Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rangers Smarter Summer Leads To Better Fall and Future

Over the last few summers the Rangers have taken the big splash approach to free agency starting which included the organization overpaying people to fill the needs areas of the club.  It appeared this year was going to be the same when they gave Derek Boogaard an obscene contract on July 1st, but then it seemed the philosophy shifted.  The team went into the backup goaltender market and got Martin Biron who I did not believe was the best candidate nor was two years necessary but the salary was not bad and gave them a proven player behind Lundqvist.  The Rangers showed interest in Alexander Frolov, but refused to meet his demands in salary or years and eventually they would wait him out long enough to get him for one year at a reasonable salary.  The Rangers took the approach of the prior summer in getting a former Tortorella player in on a tryout as a motivated player can be a valuable commodity.  There was the moving of useless parts in Brashear, Lisin and Aaron Voros for Todd White and Steve Eminger.  Other than Boogaard none of these moves were panic moves, the trades were for players with one year left on contracts and Frolov and Fedotenko were one year prove it deals.  It was a quieter approach and it has paid dividends this fall and will in the future and I would argue it was because of prospect development both at the NHL level and in potential NHL readiness that the Rangers didn’t panic as badly as they had the prior summers.  Let us look at how each has paid dividends this season.

Martin Biron – The play of Biron in the early going has been nothing short of stellar as he has given the team a great chance to win in 6 of his 7 starts and compiling a record of 5-2.  Biron is a great team and locker room player as well so there will be no issues when they start riding Henrik down the stretch and in the meantime as a proven NHL goaltender he gives Tortorella the flexibility to do things like Monday versus Calgary and start Martin just to give Henrik a few extra days.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Alex Frolov – The additions of these two wingers gave the Rangers some more veterans to lengthen the lineup and create more scoring threats to help Marian Gaborik.  Fedotenko has been solid all season as a third line player capable of being very effective on the forecheck and scoring some tough goals.  For Frolov after some early season scoring troubles he appears to be playing with significantly increased confidence since the return of Marian Gaborik and the production is coming as a result.  If he can be a legitimate threat to aide Gaborik the Rangers have gotten what they wanted from both of these one year prove it guys, and the 9 goals 13 assists combined is not a bad start.

Steve Eminger – Gotten for Aaron Voros another guy Sather overpaid to be a tough guy a few summers ago the bar for Eminger was not high in being more valuable than Voros, but it did not look good in preseason and the first few games that count.  To Eminger’s credit he has turned it around and especially since the injury to Michal Rozsival has shown himself to be a valuable member of this club capable of a significant role.

Todd White – Todd White’s trade to NY was more about getting rid of Brashear than it was ever about getting production from White and to be fair to White he has gotten little to no chance to show anything with players that can be a threat.  Then again you have to earn those opportunities, but even in a failure type move it has no downside because it was a one year deal, so you cut bait and walk away.

Derek Boogaard – This is the only move this summer that screamed panic and to this point it is the worst of the moves mostly for his salary but in his last few games Boogaard has shown he can be effective on the forecheck in creating opportunities for others.  Let us hope he can continue to do that because his role as stopping people from running Rangers players as if that was ever realistic is not working and few guys in the league seem to have any interest in fighting him.

Derek Stepan – I know he does not count as a free agent move but it was a move to bring someone who was not in the professional ranks in by convincing him to leave Wisconsin and turn pro.  The move was widely anticipated by the Rangers fans, but is one of those under the radar type moves that was allowed to happen because the trust in our system let Sather not have to overpay a veteran on the market.  The roster flexibility of all the one year contracts along with the preseason injuries gave Stepan the chance to prove he belongs and the staff was not shy to let him prove it, which to this point he has and is only proving more with each game.

The other change in the system for the Rangers is that they stopped taking the short way out in terms of their own players in locking them in for short deals to lower the immediate cap hit because of the cap hell they got themselves in and started locking up core pieces of the team longer term.  Many believe that you build a team from the back out and the Rangers worked hard this summer on that locking up both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi for long term deals to be the cornerstones of the defense.  If the Rangers stick to these principles again this coming summer in locking up Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and even Artem Anisimov long term while avoiding the long-term contract temptation on the open market the team’s viability as a contender will continue to grow because they will allow their youth to continue filtering in and growing at the NHL level while have the flexibility to make smart investments on what they need.

*New title and shorter version of earlier post from this morning.