July 1st in New York always brings excitement for Ranger fans. Aside from opening night in October, it is the best day of the year for hockey fans in the Big Apple.
A big-ticket free agent coming to the Rangers is like clockwork.
The target this summer for many Ranger fans is Ilya Kovalchuck, arguably the best pure goal scorer in the NHL. Imagine him playing alongside sniper Marian Gaborik on the top line this season? Keep dreaming.
Kovalchuck is going to want big money and, most likely, a long-term deal. And why not? The guy has 338 goals and 642 points in just 621 career games in the NHL, and he just turned 27 years old.
A free agent like this comes around once a decade.
Unfortunately, Glen Sather, president and general manager of the Rangers, thought Wade Redden deserved $6 million per season, two seasons after signing Chris Drury to a five-year contract worth $7 million per season.
Simply put, the Rangers do not have the money to spend on Kovalchuck.
The most common option being thrown around is to send Wade Redden to Hartford, freeing up cap space. That will most likely happen, but there are other players who still need to get signed, namely top defenseman Marc Staal, who is looking for a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $4.5 million per season.
And what about a first-line center. No one knows better than the Rangers how important a center is on a line. All you have to do is think back to Jaromir Jagr in 2007-08, when he couldn't find chemistry with either Drury or Scott Gomez, before settling on then-rookie Brandon Dubinsky.
The Rangers have their goal scorer in Gaborik, who scored 42 goals last season without a top-tier centering him. The main focus should be finding someone to feed Gaborik the puck, not someone just looking to score.
A fact that is being ignored by many is Kovalchuck's lack of big-game success. Although he's been in just two playoff series, with one being a four-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers playing for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007—he's put up decent individual points, but is just 1-8 in those games.
Trust me, I know how appealing and sexy a free agent like Kovalchuck sounds, especially being that he is in his prime. But sometimes it is just better to pass him onto the next team and focus on what you already have, which is a young core of players who have very bright futures with this organization.