

At only 23 years old, he still has a lot of potential. But as much as I would like to give him a chance, would it be worth it for the Rangers to re-sign him only to have him be scratched or given five minutes of ice time on the fourth line?

If John Tortorella is fired, I imagine he will be re-signed. But if not, the Rangers won't be able to offer him a qualifier, because he is a restricted free agent. The Rangers could also look to trade his rights, but I doubt they could really fetch anything for him

Final verdict: Do not re-sign

4. Erik Christensen (C)

2009/10 salary: $750,000 (RFA)

Who would have thought that a third line center claimed off of waivers would end up being the Rangers’ top center later in the season? Since being picked up off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks, Christensen has played very well in the roles he has been assigned.

Although he does not have the caliber of a No. 1 center, he has formed good chemistry with Marian Gabrik and Vaclav Prospal. He has a very heavy wrist shot, back checks, and has decent speed. He also has an excellent scoring percentage in shootouts.

The Rangers should look to bring back the 25-year-old to play on the first line, or even slide down to the third line if the Rangers were to acquire a center over the summer.

Final verdict: Re-sign for two years/$1.8 million

5. Jody Shelley (LW)

2009/10 salary: $725,000

After a quiet first few games as a Ranger, Shelley has quietly found himself a nice role on the fourth line. After forming chemistry with Artem Anisimov and Brandon Prust, he has also been seen as defensively responsible, and has been on the ice for late shifts when the Rangers have a lead.

He is a better skater than Brashear and Orr, and has been a decent fighter. He also does not take dumb penalties, which is the fault of many enforcers.

I sincerely hope that the Rangers would look to bring him back for another season.

Final verdict: Re-sign for one year/$750,000

6. Brandon Prust (RW)

2009/10 salary: $525,000 (RFA)

Since being acquired by the Rangers, Prust has been relatively calm and unnoticeable. He led the league in fighting majors at the time the Rangers acquired him, but really has not been as active with the Rangers. He has shown both good speed and the willingness to stick up for his teammates, but if the Rangers choose to re-sign Shelley and keep Voros, there really would not be a need to have him back.

The Rangers should try to give a youngster the spot next season; a player like Dane Byers or Devin DiDiomete could fit in well, and for less money.

Final verdict: Do not re-sign

7. Dan Girardi (D)

2009/10 salary: $1.6 million (RFA)

When Dan Girardi hits free agency, I would hope that the Rangers run as fast as they possibly can. Aside from not being physical, Girardi has been a shell of that ultra-calm defenseman we saw two seasons ago, and for the beginning of last year. He has been, in one word, brutal.

As an unrestricted free agent, the Rangers simply cannot just let him walk, but they can choose not to not him a qualifying offer, or even try to trade his rights for a late round draft pick. Getting a fifth or sixth rounder could be a pretty good return.

The Rangers then also call up Potter or Sanguinetti for next season, to give them a chance.

Final verdict: Do not re-sign

8. Marc Staal (D)

2009/10 salary: $765,000

The one thing that is on the mind of every Rangers fan out there is what the Rangers will be paying Marc Staal, and how can they afford him. First of all, I am not Staal’s biggest fan, and consider him to be an ordinary defenseman who is so highly overrated by fans and analysts alike simply because of his last name.

That said, I would like to see Staal brought back for next season, but without breaking the bank. Should Staal sign for only one year, to bridge the gap until the Rangers can pay him more the season after, than he would get less. But if the Rangers can lock him up long-term, then they can pay him more.

Final verdict: Re-sign for one year/$1.8 million or four years/$12 million

Other Players

In the last few games, P.A Parenteau has been playing very well, now that it seems he will finally be given a chance to prove himself. He has skated well and has shown offensive prowess on the top two lines.

However, there is a catch. Parenteau is a top-six player or bust. He is useless on a checking line, and the Rangers should only bring him back if they can guarantee him a spot on the top two lines. Should this scenario be possible, then I think a one-year/$600,000 deal would be fair.

Anders Eriksson has been unnoticeable in the two games he has played since being called up from the Wolfpack, after being acquired from Phoenix in a deadline day deal. On this defense, though, being unnoticeable is almost as good as actually being good. At 34 years old, the journeyman can be the epitome of a seventh defenseman, and can be valuable down the stretch for the Rangers next season, without hurting the development of any of the Rangers young defensemen. He should get a one-year deal for $550,000.

Please note: Salaries are based on the total amount of the contract, not per season.

Please visit my sports blog, "From New York to San Francisco."


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