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Thursday, July 28, 2011

July Roundup: NY Rangers Off-Season Evaluation

   Below is the current payroll situation for October 1st, 2011. All of these contracts are real and accurately displayed, not including the small fee from last season's carryover bonus coverage. Though Wade Redden is still on the books, it is assumed he will be re-waived in September for the second consecutive year.


   How do we like this concoction of contracts by Glen Sather, and what's left to be desired?

   Let us examine the offense of this bunch, at least on paper. Being as mildly and conservatively cautious as I can, I've crunched some numbers on rough goal-production estimates. Relative to last season, how would these players perform in a vacuum?

The 23 roster players at this point seem to suggest competitive net offensive capabilities, or at least on paper in July...

   Essentially, Sather has added Brad Richards & Mike Rupp in lieu of Vinny Prospal & Derek Boogaard this off-season. Mathematically, the two top lines look capable of producing roughly 60 goals a piece, which suggests the possibility of NY having two #1 lines once again. Overall the 14 forwards designated to pot goals next winter look to be respectable choices with our cumulative estimates.

   As for the defense? I think we've found the softest part of the team. Marc Staal & Dan Girardi are the big-minute, elder-statesmen staples of the structure. However, the bottom 4 slots are entrusted in very, very young hands. Both Michael Sauer & Ryan McDonagh had impressive rookie outings last year, but can they play 20 minutes a night all-season, and be on-deck to fill in any minutes in case one of the top-pair succumb to injury? Michael Del Zotto & Tim Erixon raise increasingly more eyebrows as they are even younger & more unproven. Can these 7 blueliners patrol Qvisty's territory enough to be, say, top-10 defense in the league?

   I think that's the most wait-and-see ingredient in the caliber of contention NY has brewing in next season's stew. Personally, I think McDonagh will turn out to be a solid find, only based on what I've seen, and especially in his playoff debut last April. Del Zotto & Erixon are the black sheep here: MDZ coming off a sorry sophomore slump of a season, while Erixon is all prospect / no prior NHL puck participation.

   If I were a betting man, I'd wager NY looks for a premium right-handed defenseman in total trade talks over the next year. I'd bet that Staal/McD can handle their primetime workload better than Girardi/Sauer can. I'd bet Sather has a list of right-handed defensemen whom are set to become unrestricted free agents next July, and I bet if a team falls out of playoff position with a little bit of time, NY would likely pursue interest in acquiring a seasoned pointman to accompany the youngsters.

Top 10 Righthanded NHL Defensemen scheduled to become UFA on July 1, 2012

Shea Weber (NSH)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Joe Corvo (BOS)
Dennis Wideman (WSH)
Adrian Aucoin (PHO)
Kurtis Foster (ANH)
Radek Martinek (CBJ)
Pavel Kubina* (TBL)
Sami Salo* (VAN
Cory Sarich* (CGY)

* = No-Trade-Clause or No-Movement-Clause

   In conclusion, Glen Sather is going for a cup run, and has crafted his best roster nearly completely, save one more bonafide righty reargaurd. The following 3 seasons ~ which are coincidentally the last 3 contract seasons for Lundqvist, Gaborik & Callahan ~ have committed 100%, 74% & 65% of the team's budget respectively. The Brad Richards signing, the fear of King Henrik turning 30, and the escaping window of having a very young team contracted to cheap contracts, before everyone turns 33 and makes double what they did in their 20's, is what these offseason moves are coming down to.

   It's time to win, it's time to win now. Look for NY to be capable of sending Anisimov or Stepan packing in exchange for older, more immediate talent aimed at playoff pushes. Look for the 2012 & 2013 NHL Entry Draft to be depleted & lacking in picks for Rangerland after they've been hocked for deadline additions & single-playoff upgrades.

   Glen Sather, what has he done, and where will it take us?

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