Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rangers Not Buying Out Wolski Is The Right Move

Along with the news of the imminent buy out for Chris Drury this morning, Jesse Spector of the Daily News is reported that a buy out of Wojtek Wolski is likely to happen this month. 
The Blueshirts also appear likely to buy out the remaining year on midseason pickup Wojtek Wolski's deal, saving another $3.3 million next season while incurring a $666,667 charge in 2012-13.
Update: Apparently the Rangers agree with my assessment as according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Rangers are going to keep Wolski for next season.

I would understand this more if the money was necessary to chase Richards or another top-line player this summer, but it really isn’t with the savings from the Drury buyout and the impending rise in the salary cap there is the money to chase a big salary and not make this move.  Besides if the Rangers do make this move, they still need to go out and sign another left wing to provide them with offense.

The benefits to the cap are clear if the Blueshirts decide to move on from Wolski, but the question becomes what can they can to replace him.  There are players like Ville Leino, Brooks Laich, Jussi Jokinen and Simon Gagne on the market, but it is unlikely that any of them would come for just one year and most of them will want more than the $3.8 million that Wolski is scheduled to make.

There is no doubt that Wolski has been inconsistent throughout his career, but is it better to have to potentially commit 3-4 years at approximately $4 million for the likes of Leino or Jokinen instead of just giving one more year of Wolski a chance?  Talent like Wolski is hard to come by and while flawed he has more potential and a lesser commitment than any forward not named Richards that is out there on the market this summer, so maybe sending him to work with Barbara Underhill this summer and having him playing in a contract year is just what the Rangers need to make the most of the immense talent Wolski has instead of taking the buy out and playing with what is out there.

Rangers To Buy Out Drury

Jesse Spector of the Daily News is reporting that the New York Rangers, as expected, are going to buy out the final year of Chris Drury’s contract thus ending his disappointing run on Broadway. 
"He's gone," the source said of Drury, who had one goal and four assists this season as he sat out 58 games with finger and knee injuries - more time than he had missed in his 11 previous NHL campaigns combined.
Buying out Drury would save the Rangers $3.3 million against next year's salary cap, with a $1.6 million charge to the Blueshirts' ledger in 2012-13. The Blueshirts also appear likely to buy out the remaining year on midseason pickup Wojtek Wolski's(notes) deal, saving another $3.3 million next season while incurring a $666,667 charge in 2012-13.
Drury signed a 5-year, $35.25 million deal in 2007, which has been an overpayment from the day it was signed, but has only gotten worse as the years have progressed and the decline in Drury’s offense has rapidly accelerated.  The contract itself is not his fault because it was Glen Sather who offered to overpay him so massively, but he also knew that he was never going to live up to those dollars on this stage.
If his knee is sound, expect Drury to catch on with another team and play a valuable role as a fourth line center, penalty killer and positive influence in the locker room though at a drastically reduced price.  Maybe now that he is gone Rangers fans can look beyond the contract and realize there were good things he brought to this team and organization over the last four years, even if he was massively overpaid while doing it.
The sound you hear with this news is the money truck parking outside of Brad Richards house as it gives Glen Sather even more space to go after Richards at all costs.  If that is what indeed happens, then it is possible that Richards will be resented in his last few years as much as Drury has been, even if he will produce more offense at the start of his deal.

Patrick Sharp Makes Most Sense For Rangers Of All The Options

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The New York Rangers are an organization that has transitioned from one that sought to buy talent every year and hope that they could make the pieces work to an franchise that has developed their young core through the draft and select trades for youth over the past few seasons.  The result is that the team has a foundation of young talent to build from.  With the expected growth of the players that are already in the NHL and the continued influx of new talent big things are expected from the Rangers within the next couple years.  In order to get to that ultimate level of contending for a title however the team still needs to add a few top level talents to go with the core it already has.   

The chase for that elusive top-line talent is expected to center around Brad Richards come July 1, but with him reported seeking a contract upwards of $7 million per season for as many as 8 years there have to be questions about whether that kind of move would set the franchise back.  On the ice the talent addition would be excellent, at least for the first few seasons, but the question is whether the move to overpay, this time in years, would set the franchise back in the long run.  If the Rangers do miss or pass on Brad Richards this summer there are other options to consider.

One option that has been thrown out there would be trading for Patrick Sharp.  Sharp, 29, is a highly skilled forward with excellent vision, good playmaking ability and a lethal shot. He is coming off a tremendous season in which he scored 34 goals and added 37 assists in just 74 games for the Chicago Blackhawks.  This marked the fifth straight season of 20+ goals, fourth straight of 25+ goals and second time that Sharp has broken the 30 goal mark.  In the past four seasons Sharp has 121 goals and 122 assists in 297 games.  That breaks down to an average of .818 points per game or 67 points over the course of an 82 game season.
Sharp possesses the skills to help the Rangers anemic power play coming from a system that ranked fourth in the league at 23.1% effective.  A big part of that success was the 12 goals and 14 assists recorded on the man advantage by Sharp.  He can play down low or on the point on the power play, though he was primarily used on the point where his shot was a huge asset.

Another major asset for Sharp is his versatility.  He can play the center position or he could moved to the wing on either side and be effective.  If the Rangers decide that someone like Derek Stepan is able to answer the call as the top center, then Sharp could team with him and Marian Gaborik form a line not totally dissimilar to when Sharp is paired with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Sharp has one season remaining on his current contract at a salary cap hit of $3.9 million before hitting the unrestricted free agent market next summer.  The only reason that Chicago would even consider trading Sharp is because of their salary cap constraints that might make it difficult for them to keep him next summer.  That is not to say that the price of prying him out of Chicago would not be significant.  

While Chicago would likely have some interest in a Dan Girardi on the ice, the salary is not something they can afford to take on with the huge money they have tied up in their current top four.  The likely move for Chicago would be to look for young NHL forwards/prospects and possibly a young NHL/prospect on defense.  Even then the value of Sharp to the chances Chicago has of making another run to a title would make it very difficult for them to move him in a trade this summer.  It is highly doubtful given his role and importance to the Blackhawks that they would consider moving him and will make every attempt to re-sign him next year.

I know the urgency for many is to make a move now for next season, but depending on what happens with the salary cap for the upcoming season, Chicago could be hamstrung in trying to lock up Sharp long-term and it could mean he is a prize on the free agent market next summer with a lower price-tag than Richards and without having to trade assets for him.