NHL Free Agency 2012: How New York Rangers Could Use Players of Interest

Kevin Schlittenhardt@kevinschlitzCorrespondent IIJuly 9, 2012

NHL Free Agency 2012: How New York Rangers Could Use Players of Interest

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    The New York Rangers have shown a lot of interest in the 2012 free agency, seeking to add to their team after a very impressive playoff run.

    The Rangers placed first in the Eastern Conference last regular season and reached the Eastern Conference finals. In an effort to improve their run in the 2013 season, the Rangers have been talking with several teams about trades and with numerous free agents about signing with them.

    Having arguably the best defense in the league, the Rangers have focused their attention on numerous forwards in order to increase their offensive firepower.

    However, in light of some recent developments, the Rangers may be interested in players who specialize in other facets of the game.  

    In these slides are the players in whom the Rangers have been rumored to have an interest and what the potential roles of these players would be in New York. 

Rick Nash

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    According to the New York Daily Newsthe New York Rangers are interested in Columbus Blue Jackets’ forward Rick Nash, providing they can get him without dishing out one of their promising young players.

    Nash is arguably as coveted a free agent as former New Jersey Devil Zach Parise was before he signed with Minnesota Wild.

    In the past season, Nash managed to score 30 goals and has put up numerous 60-plus-point seasons in previous years—all on arguably the worst team in the NHL.

    It is obvious why the strongly-defensive Blueshirts are interested in a forward of Nash’s caliber.

    For a team to which defense comes naturally, the Rangers have made plenty of lucrative offensive investments.

    Last year’s acquisition of the clutch forward Brad Richards added some much needed offensive power to New York. He played alongside another New York acquisition, Marian Gaborik, and the two forwards combined for 142 points in the past season.

    Knowing Nash’s production can only get better if he leaves the hopeless Blue Jackets, the Rangers would love to add Nash to their list of strategically acquired forwards. Nash would be explosive in all situations—especially on the power play—if they can strike a deal with Columbus.

    As far as this year’s free agents go, Nash is definitely the top forward worth bartering for. 

Alexander Semin

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    While there has not been much reported about the Rangers’ interest in Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin, the New York Postas well as many other sources, are speculative after New York Rangers GM Glen Sather spoke about the Rangers' aggressive approach to this year’s free agency.

    “The closer to the top you are, you have to be a little more aggressive if you want to get better,” said Sather to the New York Post. “I think we’re going to try to be as aggressive as possible in the free-agent market.”

    Much like Nash, Semin’s laser of a shot and his potential for 60-point seasons is appealing. However, he has slumped a bit as of late, putting up a good past season (21 G, 33 A, 54 PTS) but far from the 70-point seasons he is capable of.

    In Semin’s defense, tensions and attitudes within his team have surfaced.

    The Capitals saw their coach of four years, Bruce Boudreau, get fired and replaced with Dale Hunter at the start of the season. Hunter then also resigned after a strong playoff run to the quarterfinals to spend more time with his family.

    The Russian sniper has made it clear he wants out of Washington, a good sign for New York. Unfortunately the Rangers are competing with most of the league to get him.

    Semin, like Nash, could provide a great deal of support to the Rangers’ offense.

    However, unlike Nash, Semin might not be able to produce on his own.

    Semin’s production seems to be relative to that of his teammates. Semin’s slump in the past season was likely a result of fellow sniper Niklas Backstrom’s absence for 40 games with an injury as well as Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s drop in numbers.

    There is a heightened risk factor with Semin over Nash, but the rewards could be big for New York.

    Semin may not be able to raise Nash’s numbers on his own, but his time in Washington has shown that his production is high when paired with the right teammates.

    There is no doubt that, with forwards like Richards and Gaborik at New York’s disposal, the Rangers could find a combination to maximize Semin’s performance.

Shane Doan

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    According to the New York Post, the Rangers expressed interest in Phoenix captain Shane Doan after signing fellow Phoenix forward Taylor Pyatt.

    “We haven’t entered into negotiations with any other teams, but Shane wants to be forthright and honest with clubs that have contacted us, and so we’ve let these clubs know whether there is mutual interest,” said Terry Bross, Doan’s agent, to the Post. “I don’t want to be specific about what teams those are, but there are no restrictions against negotiating with teams in the East ... or the one in Manhattan.”

    Having singled out the Rangers specifically, Doan’s agent has made it clear that the Phoenix captain has a lot of interest in moving to the Big Apple.

    However, would jumping the gun ruin the chances of New York picking up someone like Nash or Semin? Is a risk like that worth taking with Doan?

    Having just reached a 50-point season (22-28), Doan has proven himself to be an average point-provider for his team. He has been much more valuable to Phoenix as a hard-hitting offensive presence and a leader.

    All things considered, the New York Rangers, a team that has leadership in players like Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Marc Staal, do not have much use for another leader like Doan, who is in the latter years of his career.

    While Doan’s leadership will not be needed, he could be an effective penalty killer. Doan has a sharp offensive sense and knows how to wear down his opponent with the body.

    Apart from that, Doan would be a nice addition to New York’s second, but more realistically third, line, where he can be expected to score a goal here and there without the pressure of having to put up Gaborik-like numbers.

    Doan seems to be within New York’s grasp at the moment, but there are currently bigger offers still on the table and New York could miss out on them if they decide to play it safe.

Bobby Ryan

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    The buzz about Ryan being in New York’s crosshairs has fizzled a bit, but Anaheim Ducks’ 25-year-old Bobby Ryan is nevertheless a Blueshirt possibility. According to AOL SportingNews, the Rangers are still in the market for Ryan.

    In only 339 career games played during a five-year span, Bobby Ryan has notched an impressive 259 points for the Ducks. Although much of his time on the ice is spent alongside offensive powerhouses Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan deserves his fair share of the credit, as his passing is as immensely sharp as his scoring.

    The Rangers, who have proven their ability to develop young players time and time again, are wise to be interested in Ryan. He is a player that can both increase the production of his teammates and score his own share of goals in the process.

    Needless to say, a player with the offensive skill of Ryan would be a dream on New York’s power play. His ability to see the play could put an end to New York’s dillydallying with the puck on the power play.

    Unfortunately, the Ducks and the Rangers have yet to come to terms. Understandably, a team with a player like Ryan is not going to be quick to hand him over.

    However, if New York can find a way to come to an agreement without losing too much of their young talent, Ryan could be a star forward for the Rangers for the next decade.

Shea Weber

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    According to the New York Post, Nashville Predators defender Shea Weber would make a great addition to New York’s already impermeable defense.

    Weber, who has only a year left with the Nashville Predators, just lost his longtime defensive partner Ryan Suter to the Wild—a loss that many suspect will prompt Weber to leave Nashville.

    Shea Weber could set the already high defensive bar in New York even higher and score plenty of goals to boot. In the past season, Weber was just shy of an impressive 50-point total (19 G, 30 A, 49 PTS).

    The 26-year-old is already a franchise player for Nashville and would undeniably be a well-spent investment for the Rangers.

    His value is as obvious as it is extensive. Weber provides a strong shot from the point, can move the puck up the ice with ease and is capable of reducing the game’s toughest players to rubble.

    While rumors about this arrangement have just recently surfaced, New York fans cannot help but smile over the thought of NHL teams shaking at the sight of Weber playing side-by-side with Marc Staal.