Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tortorella Doesn't Want Rangers "Adding For Sake of Adding"

With free agency just hours away at this point to get the insights of coach John Tortorella this afternoon is invaluable to understanding what the Rangers might be doing starting tomorrow at noon.  Tortorella focused mainly on how the club is developing their own players, but would be looking to add during free agency.  Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News has key quotes from Tortorella’s session with the media.
On the importance of July 1: “It’s an important day for us, because it’s a day where you have an opportunity to improve your team. I think we’re in a situation with our club right now where I think the past couple of years, we’ve kept our assets, and we’ve developed our assets, and stayed with it here. Then there’s a point of time where you’ve to got to say okay, they’re growing, we’ve got a good solid foundation. Now you start looking at areas where you add, maybe from outside the organization – free agency, trade, whatever it may be. I think we’re there. I really like the way Glen (Sather) has stayed with it, as far as allowing us, with our kids, to grow. I think we have a really strong foundation, and we’re at a different stage of the process. July 1 certainly comes into play.”

On optimism about July 1:  “I have no idea what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to. Come July 1, it’s such a frenzy, you never know what’s going to happen. I just know our thinking is we’d like to improve our team in certain areas. Not just one particular area – you never know where it leads to. I know Glen and the whole organization feel, okay, there’s our kids, there’s our foundation, now let’s see where we can add and continue to try to get better. There may be a situation where, you know what, that didn’t work – let’s not just add for the sake of adding, and stay with it. That’s a key, come July 1, because it turns into such a frenzy that you get a little crazy. If it isn’t what we need, and it isn’t the right fit for us right now, then we have to stand pat and continue to develop.”

Those two quotes when combined tell you that Tortorella thinks the team is close to being a serious contender, but does not want to push the process by going after just anyone.  The piece the Rangers add has to be the right one.  It leaves the impression that Brad Richards is the only guy in the unrestricted market they want to spend on and if they do not get him that Tortorella wants to stick with what he has and move forward.

While my opinion on Brad Richards being a good piece for now, but not the long-term is clear, if the Rangers decide he is the piece they need to be a contender, you just have to hope it works out for the best.  It is good to see that they don’t plan, or at least Tortorella doesn’t want them to just revert back purely to the mode of buying answers.  It has been the elimination of that idea that for the most part has been the cause for the resurgence in young talent on the roster and hope for the future.

Be sure to check out Jesse's blog for the full transcript that discusses Drury, prospect camp, and what free agents Tortorella would like to bring back.

Welcome To Free Agency 2011 Rangers Fans

The wait is almost over for free agency to begin and after giving out my opinions on various Rangers subjects heading into free agency I wanted to give someone else some space to write about what could happen in the near future and how it will shape the Rangers long term.  Here are Elissa's (@sarcasmpucktail) thoughts.

So tomorrow begins "Hockey Christmas" or the day Glen Sather makes one person incredibly happy by paying them more than they're worth.   Free agency creates a sense of fear and excitement in fans. Those who let emotions control are afraid of seeing their favorite players going off into the market. Those who care more about the name on the front are worried about overspending on players or signing players who won't improve the team.

This year’s free agency started out with a very thin market for unrestricted free agents…and in the days leading up to July 1, the pool keeps getting thinner.  It seems that many teams are either resigning their free agents or trading away their rights (and then having them re-traded in cases such as Christian Ehrhoff’s).

Since this is a Ranger-centric blog, I'm going to talk about the Rangers and of course that means I'm going to revolve my life around…:cue dramatic music:...Brad Richards. Surprised, aren't you?

Before the trade deadline even came along, the only free agent talked about was Brad Richards. He's an elite center and can possibly show us that spark we saw from Marian Gaborik in his first season wearing a blueshirt. Sounds great, doesn't it? Now, let's add the fact that he was the Conn Smythe winner from 2004 when who was the coach? John Tortorella.

