Each off-season, the New York Rangers make some sort of splash in the free agent market. Unfortunately, it isn't always the right kind of splash.
Over the past couple seasons, they've signed high-profile free agents like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and — if you can call him that — Wade Redden.
None have worked out, with Gomez even being dealt in order to sign another big name in Marian Gaborik. Fortunately, for the Rangers and General Manager Glen Sather, Gaborik worked out and had the best season of his career.
For the first time since the lockout, you won't be seeing the Rangers making headlines this summer. Sather told the New York Post 's Larry Brooks that they will be looking to the draft and their farm system this season, rather than the market. For that, Glen, I applaud you.
The Blueshirts are left, however, with many players whose contracts will be expiring come July 1. Some should stay, and some should go, and I'm here to tell you who.
We'll start at the top with Olli Jokinen, who was acquired at last season's trade deadline. The Finnish center made $5.5 million last season and won't be accepting much of a pay cut. Let him walk, Glen. He was invisible for most of his 30 games with the club and is too old to be making over $5 million. Let Anisimov develop, or re-sign someone else to fill the center role.
That someone else is Erik Christensen. Sure, he probably isn't a top-line center, but he'll come cheap and he gelled with Gaborik last season. I have no problem green-lighting him for two years at $1 million per. He knows this is most likely his last shot at the NHL, and he'll earn his money.
Arguably the Rangers' second-best player last season was Vinny Prospal. Like Christensen, he had instant chemistry with Gaborik, as the two led the team in scoring.
Unfortunately, Prospal tailed off after having knee surgery, and is now one year older. He won't be coming back for the bargain price of $1 million like last season, and the goal here to try and get younger. He played his way out of a contract extension.
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi will be back on the blue line for the Rangers next season, as it was all but confirmed by Sather in the Brooks article. They should lock up Staal long-term, giving him around $3.5-4 million per.
I soured on Girardi, especially after he didn't step up for Gaborik against Dan Carcillo of the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is the case of I know what I get with Girardi, so I can welcome him back at $2.5 million.
Finally, for keepers, I bring back Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust. Both were a spark for this team down the stretch, with Shelley arguably being their best player in the final two games of the season against the Flyers, in which he scored the lone goal in the final game of the season.
Prust, along with Shelley, is a guy who isn't afraid to drop the gloves with anyone in the league, and who stands up for his teammates. You can't have enough of them in a division where the Flyers play. Giving them both $1 million per two seasons works for me. The fourth line of Shelley, Prust and Brian Boyle is exactly what this team needs.
I have to say adios to P.A. Parenteau, Enver Lisin, Alex Auld, Corey Potter and Andres Ericsson. Parenteau, although strong in the shootout, never really found his game with the Rangers this season. He showed signs of it, but could never stay consistent enough to not be sent down.
Lisin also showed promise, but was in the coach's doghouse for the most of the year. Tortorella went as far as to say his play away from the puck was terrible. Not exactly what you want to hear from your coach. He seemed to be a poor-man's Nik Zherdev. Unfortunately, we lost Lauri Korpikoski in the trade for him.
Auld is a decent backup, but there are more capable options out there in Johan Hedberg and Martin Biron. Henrik Lundqvist must have a strong backup, because he's shown he gets burnt out playing 70 games.
Potter is a homegrown guy that I think a lot of people wanted to see succeed. Unfortunately for him, he never really stuck with the big club. They have far too many defenseman in the minors—namely Bobby Sanguinetti—that have shown more promise, and deserve to be moved up the depth chart.
Ericsson is just old, and there is no need to keep him around.
Please, Slats, no more big name free agents. Bring up the kids and let's see what they can do.
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