“We have to get better,” Sather acknowledged. “And the way we’re going to get better is by staying within our organization and giving our prospects the time to grow and the opportunity to play in New York.
“This has been a long process, and it’s ongoing, but as we go into this summer, our plan is to keep our own players. I can tell you one thing—we are certainly not going to overpay for free agents. If we can improve with a signing that makes sense, we’ll look into it, but we want to give our guys the first shot.”
This is the first time that we are getting a good idea of exactly what the Rangers are going to try to do this offseason. So I thought now is a good time to look at the Rangers team and try to figure out how they are going to change this summer.
Who is Locked Down for 2010-11
The Rangers have goalie Henrik Lundqvist signed through the 2013-14 season.
They also have 10 forwards signed for next year: Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Sean Avery, Brandon Dubinsky, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Donald Brashear, Aaron Voros, Artem Anisimov, and Brian Boyle.
Four defensemen are under contract next season: Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Matt Gilroy, and Michael Del Zotto.
The Rangers have $47,246,667 already committed against the cap next season which leaves them with about $12 million left to spend (the NHL has not released official cap numbers for next season, but it is expected to be about $58.8 million).
They could increase that amount by $6.5 million by sending Redden to Hartford next season. They would still owe that money to Redden, it just wouldn’t count against the cap.
Brashear was signed to a two-year, $2.8 million contract last season. He spent most of last season playing for the Wolf Pack.
Sather told Brooks that’s where he is going to play again in 2010-11. Since he is over 35 his salary counts against the cap minus $100,000. So $1.3 million is counted against next years cap unless they can find a team to trade him too.
Which Restricted Free Agents Are Left Unsigned
The Rangers have 12 players who are restricted free agents: Dan Giardi, Paul Crowder, Andres Ambuhl, Ilkka Heikkinen (already signed with a KHL team), Brodie Dupont, Pavel Valentenko, Mike Sauer, Marc Staal, Enver Lisin, Erik Christensen, Brandon Prust, and Dane Byers.
Of this group, Girardi, Staal, Christensen, and Prust are the most likely to impact the Rangers at the NHL level next season. Although Lisin, Byers, and Sauer could possibly stick around and contribute.
Which Players Are Unrestricted Free Agents
The Rangers could potentially be losing 11 players to free agency: Olli Jokinen, Vinny Prospal, Alex Auld, Jody Shelley, Steve Valiquette, Anders Eriksson, Matt Zaba, Corey Potter, Kris Newbury, Corey Locke, and P.A. Parenteau.
The Rangers need to fill 23 roster spots next season and so far have only 14 players (13 if you leave Redden out of the picture).
You can break those 23 spots down: two spots for goalies, seven spots for defensemen, and 14 spots for forwards. So before they re-sign any RFA or do anything with Redden they need four forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie, and about $12 million to do it with. If they get rid of Redden they need another defenseman and they have $18.5 million to spend on nine players.
Filling Those Holes
Sather told Brooks that he intends to resign Staal and Girardi. He also said that he wants to keep Prospal and Shelley if they are willing to sign contracts on the team’s terms.
“We want to keep Shelley, it’s just a question of whether and when we can get it done,” Sather said. “We want to keep Vinny, and I think we should be able to do that if the contract request isn’t out of whack.”
Sather also said that he would like to see defensemen Ryan McDonagh and forward Derek Stepan compete for roster spots, but both are currently committed to another season at the University of Wisconsin. So it’s hard to count them as part of the roster at this point. He also mentioned forwards Evgeny Grachev and Dale Weise as players he would like to see earn positions on the NHL roster.
So let's assume that the Rangers re-sign Staal, Girardi, Prospal, and Shelley and two of those four prospects make the opening day roster. That means they still need a goalie and would need up to three additional free agents, two if Redden comes back.
Closing Quote from Sather
“We just didn’t have enough last year, and certainly after the Olympics, Gaborik—our best player—was just a shadow of himself. He just didn’t have the explosiveness or speed.
“But we’re looking forward. And we’re excited about it. We’re building an organization where we’re going to have serious competition for jobs at training camp. There are 23 spots and they’re going to the best 23.
“A player’s contract isn’t going to get him a spot on the team if he doesn’t earn it, and that goes for everyone.
“Everyone is fighting for a job. They all know that. If they don’t, they should.”
I can’t see the Rangers keeping Redden on the roster. Not only does it hurt them this offseason by giving them less space to work with under the cap, but it would hurt them if they tried to add players during the season. Although just because he starts the season in the NHL doesn’t mean he finishes it. The thing is, though, Sather didn’t come out and say that Redden wouldn’t be a part of the team, but he did hint at it with lines like, “A player’s contract isn’t going to get him a spot.”
I also think they won’t have too big of a problem bringing back the four free agents Sather mentioned by name, Staal, Girardi, Prospal, and Shelley. Christensen and Prust are two other names I think are likely to come back. So between the players the Rangers already have and the prospects they are looking to bring in, this should be a pretty quite offseason for the Blueshirts.
The biggest signing this offseason may have already happened with Zuccarello-Aasen. I could see them signing another forward and maybe a pair of defensemen. If I’m wrong about either Christensen or Prust, then another forward may be necessary.
Overall I was pleased to hear what Sather had to say. Right now this team is in a holding period. Their core isn’t terribly talented, but because of the money they already have committed combined with a weak free agent class it doesn’t seem like they have much of a choice. It’s good to hear though that Sather is committed to avoiding dumping what cap space he does have on one veteran and fill the rest of the roster with scrubs.
I think the trick to this offseason may be in finding a trading partner willing to take Brashear, Rozsival, or even Drury off their hands and resigning Staal to a long-term contract that doesn’t kill their cap space. If Sather can do all or any combination of those things then maybe he can sign a slightly better free agent to improve the team.
This is a very good year to stay out of the free agent market. As always there is a huge demand for talent, but a lack of supply. That means that teams are going to have to overpay for mediocre talent. Standing pat with the parts he has is probably the best thing
Sather can do at this point. That might not be a great thing though.