Brad Richards knows he is the best available free agent this year so he's being pretty greedy in what he wants....and he's gonna get it and possibly, he's gonna get it from Glen Sather.  And why not? Why wouldn't Richards want to play in the world's most famous arena in front of a nearly sold out crowd every night? Plus he would be living in one of the greatest cities in the world.

I wonder though, will there be a clause in Richards contract that says:
"the undersigned agrees that when the fans at Madison Square Garden turn on me because I am not scoring on every power play and when they begin to hate me because I am taking up so much cap space, I will waive any no-trade or no-movement clauses I have so that the fan base will stop hating me."

Some people are incredibly excited to see Richards in New York...but how long will that last?  He wants a 7+ year contract, one that will run through his retirement. What if he doesn't play as well as he gets closer to 40? Not everyone is Nick Lidstrom who gets better with age.   The same people cheering now about how much they want him are the same ones who are going to drastically turn and call him useless when his production drops.  If he doesn’t put up at least a point a game, the fan base will begin to find new names for him every chance they get, or my favorite move by the Garden Faithful, booing him if he’s in the starting line-up.

So, Brad, still interested in coming to New York?

For discussion of Rangers offer sheets and predictions on what New York will do, join me after the jump.

Rangers Announce Third Exhibition Game In Europe.

Jesse Spector tweets that the New York Rangers have finalized plans for a third exhibition game in Europe this fall.  On October 3 in Zug, Switzerland they will take on EV Zug.  This game falls right in between the other two announced exhibition games and the start of the regular season.  The previously announced games are against HC Sparta Prague on September 29th and the Frölunda Indians on September 30th with starting the season on October 7th against the Kings in Stockholm.

Rumor: Callahan, Rangers "A Ways Apart" On New Contract

With the unrestricted free agent market already thin and seemingly thinning by the moment, many teams will likely look towards the restricted free agent market this summer.  Some will be looking for talent to push their team into contention for a title while others might just be looking to find players that help them get the salary cap floor.

In examining potential RFA targets, Craig Custance of the Sporting News, spoke with Steve Bartlett, the agent for Rangers forward Ryan Callahan.  Bartlett sees more activity happening on the RFA market this summer and then he discussed the contract talks with the Rangers to this point on Callahan.
“The Rangers and Callahan have had ongoing contract negotiations that Bartlett described as friendly and “somewhat productive.” But there’s a gap. “We’re still a ways apart. I don’t think anything is going to happen over the next few days. We’ll see what July 1 brings in terms of what the marketplace holds for him,” Bartlett said.”
There is no need to panic about this type of news at this stage.  The fact that there is a gap between what the two sides think Callahan is worth does not mean he is leaving.  That the talks are friendly and having productivity is a good sign for the final outcome of negotiations.  He is widely presumed to be the next captain of the team and is the epitome of the identity that coach John Tortorella wants this team to have.  However, I do believe there is a salary level that Callahan could receive an offer sheet that the Rangers would allow him to walk away for the compensation.  Those who believe that the Rangers have to match Callahan at any level are overvaluing what he brings though I suspect anything at $4.5 million or lower would be matched.

The fact that these types of scenarios always seem to be possible for the Rangers is another frustrating thing about the way Glen Sather handles contracts.  In the unrestricted market he is more than willing to vastly overpay players from other teams to come here, but with his own players he gets tough and has these situations linger on.  There is no reason the Rangers could not have had at least a couple of the five restricted free agents already have their next contract done before July 1.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rangers Make Drury Buyout Official

The New York Rangers made official, what we have known since this morning, the buyout of captain Chris Drury.

Here is the press release:


–New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has bought out the contract of forward Chris Drury.

