Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Video: Tim Thomas Defends Crease, Fights Alex Burrows

With less than two minutes remaining in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals with the Bruins up 4-0 Tim Thomas showed Alex Burrows that he will not allow anyone to take liberties in his crease.  Alex Burrows chopped the goal stick of Thomas out of his hands, Thomas retrieved the stick and proceeded to chop the knee of Burrows.  Burrows spun around and started throwing punches at Thomas, but there was no backing down as Thomas started throwing right back.

In the last two games Tim Thomas has thrown a hit on Henrik Sedin and thrown punches with Alex Burrows.  At some point the Canucks are going to learn that Tim Thomas is going to defend his crease by any means necessary.

Rangers' Boyle Training With Barb Underhill Again, Recruiting Teammates To Join

Brian Boyle has a tremendous turnaround season during the 2010-11 campaign for the New York Rangers due in large measure to his improved skating from his work with Barbara Underhill last summer.  While answering fan questions for Blueshirts United he announced that he will be working with Underhill again this summer, which is great news for the potential of him repeating his season again because his skating improvement created so many opportunities for him.  Instead of being a second late he was able to get in on the forecheck better, use his physical size and strength more both on and off the puck and his improved speed allowed him to have more scoring opportunities. 

To further the good news, Boyle announced that he is getting some of his teammates to go with him.  He said that Wojtek Wolski is going with him and that both Brandon Prust and Michael Del Zotto are possible participants as well.  If Underhill can do for any of them what she did for Boyle it will pay huge dividends for the Rangers on the ice next season.  If I had to pick two guys to send to Underhill it would be Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky.  Both players are extremely talented, but both could use work on becoming better power skaters.  For Anisimov it is about strength on the puck and having a better foundation, which he also needs to get in the weight room to get.  With Dubinsky is more about refining his stride to improve his speed and cut down on the strain he puts on his legs with his current one.

It is welcomed news that Boyle is not satisfied with his career year and is still putting in the work necessary to get better.  Along with that it is encouraging both from a leadership standpoint and a team unity one that he is getting some of his teammates to get in on what worked so well for him and his career.

Check out the video of Boyle answering those questions and more:

Is Skipping Unrestricted Free Agent Market Best Move For Rangers Future?

For the past few summers fans of the New York Rangers have seen the end of the mega contract that eventually hangs around the neck of the organization like an albatross as they stare into the abyss of salary cap calamity.  Much of the reason for that is that the organization has been against the salary cap so the mega deals for huge money and significant years have not been something that has been possible for GM Glen Sather to make.  He has made some bad signings in the last two years as well in terms of the level of overpayment for some free agents, but the sheer dollars involved have been so much less that he has gotten away without the same level of scrutiny. 

That could change this summer with Sather having eliminated most of the worst contracts on the club’s balance sheet, and an expected rise in the salary cap.  Add in potential buyouts of Chris Drury, Wojtek Wolski and possibly Sean Avery and the Rangers could be looking at upwards of $25+ million in cap space to work with this summer.  Obviously a good chunk of that money will go to the new deals for Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Michael Sauer and Brian Boyle.  That said, when those five deals are done there will still be huge money left on the table and we know that Sather is not one to leave it there sitting idle.

There is no secret he will look for the big fish in this year’s market, Brad Richards, when July 1 comes.  The problem becomes whether he will revert back to the old ways and lock himself right back into another long-term deal (5+ years) for huge money ($7+ million) as Richards is rumored to be seeking.  Even scarier than that scenario might be what Sather could do with the money if he loses out on Richards.  In the unrestricted free agent (UFA) market Richards is the only elite talent there and the pool after that drops off significantly.  That scenario creates multiple bad scenarios for the Rangers.

The weak UFA market gives Richards added leverage in his own negotiations as there is no comparable alternative out there to spend the money in the market.  The other bad scenario is that the weak market means all the secondary options are likely to be overpaid in both years and dollars this summer.  Second and third liners will be paid more than they deserve because the teams that miss on Richards will be hungry to not walk away completely empty-handed.  This is why the best move for the Rangers is to stay out of the unrestricted free agent market altogether this summer other than some depth signings if necessary.  Other than Richards, there is no one in the UFA class that is a significant upgrade, especially in the forward group, compared to what the Rangers already have, yet they will get paid as if they are.

The main alternative to the UFA market is to look for the answers in trades, which as bad as Sather has been in his big dollar free agent contracts, he has been that good in the trade market.  This has been bandied about with different names already this offseason, some of which are more intriguing than others.

The other alternative that seems to be lost in the discussion because the urge is to fix the problems on the team is just to basically stand still and hope for the growth from the youth for next season.  The rebuilding process is one that has gone on over the past few years and while fans are itching to contend again as soon as possible, staying with the course and making the right moves is more important than just making a move you hope will work.

Whatever Sather does at this point, the goal should be to add top talent, not more depth to the core that already exists in New York.  If that talent is not available, for whatever reason, the Rangers should not be afraid to just take a pass and head into next year with the same core group from this past season.