Looking to the Future: 5 Things the New York Rangers Need to Do This Offseason
It's been an up and down year for the New York Rangers.
They've had to deal with plenty of injuries, trade rumours, underperforming star players and nearly everything else under the sun.
Yet they are currently tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Canadiens and have nearly guaranteed themselves a place in the playoffs.
However, no matter how well the team does in the remainder of the season and playoffs, there are still things that need to be done when the season's over.
These are the five things the Rangers have to do this offseason.
All salary information courtesy of CapGeek.
Decide Who to Re-Sign or Not
All potential free agents..
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These are the Rangers' free agents this offseason (both unrestricted and restricted):
This leaves the Rangers with roughly $17 million in cap space.
Out of all these players, two definitely need to be re-signed (more on that later).
I think the Rangers should bring back Anisimov, Boyle, Fedotenko, Sauer, Gilroy and/or Eminger.
Both Anisimov and Boyle are relatively young players who know how to score, (both are having career years; Boyle has scored 20 goals and Anisimov has become a solid contributor for the team with 42 points.)
Two players out of Gilroy, Sauer and Eminger should be re-signed to provide depth on D for New York whilst making room for a prospect.
I predict Sauer and Eminger stay on the Blueshirts' roster.
Fedotenko has been an excellent veteran pick-up this year. I can see him re-signing in the Big Apple as well, if only for another year.
However, I see the Rangers cutting ties with the rest of the players on the list.
Basically, Mr. Sather, re-sign Anisimov, Boyle, Fedotenko, Sauer and Eminger. Oh, and don't forget to...
Re-Sign Ryan Callahan/Give Him the Captaincy
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Any Rangers fan will tell you Ryan Callahan is a natural leader.
Despite missing 19 games this year, Callahan is leading the Rangers with 23 goals and is second on the team with points with 47.
However, it's the things that don't show up on the stat sheet that Callahan excels at.
He's a blue-collar player, blocking shots, making key plays on defence and doing all the gritty things.
He's already an alternate captain on the team and most fans agree that a) Chris Drury shouldn't be team captain and b) Callahan should replace him in that role.
But first he's got to be re-signed.
Out of all the Rangers' free agents, Callahan should be the first player to be (re)signed.
He can score and lead a team—what else do you need?
Callahan is making $2.3 million this year, so he is due for a pay raise.
Look for him earn between $3 and $4 million in his next contract.
Re-Sign Brandon Dubinsky
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Throughout the Rangers' injury troubles this year, one player has remained a constant: Brandon Dubinsky.
Dubs leads the team in both points (51) and assists (29) and centres one of the Rangers' top lines with Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov.
All three players have been enjoying plenty of success this year. Taking out arguably the key part of the line could have dire consequences.
Dubinsky has stepped up his game this season with key players underachieving and is subsequently enjoying a career year.
He's a hard worker, makes good passes, knows where the net is and has a ceiling of roughly 50-60 points.
If the Rangers can bring in a top-line center, Dubinsky is the perfect second liner.
Brandon is currently making just under $2 million, and like Callahan will probably make between $3 and $4 million next season.
Make a Run at Brad Richards
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Surely you saw this coming?
Brad Richards is the biggest and best free agent this offseason and is exactly what the Rangers need.
Plenty has been written about Richards before. Basically, he's a legit top-line center who can score 20-30 goals and 80-100 points a season.
Also, he would be the perfect player New York could pair with superstar Marian Gaborik.
Richards and Gaborik on the same line? It's giving me shivers just thinking about it.
Seventy goals and 160-plus points between the two is a very realistic prediction.
Richards will be 31 when he hits free agency, so he's still in his prime. Giving him a star sniper in Gaborik will help if Richards suffers from any slump in production.
There is a good chance Dallas may miss the playoffs. With the Stars' ownership situation, it might be wise for Richards to leave while he can.
Even if Dallas makes the playoffs, I'm sure New York could offer him a better contract.
Remember, money makes the world go round.
The only other potential suitor for Richards is the Maple Leafs.
But there have been plenty of hints that Richards would prefer to play in the Big Apple than in Toronto.
Did I mention he'd be perfect for New York?
If Signing Richards Fails, Don't Give Out a Huge Contract to a Worse Player
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Another thing most Rangers fans agree on? Glen Sather is a poor general manager.
If for whatever reason Richards doesn't sign for the Rangers, what Sather must not do is give out a bloated contract to a player who won't help the team.
Wade Redden ring any bells?
After Richards, it's slim pickings on the free-agent market.
The best options after him? Michael Handzus and Scottie Upshall.
No disrespect to those players, but they won't do what Richards would for New York.
If New York doesn't sign Richards, the next best thing to do is try to develop a player to become that first-line center the team needs.
Possible candidates include Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev.
It might not be the best solution, but it's much better than giving Michael Handzus $7 million for the next five years.
Lewis Hughes is an aspiring journalist in American sports. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/lah_8