“Chris is a consummate professional, a tremendous competitor and an even better person,” stated Sather. “He gave his heart and soul to the Rangers organization in his time here and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

In four seasons as a Ranger, Drury registered 62 goals and 89 assists for 151 points, along with 116 penalty minutes in 264 games. He made his debut with the team on October 4, 2007, tallying the game-winning goal and adding two assists vs. Florida in the season opener. That season, he led the Blueshirts in power play goals (12) and game-winning goals (seven), tied for the team lead in goals (25), and ranked third in assists (33) and points (58). Drury led the team in power play goals (10) for a second consecutive season in 2008-09, en route to capturing his first of two Players’ Player Awards (2008-09, 2009-10).

Drury, 34, is a Stanley Cup Champion and the only player in hockey history to win both the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top collegiate hockey player and the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. The three-time Olympian, and two-time Olympic silver medalist with Team USA, was the winning pitcher for Trumbull, Connecticut in the 1989 Little League World Series vs. Taiwan. He has served as Rangers’ captain for the last three seasons, having been named the 25th captain in franchise history on October 3, 2008.

In 2009-10, Drury led all NHL forwards in blocked shots (97) and was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the NY chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA), awarded annually to “the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” That season, he recorded his 250th career NHL goal and 600th career NHL point with an empty net goal on February 14 vs. Tampa Bay, and skated in his 800th career NHL game on October 19 vs. San Jose. Last season, Drury missed a total of 57 games due to injury.

Prior to joining the Rangers, Drury skated for three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, serving as team co-captain from 2005-06 to 2006-07. He reached the 30-goal and 60-point plateaus twice as a Sabre, including a career-high, 37 goals and 69 points in 2006-07. He also led Buffalo and tied for fourth in the NHL with career-highs in power play goals (17) and game-winning goals (nine) that season. Drury reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career in 2005-06, leading the Sabres in goals (30) and power play goals (16), and finishing second on the team in points (67). In the 2006 playoffs, Drury established career-highs in playoff scoring with 18 points and five power play goals in 18 games. He tied for third in the NHL in goals (nine) and power play goals, and sixth in points while leading Buffalo to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 5-10, 191-pounder has skated in 892 career NHL games with the Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Buffalo Sabres, registering 255 goals and 360 assists for 615 points, along with 468 penalty minutes. He has reached the 20-goal mark in nine of 12 NHL seasons and surpassed the 50-point mark eight times in his career. Drury began his NHL career with Colorado in 1998-99, capturing the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie and being named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. He established a career-high and ranked second on the Avalanche with 47 assists in just his second season.

In Stanley Cup Playoff action, Drury has appeared in 135 career contests with the Rangers, Avalanche and Sabres, registering 47 goals and 42 assists for 89 points, along with 46 penalty minutes. Drury is tied for fourth in the NHL all-time with four playoff overtime goals, and ranks sixth among active NHL players in playoff goals. He has participated in the playoffs nine times, having advanced to at least the Conference Finals in five of those nine seasons. Drury captured a Stanley Cup Championship with Colorado in 2000-01, establishing career-highs in postseason appearances (23) and goals (11). His 11 goals in the 2001 playoffs ranked second in the NHL.

Prior to turning professional, Drury skated in 155 career games with Boston University of Hockey East (HE), recording 113 goals and 101 assists for 214 points. He won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player in 1998, was runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award in 1997 and was a finalist for the award in 1996. Drury finished his college career first all-time in goals (113) and third in points (214) in Boston University history, and is the only Terrier with at least 100 goals and 100 assists. He captured the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship as a Freshman in 1994-95.

Internationally, Drury has represented the United States three times in the Winter Olympics (2002, 2006 and 2010), capturing the silver medal in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. He also participated in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, the World Championships in 2004, 1998 and 1997, and the World Junior Championships in 1996.

The Trumbull, Connecticut native signed with the Rangers as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2007. He was originally a third round choice of the Quebec Nordiques, 72nd overall, in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

Video Parody of Rangers Negotiations With Brad Richards

Bloge Salming and Down Goes Brown teamed up for a hilarious parody of what the Brad Richards negotiations will look like come Friday.  The funniest, and saddest part about the parody is this is what most Rangers fans feel free agent negotiations go like with New York.

