The Rangers have breakup day today, which in case you don’t know, is exactly what it sounds like. The players clean out their lockers and the team has their final group meeting. Tortorella has exit meetings with each player to discuss their season and what they need to improve on as well as giving them their offseason workout plans. It’s also perhaps the final chance for the media to talk directly to the players, and since the season’s over, the players are a lot more open about things they might not have discussed during the season. Let’s look at what news has come out for each player:
Henrik Lundqvist- Said that “it was hard to get used to” not starting as much in the beginning of the season with Biron getting a decent number of starts, but that it made him fresher and stronger in the long run. He claims “the whole team has to be better next year, including himself.” Not sure how much more we can expect from Henrik, but by all means, reach for the stars. Lundqvist is still undecided about playing for Sweden in the Wolrd Championships. Given the fact he just started 30+ games in a row, I’d prefer he didn’t.
Marian Gaborik- Refused to blame any sort of injuries for his lack of production this year. He claims that he’s “bought into the Rangers’ grinding, defensive system” but that he still needs to adjust to find a balance between that producing offensively. He does say that he’s very motivated to come out stronger next year, and that he had done so after frustrating seasons with the Wild. Gaborik expects Sather to do whatever he can to add more offense to the lineup next year, and that he “hopes to have a center to click with.” No names were mentioned, but I think we all know who Target Number One will be.
Brandon Dubinsky- You might remember the drama of the 2009 offseason, where Dubinsky and the Rangers didn’t come to an agreement on a contract until late September. Dubinsky said he didn’t want that to happen again. “I want them, they want me…Let’s not waste each other’s time.” Great news on that front. This is going to be a pretty eventful offseason, so one less thing for Rangers fans to worry about is nice. Dubinsky claimed that the stress fracture he experienced earlier in the year had come back, and that the pain was affecting him until he switched to a softer skate boot. He’ll be fine going into next season, though, so nothing to be concerned about.
Marc Staal- Claims that he’s been battling a sore left knee, pointing to multiple spots on his knee. Not that he was bad, but you could tell Staal just wasn’t the same player towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. I understand fully why Tortorella didn’t have much of a choice but to play Staal 27-30 minutes per game, but going forward that can’t be expected on a game-by-game basis. Either he needs to have confidence in his bottom defensive pairing or they need to add new ones that he does have confidence.
Ryan Callahan- Ryan Callahan said that, had the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, he likely would have been ready to play. He plans on skating in July and will do the normal offseason routines. Regarding being a restricted free agent, Callahan said that he’s “done what he can” to get a new contract and that it’s now up to others (his agent and Sather, presumably) to get the deal done. Maybe not as candid or assuring as Dubinsky’s statement, but I don’t think we have too much to be concerned about. The Rangers will do almost everything it takes to lock Callahan up.
Brian Boyle- Like Dubinsky, also would like to get a contract signed quickly. Unlike Callahan and Dubinsky, though, the Rangers aren’t going to do everything it takes to sign Boyle. Boyle’s future with the team will depend on what kind of money he wants. As good as Boyle’s season was… it was one season, stacked on top of a bunch of mediocre ones in the past. There’s no guarantee that he can replicate this season again. If Boyle wants to play hardball and get paid like a guy who had a 21 goal season, then the Rangers might let him go. However, if he accepts a pay raise from the 500K or so that he earned this year while also understanding the Rangers’ side of the situation then the Rangers will likely be happy to bring him back. My gut feeling is that Boyle loves it in New York and realizes how Tortorella gave him a chance to essentially save his NHL career, so he’ll accept the 1.2-1.5 million annual salary that the Rangers offer him. Boyle said himself that he “doesn’t want this to be a career year.” He’s going to do the same training he did last offseason to hopefully improve even more.
Vinny Prospal- Turned down the invite to play for the Czech Republic in the World Championships so that he could “train and strengthen his left leg.” He wants to be back with the Rangers again next year. Andrew Gross doesn’t seem to think that the Rangers will bring him back, however. No doubt, if he does return to the Rangers next year it will be on a contract that favors the Rangers.
Sean Avery- Claims that he didn’t “let himself be himself until the playoffs.” He says that he needs to play like that to “be his best” for the Rangers, and that he can’t “obsess over penalties and turnovers.” Definitely interesting stuff. A lot of people, myself included, have thought that Tortorella has been restricting Avery, but if you believe Avery, he’s the one that’s held himself back the most. We definitely saw the old version of Avery in the playoffs, getting in the crease, putting his hands in players’ faces, drawing attention to himself, throwing hits around, etc. It’s no secret that Avery is far from Tortorella’s favorite person in the world, but the fact that he gave him regular shifts in the playoffs shows that he does have some confidence in Avery’s abilities and contributions. It’s not a guarantee that the Rangers keep Sean for next year, but it’s reasonable to expect he’ll be back. He has one more year on his contract, and no doubt it will be one of the most important seasons of his hockey career.
Martin Biron- Is relieved that, for the first time in 3 off-seasons, he’s under contract with a team going into the next season. He says that he’s in no rush to get back on the ice but that he’ll be ready for training camp.
Brandon Prust can’t wait to go to the beach. Stepan and McDonagh are likely to play in the World Championships but still haven’t committed. Erik Christensen said the disaster of Game 4 carried over for him into the first period of Game 5. Why am I not surprised. Some more tidbits will likely come out later and I’ll try to address them. Tortorella specifically has a long chat with the media addressing basically everything, so that should be some quality information.