Marion Gaborik's recovery from a torn rotator cuff suffered during the first round of the playoffs last season has exacerbated a pre-existing goal scoring problem for the New York Rangers. The Rangers averaged just 2.75 goals per game last season, and that number dropped to 2.15 during the playoffs. Even with Gaborik, the Rangers were expected to aggressively pursue another top level goal scorer, but with nearly 20% of their goal scoring from last season on the shelf for perhaps as long as three months, their problem seems to have developed into a crisis.
To make matters worse, the only free agent goal scorer of any distinction, Zach Parise, showed no interest in what the Rangers had to offer on his way to signing a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota. Unless the Rangers make an unexpected run at Alexander Semin, a player who would seem to be the antitheses of a "Tortorella guy," the Rangers' options may be limited to standing pat, or trading for one of the two big names believed to be available: Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan.
Nash has been on the Rangers' radar for a while. When it became clear last season that he was looking for a trade out of Columbus, the Rangers seemed to be the most likely destination. Columbus GM Scott Howson, however, was reportedly asking for top-prospect Chris Kreider, a first round draft pick, and depending on the report, some combination of Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto. Coupled with his $7.8 million cap hit that runs through 2018, Glen Sather rightfully judged the price to be too high, and decided not to pull the trigger.
Bobby Ryan is also upset about the state of the Ducks and has reportedly asked to be traded, but since he is younger than Nash and carries a much more manageable $5.1 million cap hit through 2015, the asking price will likely be just as high as Nash's, if not higher.
The state of limbo in which the Rangers' roster currently resides actually brings to the fore a dramatic philosophical shift on the part of Glen Sather. In the past, Sather typified the Riverboat Gambler style of management, right down to the cigar. He frequently relied on splashy free agent signings and bold trades to overcome a poor scouting and draft record over his 30+ years as an NHL coach and executive. This style worked brilliantly during his first stint as a GM and coach with the Edmonton Oilers. He famously told former owner Peter Pocklington, "Whatever you have to do, get him," in reference to Wayne Gretzky, who was considered by many to be a risky acquisition considering his high price tag, otherworldly hype, and small stature. After getting him, however, Sather oversaw a record-setting offense and guided the Oilers to five Cups between 1983 and 1990, but he and Pocklington also sent the organization into a state of chaos for most of the next 20 years.
When he was hired by the Rangers back in 2000 to turn around a team that hadn't made the playoffs in three years, he attempted to do so in much the same way. That led to the acquisitions of high profile stars such as Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Holik, all of whom were viewed as either past their prime (Jagr and Bure), unlikeable (Lindros and Jagr), injury prone (Lindros and Bure) or vastly overpaid (Holik). In order to correct one bad signing, he would make another that was even worse. As the Rangers sunk deeper into their funk, Sather predictably earned the ire of the fans, who on a good day are sarcastic and cynical, and on a bad day are down-right mean. Just ask Tom Poti. "Fire Sather" rallies were commonplace on the steps of MSG.
Despite failing to make the playoffs in his first four years and the public outrage, Sather kept his job because of a strong friendship with owner James Dolan, who has always been loyal to a fault to his GMs (see Thomas, Isaiah). When the lockout of 2004 ended up cancelling the entire 2004-05 season, it was viewed by almost everyone as a catastrophe for the NHL, but it was also the greatest thing that could have happened to the Rangers.
For Glen Sather, the hard salary cap was the smack upside the head that he would never get from his owner.
The most significant outcome of the lockout was the implementation of the hard salary cap, intended as a way to save small market teams from being pushed out of the market for high priced talent. For Glen Sather, it was the smack upside the head that he would never get from his owner. In order to get everyone under the cap, teams were given a window to buy out any player's contract at 66 cents on the dollar, freeing the Rangers from several crippling contracts.
And with the cap in place, Sather was forced to adapt. A premium was now put on scouting and development in order to rebuild a barren farm system, and both coaches since the lockout — Tom Renney and Tortorella — preach defensive responsibility above goal scoring.
Thanks to this new focus on scouting, the Rangers drafted or signed much of their current roster, including Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, to name just a few. As their brilliant regular season and run to the Eastern Conference Finals showed, the Rangers have one of the best young cores in the NHL and it is almost entirely homegrown, which brings us back to the wisdom of trading for Nash or Ryan.
The fact that neither player has yet been traded in a market that is largely devoid of offensive talent would suggest that their respective GM's are still asking for hefty returns. Kreider's postseason success would seem to have solidified his "untouchable" status along with McDonagh, which means the Rangers' two most attractive trading chips are now off the table entirely. In order to pry Nash or Ryan away without them, a deal would likely require two high draft picks and two or three of the Rangers best remaining young players — Stepan, Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin, JT Miller, and Tim Erixon. Further complicating matters is the uncertainty regarding the expiring CBA and potential changes to the salary cap.
If the new CBA keeps the current salary cap in place, the Rangers can afford Nash's cap hit as long as they are able to send Brandon Dubinsky's $4 million cap hit back the other way. Given the absurd contracts handed out to players like Dennis Wideman and Matt Carle this summer, Nash may even be a bargain by the time his contract ends. However, if the new CBA brings the salary cap down, Nash's contract would become an albatross.
Sather's inaction thus far suggests that he may well be comfortable standing pat if the price on Nash and Ryan does not in fact come down. Kreider made the transition from NCAA hockey to NHL playoff hockey with relative ease, adding a goal scoring punch to the Rangers' game. While his play away from the puck was not at the same level, he will spend the summer learning the Rangers' defensive system, and there is a very good chance that Kreider could be the missing goal scorer that the Rangers so desperately need.
As it currently stands, the Rangers' top 2 lines are some combination of Richards, Kreider, Callahan, Stepan, Dubinsky, Anisimov and Hagelin. There is certainly goal scoring capability in that bunch, particularly if Dubinsky can prove that last year's drought was a fluke. Once Gaborik returns around Thanksgiving or Christmas, the Rangers will have two above average scoring lines if all goes as planned. Furthermore, the money saved by passing on Nash or Ryan can be spent on extending Ryan McDonagh, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and will be in line for a huge payday as a UFA in 2014.
None of this is to suggest that the Rangers should abandon their search for a high level forward. If the price on Nash or Ryan falls to say, Del Zotto, Miller, Dubinsky, and a high draft pick, the Rangers should jump at the chance. But as antsy as Ranger fans are, the team as it currently stands should be capable of holding the fort until Gaborik returns. The Rangers are built around their all-world goaltending and stingy defense and do not have to score a ton of goals to win, particularly in the regular season. You can also bet that Sather will look to make a move mid-season if Kreider does not add the offensive punch that is expected of him. Sather's first four years in New York will probably never be forgiven by many Ranger fans, but the last four years have proven that he knows what he is doing.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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