Via Down Goes Brown:

Drury To Be Bought Out Today

After weeks of speculation about what would happen with Chris Drury and the final year of his contract, the speculation ends today as does his New York Rangers career.  Larry Brooks at the New York Post reports the Rangers will officially buy Drury out of the final season of his five-year, $35.05 million contract and save $3.33 million against the 2011-12 salary cap.  Players with no-movement clauses have the ability to reject waivers and that is what Drury did, so he will not be waived today and instead head straight to buyout process.  The Rangers will still carry $3.7 million against the cap this season and $1.67 million during the 2012-13 season.

Drury sent a statement to the NY Post as well.

"It was a great honor and privilege to be a New York Ranger for the past four years, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to fulfill that childhood dream. The Rangers are a first-class organization with great people in the hockey, public relations, team services and community relations departments.

"I would also like to thank Ranger fans. They always inspired me to do the best I could in whatever role I was asked to play. Playing before them in the Garden was a thrill of a lifetime. I wish all the fans and the entire Ranger organization the best of luck in the future."

The fact that Drury could never live up to the expectations of the contract he was given by Glen Sather was not his fault and it is sad to see it end this way.  Due to Drury being bought out instead of retiring or spending the season on LTIR, he will have the opportunity to sign with another team and keep his career going.  Either way today ends his career with the Rangers.

Are The Buffalo Sabres Brad Richards Perfect Fit?

The consensus among most out there is that the main competitors for free agent Brad Richards are the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs with the Tampa Bay Lightning there as a team Richards would love to play for if they can figure it out.  Yesterday, Blue Seat Blogs examined what other teams could be involved in the running for the free agent center, but I would add one more to the list; the Buffalo Sabres. 

Since the day that Terry Pegula was announced as the owner of the Sabres I have been waiting for him to use his fortune to make a flashy move that sends ripples through the NHL.  He has made moves like trading for Brad Boyes and taking on the contracts of Ales Kotalik to acquire Robyn Reghr late last week, but nothing that screams going for a title.  Signing Brad Richards would certainly be that sort of move. 

Mentally I discounted the move after the Sabres took money owed to Reghr and Kotalik last week, but after talking about it with James Wrabel I looked closer at the numbers and Buffalo has the ability to make it work.  The lack of need to fill the rest of the roster with large salaries, the inexpensiveness of their restricted free agents and potential prospects to fill certain spots makes the money they have to add smaller than it might seem.  Add to that the fact they have salaries like Ales Kotalik that they can bury in the minors if the need arises and the cap is not an issue for the Sabres. 

Joe Yerdon of Pro Hockey Talk broke down potential suitors for Richards earlier this month and included Buffalo with the following explanation..
Buffalo Sabres: With Terry Pegula owning the team and a guy like Tim Connolly coming off the books the Sabres are in desperate need of a playmaking center to help Derek Roy out. If Pegula wants to make a splash, finding a way to convince Richards to come to town would be a huge coup. Having Richards line up with guys like Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville would make the Sabres a serious offensive threat.
As Yerdon is alluding to, the Sabres have the opportunity to give Richards just about everything he has said he wants in his next team.  Pegula is the stable owner that he wants.  Buffalo is a smaller market with less scrutiny than he would be getting in Toronto or New York. With a forward group consisting of names like Richards, Vanek, Roy, Staffod, Pominville, Boyes, Ennis, Gerbe there is plenty of offense.  Reghr, Myers, Leopold, Gragnani is not the greatest defense corps ever, but it is solid and Ryan Miller gives them a goalie capable of winning a Stanley Cup.

