Madison Square Garden has gone dark, the players have returned home to their apartments and families, it’s now official, the offseason has begun. Now, if the Rangers got a couple of bounces here and there maybe they would be playing the Penguins right now in the Conference Final, but that isn’t the case. Instead, the players are home wondering where everything went wrong and how they can improve to help the team next season.
Last Wednesday, May 29, John Tortorella was let go by the organization. A move which shocked a great number of people including myself especially. I was expecting Torts to stay through at least the first few months of next season. Instead, he was given the boot.
Now, Glen Sather must find himself a new coach, whether that be Mark Messier, Alain Vigneault, or Lindy Ruff perhaps. But regardless, the management needs to figure out what they are going to do this summer.
Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello are all RFA’s come free agency time. Not to mention they have to bang out a contract extension for star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was vague in his exit interview, saying “I’ll talk to my agent and we’ll see.”
It’s obvious that all the players mentioned above need to be re-signed if the Rangers want to be a Stanley Cup contender next season. With the free agency market being a bit dry this summer, it is pivotal that McDonagh, Hagelin, Stepan, and Zuccarello all get signed to new contracts.
Here’s the problem; they only have 13.5mm in cap space to do it. McDonagh will be asking for a hefty raise, probably somewhere in the 4mm range. Hagelin and Zuccarello will easily be 2 to 3mm each. This leaves roughly 4.5mm left to re-sign Stepan AND get an extension for Hank.
But, here’s the catch; they MUST use their amnesty buyout on Brad Richards. Let’s face it, he was terrible this season and really doesn’t deserve a spot on the roster after being demoted to the fourth line. If Richards is bought out of his contract, they will get nearly 7mm in cap space. Which leaves more than enough room to re-sign Step and extend Hank’s deal.
This must happen if Sather wants to keep his team intact. With the players this team has they are built for a cup run, it is just a matter of doing what is necessary to accomplish that goal.
It may not look pretty, but the free agency well isn’t all dried up. Actually, there are some pretty decent players out there that Sather can take a shot at.
Mike Ribeiro- One of the better forwards on the Washington lineup, the 33 year old forward would be a great replacement for Brad Richards and could provide the depth and offensive touch that the Rangers are missing. He wouldn’t be cheap though, he is getting paid 5mm.
Mark Streit- Captain of the Islanders, this would be a steal. With the powerplay as bad as it is, he would be a great addition on the blue line. He can skate, move the puck, and quarterback the powerplay. He would come at a pretty modest price too, he is getting paid only 4.1mm in the final year of his contract.
Nathan Horton- This guy will be getting many looks by many teams, but Sather has to take a shot at this behemoth from Beantown. He has really turned up his game this postseason, and he would provide size, strength, and offensive flair. He is basically a better version of Ryane Clowe. He is getting paid 4mm in the final year of his contract. He is a reasonable target for the Blueshirts.
I am feeling very positive about this summer. I feel that Sather will be able to make the right decisions and pull the strings that will improve this team long-term. There are plenty of capable free agents on the market, it’s just a matter of getting first-dibs.
If they can sign someone like a Ribeiro or Horton, this team will go far next season especially with a full training camp, preseason, and not to mention a new face behind the bench.
The Tortorella reign is finally over, it’s time to go full-steam ahead and don’t look back.