Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rangers Re-Sign Brian Boyle With 3-Year Deal

New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather just keeps crossing things off his to-do list.  Today he signed the third of his five key restricted free agents as according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Brian Boyle has agreed to a 3-year, $5.1 million deal.  The interesting part of the deal for me is the three years as Boyle has only had one year anywhere near what he did last season and this would have been a prime point to let him prove it was legit.  Obviously the Rangers believe he is to go for three years and if they are right, then the $1.7 million per year could end up being a steal for them.  If it turns out that last season was a fluke though it will be looked at as a massive overpayment, but those are the risks and rewards of a deal like this.

The signing of Boyle also gives Glen Sather complete focus on getting new contracts for Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan before their respective arbitration hearings on July 21 and 28.

Are Rotating Alternates Best Way For Rangers To Handle Captain's Letters This Season?

Having bought out Chris Drury out of the final season of his contract, the New York Rangers will have a new captain next season; the 27th captain in the history of the franchise.  Regardless of whether Drury was bought out or not the expectation has been that the Rangers would change their captain for the 2011-12 season anyway.  The favorite amongst the fans for months to be the next captain has been Ryan Callahan.  It is possible that if not for the respect Callahan and the coaching staff had for Chris Drury that Callahan might have taken over the role during last season, so the expectation that he will be the next captain is certainly understandable.  While I think Marc Staal is a darkhorse to get the ‘C’ we can go with the expectation of Callahan and work on who else will have letters this season.

Alternate candidates:
Marc Staal: Only Staal and Callahan would fall into the lock to have a letter on their sweater category.  Seeing as how he had an ‘A’ last season and played well in that role there is no reason to expect he will not continue as one of the leaders of the young core.  I think he will get serious consideration for the ‘C,’ but in the end have the ‘A’ on his #18 again this season.

Brad Richards: Since the signing there has been discussion as to whether his previous relationship with Tortorella and his championship experience gives him a window into the top leadership role on the team.   Richards does have experience wearing a letter on his jersey with his time in Dallas, but to think he is going to walk into this group and take over the ‘C’ is somewhat out there.  He will definitely be a contender to wear an ‘A’ again, but that decision might come down to how much of a statement the Rangers want to make as an organization in terms of the young core as the leadership group.

Brandon Dubinsky: Possibly the most polarizing choice amongst the fans in terms of whether he should or should not have a letter on his sweater.  Dubinsky is clearly the most vocal of all the young players in the locker room in terms of saying what he thinks publicly and while that is good for the media and fans to see it does not truly fit with the style John Tortorella seems to prefer in his captain’s.  Giving Dubinsky an ‘A’ would certainly be a nod to his growth both on and off the ice in terms of leadership in the room and on merit was earned last season.

Brandon Prust: Prust earned his spot on this list with his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win on any given night.  He will fight, kill penalties, forecheck and certainly sacrifice his body in the name of winning.  The fact that he played through the injuries he did last season and did not miss a single game is enough to warrant consideration.

Dan Girardi: If you want to talk about sacrificing your body to win, then you have to include Dan Girardi in any discussion because of how he abuses his body blocking shots every night.  In addition Girardi is a top pair defender taking on the best offensive players the opposition has to offer with Marc Staal.  Girardi is also now the aged veteran of the young defense corps and has tremendous admiration from the coaching staff.

Brian Boyle: Boyle is a name that few talk about in terms of the alternate captain spot, but his work ethic is something that doesn’t go unnoticed or unrecognized by the coaching staff.  Proof of that was him wearing an ‘A’ during preseason last fall even before he had his breakout year.  Yes, it was only a preseason game, but the reason for the move was to reward the work he had put in and motivate the rest of the team.  Transforming himself from a fringe NHL player to a key player in many situations for the Rangers last season gives him a chance to be in the discussion for an ‘A’.  