The fact that Buffalo can offer Richards stability and a chance to win without the scrutiny he would get in New York or Toronto seems to make them the ideal option for the 31-year-old center to sign on with, if they want him.  So while everyone is focused on New York or Toronto as the only places for Brad Richards, I am going to keep one eye to another team in the state of New York.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video: Gordie Clark Discusses J.T. Miller Comparing Him To Dubinsky, Mike Richards

There is no one b.etter to talk about why the New York Rangers selected J.T. Miller with the 15th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft than Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark.  Jim Cerny did just that with Clark for the Rangers official website and Clark shared some interesting thoughts on Miller and his game.  The discussion of Miller's versatility, playmaking and work ethic and effort should make fans happy.  One of the easiest things for fans to wrap their heads around when talking about a player is who that player compares to that is playing now.  During the course of his comments, Clark compared Miller to current Rangers' forward Brandon Dubinsky and new Kings' center Mike Richards.  If Miller plays that same sort of all-around, abrasive game and develops in a similar fashion than Rangers fans will stop questioning the pick and and be elated with the results.

Wrapping Up Day Two At Development Camp: McIlrath Offense, Fasth Skill, Prospect Depth Star

The 2011 Rangers development camp continued today, but there was more than just skating going on at the facility.  The prospect practiced this morning and then had a scrimmage in which they played two 20 minute halves.  While the scrimmage itself turned out to be an 8-3 blowout win for Team White, the most evident thing was just how deep the Rangers prospect core is right now.  Huge games from McIlrath, Fasth, Thomas left the writers with plenty to talk about:

In Andrew Gross recap of the scrimmage at Ranger Rants the praise for the early work of Dylan McIlrath continued:
Dylan McIlrath, the 10th overall pick in 2010, was the strongest player on the ice as he led White to an 8-3 win over Blue this morning at the MSG Training Center. McIlrath, known more for his defense and physical play, had a goal and two assists as he displayed a nice shot from the right point.
The work in this morning’s scrimmage follows up the praise for McIlrath’s skating improvement talk yesterday.  More than the points he put up today, the excitement should be over the improvement of McIlrath’s shot over the last 12 months.  He is not going to become a huge offensive player, but with stead improvement and continuing to add strength that shot is only going to become more of a threat from the point.

Jesse Spector singled out Jesper Fasth as the player of scrimmage this morning. 
Jesper Fasth was the star of this morning’s scrimmage at the Rangers’ prospect development camp, scoring two goals with an assist to lead the White team to an 8-3 victory over the Blue.

Fasth was all over the puck, and knew what to do with it, showing off his skill particularly on a stickhandle through the slot to beat Scott Stajcer. He also scored off a very strong crossing feed from Tim Erixon.
Fasth continues to improve and looks like a steal for a sixth-round pick that was very good at the WJC last season and held his own in the Swedish Elite League a year ago.  Another year or two in the SEL and Fasth could become one of the Rangers best prospects and a threat to be a scorer at the NHL level.

Spector also praised the work of McIlrath, and said that Shane McCoglan was the most impressive of the rookies and that the experience of Hagelin is very evident in how he plays.

Beyond McIlrath and Fasth tearing up the board during the game Christian Thomas did what he does best in scoring with a penalty shot goal and an assist.  Andrew Yogan had a goal, Tim Erixon an assist and Pashnin hit everything that moved.  The hitting for Pashnin was not always a good thing as Gross pointed out in his recap because he was so focused on delivering the hit that he lost sight of the more important aspects of the game.

There were just 4-on-4 scrimmages, but the number of prospects who showed well for themselves exhibits the tremendous among the Rangers prospects giving even more hope for the future.

Andrew Gross has a story on what Ryan Borque learned watching the Bruins win the Cup.

