Friday, May 27, 2011

Free Agent Preview: Brooks Laich An Answer For Rangers?

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
There is a little over a month left until the frenzy that is free agency begins and the Rangers will certainly be looking for offense when the market opens on July 1.  In looking ahead to the free agent market there have already been looks at Brad Richards for the first line center role and James Wisniewski as a puck-moving defender than could also aid the power play.  Beyond Richards there is little out there in the forward rankings on the unrestricted market, but one possible option is Brooks Laich.
Laich has had a solid career in Washington having topped the 20 goal mark three times and the 50 point plateau in two different seasons. Beyond just the pure numbers Laich has been known for his presence in and out of the locker room on a Washington team that at times seems to lack any sense of leadership. 
Laich has the versatility to play either center or the wing with a measure of defensive awareness and willingness to go to the front of the net and do what it takes to score goals.  That style meshes with the Rangers system and he would likely fit very well with coach John Tortorella in how he carries himself both on and off the ice.  The issue for me with Laich is not how he plays or if he would add to the Rangers skill level, but whether given the depressed talent available he is going to be overpaid for what he actually is.
There is no way to rationalize Laich as a replacement if the Rangers miss out on Richards this summer and paying him upwards of $4 million a season would be a mistake that the Rangers would regret in the long term.  The Rangers need more skill in their lineup and Laich does not bring enough of that to the table alone to be an answer for the Rangers.  Maybe if it is a scenario where the Rangers have Richards in place and are looking to move pieces around Laich would be a viable player at the right price.  The problem is that the market will allow him to get more than he deserves and for what he is likely to get paid in terms of money and years, the Rangers should pass.