Deja Vu: A Team of Former New York Rangers In NHL Free Agency
For New York Rangers fans, every offseason is filled with impending hope and dread as maniac General Manager Glen Sather shakes the NHL with blockbuster acquisitions and idiotic blunders. Even in this, a quiet free agency period for all the league, Sather managed to sign valuable talents at a low premium, while also inking Derek Boogaard to a massive deal for a player who has as many goals over the last few years as I do.
And when Ranger fans are asked to react, it seems as if this is simply par for the course for Slats. If you're combing the remaining crop of unrestricted free agents for a few gems, you need not be surprised that there is a 50/50 chance you'll be signing someone who recently played for the Sather regime.
Factually speaking, most of these players never made it on Broadway, yet managed to succeed elsewhere when given ample amounts of time to shine.
Whether traded away to make room for the next string of overpriced, under-performing talent (Dominic Moore), or simply let go without any explanation whatsoever (Petr Sykora), these players have had more than a few brushes with Glen's destructive path.
It is with that in mind that we reflect fondly upon the current remaining crop of NHL free agents by assembling an all-Ranger team, comprised of 12 forwards, six defensemen, and, God willing, two goalies. Think of it as an All-Star squad of missed opportunity in Broadway Blue.
Line One: Petr Sykora-Dominic Moore-Enver Lisin
And what a top line to start with. Sykora, who played 40 games as a Ranger, was excellent in New York and helped take some of the pressure off Jaromir Jagr during New York's surprise run in the 2005-06 season. His reward? No new contract, no continued Broadway success. He would score 22 or more goals each of the next three seasons before being sidelined with a concussion last year.
Dominic Moore was pegged almost immediately as a blue chip prospect out of New York following a fantastic debut with three assists. His reward? Four more games in the NHL before being sent back to the minors. Even when he looked like he would break through over the next few years, Glen Sather lost interest and shipped him out for Adam Hall. Who was then traded for Pascal Dupuis. Who was then traded for Alex Bourret, who never played an NHL game.
Moore, meanwhile, had a fantastic last few years which were highlighted by his heroics in Montreal's run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
And Enver Lisin, well, he was never given a proper shot. Buried by both the GM and coach John Tortorella, Lisin shined in the very brief appearances he made in the New York lineup. Lisin was acquired via trade for Lauri Korpikoski, who himself was drafted with a selection taken from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Who did the Rangers give up for that pick? Brian Leetch.
Line Two: Nigel Dawes-Derek Armstrong-Jed Ortmeyer
After watching what had become of Petr Prucha in the New York fold, fans were none too happy to see tiny speedster Nigel Dawes ambling down the same path. So the Rangers shipped him away with little interest in keeping the up and comer. Eventually, he made his way to Calgary, where he set career highs in assists and points while tying his own mark for goals in a season.
Derek Armstrong, despite putting up monstrous numbers for the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL, mustered up seven NHL games in three seasons in New York. After leaving, he would be a permanent fixture for the Los Angeles Kings, who had him as a second/third line player scoring 35-45 points a season.
Ortmeyer, meanwhile, was a depressing hit to Rangers fans all around. After playing consistently on the Rangers' checking line, Ortmeyer's battle with a pulmonary embolism became a source of strength and inspiration to the entire team. Ortmeyer was even nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his comeback in 2007. Two months later, he'd be a free agent as the Rangers balked on a new contract.
Line Three: Dwight Helminen-Jamie Lundmark-Jason Ward
Helminen, acquired back in 2004 for Petr Nedved, never actually played a game for the Rangers. That didn't stop him from scoring his first playoff goal ever this year for the Sharks. That's right, Helminen made it to the Conference Finals as an important role player in San Jose. The Rangers haven't been to the Conference Finals in 13 years.
Perhaps it was bad drafting that forever cursed New York, and for further examples, may we point to Jamie Lundmark? Undoubtedly one of the biggest busts in NHL Draft history and easily one of the worst for New York (don't worry, another is on the way), Lundmark actually showed flashes of brilliance when he wasn't busy being hit at the knee by Michael Peca.
And Jason Ward? He might actually be the only former Ranger on this list who did more good for the team after he left. He was traded to Los Angeles in exchange for current New York centerpiece Sean Avery.
Line Four: Garth Murray-Greg Moore-Hugh Jessiman
If you're a Ranger fan and you remember Garth Murray, then you also remember just how stellar the Rangers draft was in 2001. Aside from Murray in the third round, New York also scooped up Dan Blackburn, Fedor Tyutin, and Ryan Hollweg that year. Murray never played to his potential and was traded for Marcel Hossa, who was also an embarrassing failure in Broadway Blue. Kyle Wellwood, Patrick Sharp, and Kevin Bieksa were all still on the draft board when Murray was taken.
When the Rangers acquired Greg Moore in a trade, they had two-thirds of what could have been the next family of great NHL players. Though Steve Moore's career was tragically cut short, Ranger fans salivated at the opportunity to have Greg playing with his already established brother Dominic in the big leagues. So of course, nothing happened.
And then, there's Hugh Jessiman, who could go down as the worst Draft Pick in Rangers history. Jessiman was selected 12th overall in 2003 almost entirely because of his size and power. He remains the only player from the first round of that draft to never play a game in the NHL. With Jessiman off the board, the Rangers allowed other teams to take Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, and Mike Richards just a few picks later.
Pairing One: Aaron Ward-Kim Johnsson
After winning a Stanley Cup in Carolina, Aaron Ward was brought in on a large contract to bolster New York's hopes in 2006-07. He barely lasted the season, as after five own goals off the skate and six fights with team captain Jaromir Jagr, Ward was sent packing.
Kim Johnsson was homegrown, a surprise considering he was the last pick of his entry draft. But New York was in a buying frenzy in those days, and they packaged Johnsson, along with another draft mistake Pavel Brendl, and Jan Hlavac, to Philadelphia for Eric Lindros. Yes, Eric Lindros.
Pairing Two: Mathieu Schneider-Paul Mara
Is putting Mathieu Schneider on this list fair? If you consider his track record with NHL teams being the “Mike Sillinger” of defensemen, then no. But Schneider's years in New York were far too brief for a team constantly losing the defensive identity it would strive for.
Paul Mara, meanwhile, was the guy New York acquired for the aforementioned Aaron Ward. Mara was a decent defender willing to fight for his star teammates (are you listening, Dan Girardi?) and able, once in a while, to find the back of the net. So naturally, Mara was unsigned following the 2008-09 season when New York was already saddled with irresponsible contracts to Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden.
Pairing Three: Mike Mottau-Corey Potter
Mike Mottau won a Hobey Baker Award yet was never given a proper audition on Broadway. He was one of the first to go when the Sather regime stepped in. Though he's never been an incredible star, he's found a nice little niche with New Jersey and is a thorn in the side of Ranger fans across the globe. If you're feeling bitter, no worries fans, Sather will have a chance to do the same to Matt Gilroy in the next few years.
Corey Potter is already on the open market and won't be retained by New York because they simply can't afford him. He's never had a chance to really establish himself, and he won't for the Rangers because of the two big contracts (Redden, Rozsival) ahead of him.
Starter: Stephen Valiquette
Despite being a journeyman at heart, the 6'6” Valiquette was nothing short of superb as backup to Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers. He did what was asked of him and was a personable, infectious guy to be around. Not surprisingly, he was replaced by both Alex Auld and Chad Johnson last season for...no apparent reason whatsoever.
Backup: Matt Zaba
No career starts, one appearance: in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who had been lit up earlier in the evening. What's not to love?
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