Does Laich Contract Raise Price For Rangers To Keep Callahan, Dubinsky?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

News came out this morning that Brook Laich agreed to a six-year contract that will pay him $27 million to stay with the Washington Capitals.  Laich agreed to the deal just days before he would have hit the unrestricted market and had the ability to look through all his options.  It is possible he could have gotten more money or more years by waiting until Friday to sign, but he decided to stay where he knows and was given plenty in terms of years and money to do so. The question left behind from the Laich deal for Rangers’ fans: How does this impact the contracts Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky will get?
Laich, 28, is seen as a heart-and-soul, grinding type player that can chip in approximately 50 points while being a critical part of a locker room.  That seems to be a pretty accurate description of what Callahan Dubinsky are for the Rangers.  In term of the Rangers duo, there is more upside for offensive improvement as both showed this year which could make them both think about seeking similar numbers to what Laich just receieved.
Statistically the players are not that different either.  Laich has 100 goals and 137 assists in 475 career NHL games.  Those numbers equate to a .499 points per game or 41 points per 82 games.  Laich has surpassed those career totals in each of the last three seasons, hitting 50 points twice in that span while scoring 20+ goals in three of the last four years. 
Callahan has 76 goals and 68 assists in 284 career NHL games.  Those numbers equate to a .507 points per game average or 42 points per 82 games.  Callahan inflated his career averages with last year’s .8 points per game average, but he still has scored at least 19 goals and 37 points in the last three seasons.
Dubinsky has the best career numbers of the trio as he has 71 goals and 108 assists in 316 career games.  His .566 points per game average puts him on pace for 46 points per 82 game season.  Dubinsky has raised his point totals in each of his four full seasons in the NHL and is coming off a career year that saw him lead the team in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54).    
In terms of statistics and value to their team’s there is little difference between Laich, Callahan and Dubinsky.  The biggest difference in the cases is that Laich was going to be an unrestricted free agent, while Callahan has one more year until he would be and Dubinsky is two years away from that freedom.  The difference in free agency status is a huge card for Glen Sather as he should get at least one year at a lower than market level rate.  One other thing to consider is that Laich staying in Washington weakens an already thin unrestricted free agent class, so it could make Callahan and Dubinsky even more attractive options to teams looking to add talent and leave them as potential offer sheet candidates.  The Laich signing, while not supposed to be used for comparative purposes certainly should leave Callahan and Dubinsky feeling pretty good about where there next contract is going to end up.

Update: No Waivers For Chris Drury Today, But Can Be Waived Tomorrow For Buyout

Update: According to Steve Zipay today was not the deadline to waive Drury in order to buy him out this week.
From what I hear, an NHL player can be placed on 24-hour unconditional waivers tomorrow and, if not claimed, be eligible for buyout Thursday.  My understanding is that a player with a no-move clause must be notified 24 hours before a buyout and can accept or request a waiver,
And with that bit of news we get to stay in suspense about a possible Drury waiver leading to a buyout for another day.

Original Post:
Today was the deadline for the New York Rangers to place captain Chris Drury on waivers in order to be able to buy out the final years of his five-year, $35.25 million dollar contract.  As Jesse Spector was the first to report, the Rangers chose not to exercise the waiver process today, so there no buyout will occur this week and the team will carry his entire $7.05 million against the summer salary cap.   

The team will likely place Drury on long-term injured reserve in the fall to gain salary cap flexibility during the season, if Drury does not do them a favor and retire before then.  The move costs the Rangers $3.33 million against the summer cap, but does save the $1.67 million that Drury would have counted against the cap during the 2012-13 season.

The other option that could come into play would be the second buyout period in August, but that would require the Rangers to take one of their restricted free agents to arbitration, though that is not a great option.

Do Short-Term Gains Outweigh Long-Term Risks In Signing Richards?