In the end the Rangers are likely to go with:
C- Callahan
A- Staal
A- Richards

Rick Carpinello of Rangers Report Blog suggested a scenario in which the Rangers would have rotating alternates for home and road games, which is the best solution as it allows them to reward more players for their leadership.  This team is very fortunate to have so many players deserving of consideration for letters this season and rewarding more of them will only keep the hunger of the rest of locker room and allow for the organization to truly recognize the leadership group on this team.
What that might look like:

C- Callahan
A- Staal
A- Richards

C- Callahan
A- Dubinsky
A- Prust/Girardi

Rangers Graves, Boyle, Leetch and Gilbert Voice Support For Keeping Islanders Around

The rivalry between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, while not what it used to be, is one of the deeper ones in the NHL.  Despite the level animosity that the rivalry creates between the fanbases, Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank had former and current Rangers voicing support for keeping the franchise around.
Adam Graves:
Personally, I’m rooting hard for the Coliseum issue to finally be settled after all these years, and I’m rooting for the Islanders to stay for a long time on Long Island.”
Brian Boyle:
“For the players and the fans, our games against the Islanders are the most exciting of the regular season and I hope some day we’ll battle in the playoffs. What we have with the Islanders and the Devils, with the teams in such close proximity, is special. I don’t ever want to see that change and I hope the best for the Islanders and their fans throughout New York.”
Brian Leetch:
“The rivalry is entirely fan-driven, with so many Islanders and Rangers fans in New York, that as a player you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion…“Islanders fans have proven their support for the team. It would be bad for the area’s hockey fans and for the NHL to lose this rivalry. The health of the Islanders is important to the league, I know that.”
Rod Gilbert:
“Islanders fans have proven their support for the team. It would be bad for the area’s hockey fans and for the NHL to lose this rivalry. The health of the Islanders is important to the league, I know that.”
While Rangers fans never really want the Islanders to do well in the standings, a successful Islanders organization is great for the rivalry and the league.  Rivalries in sports are things that create excitement for each game when the team’s play regardless of where each is in the standings.  Those things need to be preserved if at all possible and right now it is up to Nassau County voters on 8/1 to decide if that is worth doing.  As a Rangers fan seeing some of the Rangers former greats and a current player like Brian Boyle speak to the hope of saving the franchise is a good thing because the league would not be the same if the Islanders have to relocate.

Marian Gaborik Eager To Pair With Brad Richards This Fall

The New York Rangers 2010-11 season was one in which many players overachieved compared to expectations.  Marian Gaborik was not one of them scoring only 22 goals in his second season in New York after lighting up Broadway with 42 in his first year under the bright lights.  To help Gaborik regain his prior form the Rangers went shopping this month and bought the biggest item on the market in the form of center Brad Richards.  It is not Richards job to fix Gaborik, but the skills he brings to the table should give Gaborik more opportunities and even more importantly more consistency in who he is playing with nightly.
In an interview with Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Gaborik shared his thoughts on what it will be like to play with Richards during the upcoming season.
"I respect all the players I've been with but I am very excited to get the chance to play with Richie," Gaborik told The Post by phone yesterday. "I've watched him play throughout his career and always admired his game; the way he sees the ice, the way he moves the puck, the way he makes his teammates better.”
One of the key questions for the pair will be just how quickly they can mesh to bring out the top end results that are expected from two players of their caliber.
"If I'm with Richie, it's going to be very exciting. You can never say how much time it might take to develop chemistry, you need to spend time together away from the ice and develop trust in each other, but I'm really looking forward to getting out there with him."
After the struggles he went through last season it is good to see Gaborik excited about the possibilities for next season.  Expect Gaborik to come back in 2011-12 with the mentality set on proving that last season was the aberration of his two years in New York and return to prior form.  The combination of the personal chemistry between those two and the decision on who will be the third member of the line could be key to determining how well each produce this season.  The Rangers have numerous options that could fill that role, but the real key is the relationship between Gaborik and Richard which Gaborik is hopeful will work to the point where the line juggling can end.
"I've been used to shuffling my whole career," said Gaborik. "Maybe the reason last year there were so many changes is that I didn't play well enough, but hopefully Richie and I will be so good together there won't be any reason to change."
It would be a novel idea for the Rangers to have consistent lines throughout the year or in contrast to many nights the last few years, just for multiple shifts before the movement begins.  If Gaborik and Richards click as a duo they give the Rangers the foundation of three different lines for this season.  Add that duo and whomever is their third to Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan and Fedotenko, Boyle, Prust and the Rangers should have a level of continuity that will bode well for them as the season progresses.
The styles of Gaborik and Richards should complement one another very well and give the Rangers the elite top line threat they have been lacking the past few years.  If this works to the level it is capable the Rangers will truly have a chance to become a contender this year.