May is here—and the New York Rangers are nowhere in sight.
Tom Renney is gone, and next fall John Tortorella gives Glen Sather another chance at a fresh start.
But the question remains—which players should join Torts in the lockerroom at MSG?
The good news is there are a half-dozen free agents who can come off the Rangers' books once the calendar turns to July.
Throw in Markus Naslund's retirement, and the Rangers actually have a few dollars to play with—despite the ridiculous contracts given to Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, and Michal Rozsival.
Spending money wisely—for once—would be a good idea on GM Sather's part though.
The first move is a no-brainer: Mark Bell needs to go. He was added as insurance in case we weren't able to get Sean Avery back, and we don't need to pay Bell over a million dollars to put the lives of other motorists at risk in Hartford, Connecticut.
The ext move to be made should be letting defenseman Paul Mara and his nearly two-million-dollar contract walk out the door.
Mara is a valuable guy—always willing to stand up for his teammates and even capable of adding a goal on occasion—but he is too unreliable defensively to be much help in his own end. And he is not good enough offensively to put up with those lapses—especially for almost two bills. His beard will be missed, but there are plenty of other boxes waiting on the shelves for Glen to pluck.
At the same level of the defensive defenseman aisle—yet more of the store-brand variety price-wise—are Jason Strudwick, Rob Scuderi (a native New Yorker, if that's the way you wanna go) Johnny Oduya, Steve Montador, and Shane Hnidy.
They're all pretty much the same—under 10 goals, between five and 20 assists (with Oduya at the top with 20 and 22 assists the last two seasons, respectively), and a bunch of time spent sitting by themselves in the penalty box.
Strudwick would be the cheapest option at $650,000—and we know he's already been fairly successful wearing a Rangers sweater. Just ask Marc Staal how much he learned sitting on the bench next to Struds.
But any one of these guys could be had for under a million dollars, and would be a good replacement for Mara as well as a more reliable complement to Rozsival. And somebody's gotta be brought in to help out poor Henrik Lundqvist, who spent too much time last year alone in his goal crease.
So that's one upgrade. Next up is trying to find somebody—anybody—who can put the puck in the net and help lift the Rangers' power-play unit off the respirator they've been hooked up to since Jags left town. Obviously, the name on everybody's lips is Marian—either Gaborik or Hossa, it makes very little difference. These are both extremely skilled—and, as such, extremely expensive—players that any team would love to have.
Besides the price tag, the other problem with either of these guys coming to Manhattan is the position they both play. Nik Antropov and Nikolai Zherdev already fill the right wing spots on the top two lines of the Rangers' roster, with the young star in the making Ryan Callahan needing a place to call his own as well.
The best move here would be to re-sign Antropov, throw a loft-full of dough at either Marian, and try to find somebody to take Z off our hands. We need a left winger to fill Naslund's skates, and we could use Zherdev to bring in a replacement via trade. Or, if nobody wants to take him off our hands, we could try him in that spot. Evgeny Grachev is lighting up juniors, and could be a dark-horse candidate to fill this role as well.
Derek Morris made $3.95 million last year, and that's a bit too much to pay a soon-to-be thirty-one-year-old offensive defenseman who doesn't score very much. So he's gone too.
But all the dough we've saved by letting Mara, Morris and Bell go and having Naslund retire has to be invested wisely. We have to resign Blair Betts and Colton Orr—both of which are integral parts of our team. And Fredrik Sjostrom, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Lauri Korpikoski are all restricted free agents we have to give big raises to.
Artem Anisimov and Bobby Sanguinetti are both young prospects who the Rangers should at least strongly consider adding to the roster and letting develop at the NHL level. They really can't be any worse than some of the other stiffs we've overpaid for in the recent past, can they?
This is a very important year for the Rangers. It could be a transition period from the expensive mistakes of the past to a younger, leaner, more home-grown version of Trader Glen. Let's hope he doesn't screw it up.