There are only three more days until free agency begins in the NHL and with it the seemingly inevitable marriage of Brad Richards and the New York Rangers will undoubtedly commence.  The level of assumption it will happen has gotten to the point that Daze Lozo of described the Rangers and Brad Richards signing saying, “With July 1 just days away, it seems there are only three things in life that are guaranteed -- death, taxes and Brad Richards signing a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Rangers."
The reason the confidence is growing in the inevitability of Richards to New York is the lack of teams capable of meeting his demands keeps dwindling.  After acquiring Mike Richards, the Los Angeles Kings are thought to be out of the running.  The Tampa Bay Lightning, likely Richards preferred destination, have to worry about signing Steven Stamkos before they ever get to Richards.  There is also the issue of what kind of money could be left once Stamkos is signed.  That leaves the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs as the main competitors for Richards.  There is no doubt that Brian Burke will throw everything he can at Richards to either win him or drive the price for the Rangers upwards.  There is also no doubt that Brad Richards on the Rangers makes them a better team next season.  The question that is not being asked enough is whether the short-term gain of Richards outweighs the long-term risk? 
The question is taken off the table for the most part if the contract is five years or less, but there appears to be no intention on Richards part than to get a deal to end his career.  If the deal is of the 7+ season variety, then there are numerous negatives that have to be considered for the long-term.  The most obvious issue is the erosion of skill that Richards is likely to see 3-4 years into the deal where he is being paid for the player he is, and production he provides today while at a decreased level.  Next would be the fact that even with Richards the Rangers are likely not a championship contender this coming season because the majority of the team is still 2-3 years away from being contending players.  When the rest of the team catches up to where Richards is today, Richards will likely have begun and erosion of his level of play.
Adding to the negatives of a career deal this summer for Richards is concern about what will happen with the next collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) in terms of the salary cap which has to come down.  Locking in Richards for a significant term at large dollars could cause the Rangers to be back in salary cap issues because of the limited flexibility they might end up with under this inflated salary cap.
For many, all of those risks are worth it to take the gamble at wining a Stanley Cup during his tenure in New York.  If Richards can actually bring Marian Gaborik back to the form he played at during the 2009-10 season while maintaining his own level, then the Rangers become more serious threats to win a championship.  Even with those two things panning out perfectly the Rangers are going to need all those who had career years to repeat that and many of the young players to take another step forward in their development.  Will all those pieces fall in place in the short-term to make those long term risks worth it?  Highly unlikely.
Worse than the discussion of whether the Rangers should or shouldn’t get Richards is the idea that they must get him because there is no one else and they have to have someone this summer.  It is easy to make the straw man argument that Richards is the best of the options because he costs only money, but that does not inherently make giving him the 8 year deal that some are reporting he wants is a good idea.  The Rangers have changed the way they conduct business over the past few years in avoiding big name free agents, mainly from lack of money, and giving young players a chance to take on significant roles.  There is nothing that requires reverting back from this model which is giving more hope than in recent memory to that which saw the Rangers trying to buy the big names in hopes of huge returns, only to come up short.  Richards is definitely better than Gomez, Drury, Holik and those other overpaid New York Ranger free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t erode long term nor does it mean his addition makes this team capable of winning a title in the short term.
It appears that Glen Sather and company are going to revert back to the past and pay the man what he wants to come to New York, which will end up a mistake because the long-term risks outweigh the actually short-term gains.  The inevitability of Richards ending up in New York seems overwhelming at this point, but that does not mean it is the right move for a franchise that has come so far by curbing their obsession with the big name buy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Penguins Don't Qualify Tyler Kennedy; Is He A Fit For Rangers?

The deadline for NHL teams to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents was 5:00 pm today.  In one of the more surprising decisions the Pittsburgh Penguins decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Tyler Kennedy.  There could be any number of reasons that the Penguins chose not to qualify Kennedy, but the move still makes little sense.  If the Penguins were truly afraid of what he was going to be offered in arbitration, they could have still qualified him and then walked away from the award.  At least by qualifying him they would have the right to match an offer sheet or collect compensation.  Strange move for a team that needs wingers and is now letting arguably their best forward in the second half walk for nothing.  The question now on the table: Should the Rangers pursue Kennedy as an unrestricted free agent?

Kennedy, 24, had a breakout season for the Penguins scoring 21 goals and adding 24 assists in 80 games.  The breakout for Kennedy was in large part due to the injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evegeni Malkin that forced Kennedy into a more offensive role and he responded.  Is he an answer for the Rangers in the top six? No.  Is he more of what the Rangers already have in the system? Probably. 

The key to the whole thing, as with most free agents, is what his demands are.  Kennedy is likely a third line player on a good team that has numbers inflated because of the drastic increase in opportunities based on the Penguins’ injury situation.  If Kennedy is looking to cash in big on his couple months of output, then the Rangers should stay away.  However, if the asking price is reasonable, then the Rangers will likely be interested.  Reasonable for Kennedy is likely going to end up in the $2-2.5 million range, which should make him more attractive than bringing back Ruslan Fedotenko for $1.5 million. 

As was said in my twitter conversation with @Juggs88 and @TheWrage, the determining factor, beyond price, is likely whether the Rangers believe that a player like Carl Hagelin can be ready for the season.  I think Hagelin can be so I would likely pass on Kennedy, but it never hurts to have depth. 

Wrap Up of Development Camp Day One: McIlrath Skating Improvement Stands Out Most

The New York Rangers opened development camp today and it gives the coaching staff to get their first in person look at the recent draftees as well as see how far returning prospects have come over the past year.  Just as coach John Tortorella does to start training camp, development camp opens with a day of nothing but conditioning. 

Having the players do only conditioning will not show much in terms of their overall skills, but it can show how seriously they are taking their offseason work to see who is truly prepared physically.  Before we get into what came out on day one, earlier I did a primer on the three players at development camp that have the best chance to make the roster and what they have to show to do so.

After hanging out with Kevin DeLury of The New York Rangers Blog during the draft party, and since today was mostly just opening day stories instead of action, we are going round-up some of the observations and stories from today in a sort of NYRangersBlog style:

Dylan McIlrath
Steve Zipay notices that 2010 first round pick Dylan McIlrath looks considerably faster than he did last season.

Andrew Gross notices similar things and has quotes from McIlrath at Ranger Rants

My take: Improvement and hunger are things you want in your prospects and having McIlrath make strides with his skating from last year gives hope for even bigger things from him in the future.  Do not get ahead of yourselves in thinking it means he is making the team as this is just skating at the Rangers are pretty stacked on defense this season.  Do go ahead and be excited for what this means in terms of McIlrath's dedication to improving his game.

Carl Hagelin:
Carl Hagelin tells the New York Rangers official twitter that he didn’t think the conditioning tests were too bad. 

Jesse Spector talks about the transition that Hagelin is looking to make and how he is the type of player the coaching staff loves at Blueshirts Blog

My take: Hearing Hagelin talk about how the conditioning was not too bad  must make coach John Tortorella smile and shows how seriously Hagelin is taking his chance to make an impression before camp even begins.  I agree with Spector that Hagelin is the prototypical player for the Rangers coaching staff as I wrote earlier this afternoon.

Tim Erixon:
Both Jesse Spector and Andrew Gross have stories about the player seen as the most likely of all participants in development camp to make the NHL roster this fall.

In a light moment this afternoon, while Barbara Underhill was working with the prospects on their skating, Erixon nailed her with a snow shower had the other prospects laughing and tapping their sticks over.

My take: Erixon comes into this camp and training camp this fall with a lot of expectations on him between the trade to get him and the hype about his NHL readiness that has been coming out all month.  The real time to learn about Erixon will come as the week progresses and the actual scrimmages get going and you see how he stacks up against the competition.  He will be expected to dominate it by some, but this is just another step in his growth as a player.

Other Prospects:
Jesse Spector says that the Rangers 2011 fifth round selections are slightly different in the speed category.  Shane McCoglan is very fast, while Samuel Noreau is not.  Being 5-foot-8 McCoglan has to be extremely quick to survive against bigger players, while the massive Noreau can just do what he does best and knock them to the ground.