As a Rangers fan, I know the ups and downs of what NHL free agency can bring. Especially under Glen Sather’s tenure. Need I remind you of some of the names our beloved GM has splurged money on in the past? I’ll spare you there *Scott Gomez* because, when you *Wade Redden* stop and actually think, the pain *Bobby Holik for FIVE YEARS AND $45 MILLION* is just too much to handle.
So lets examine what’s happened since noon of July 1 until now. Glen Sather and Co. decided not to re-up Anton Stralman (5-years, $22.5 million from TB), Benoit Pouliot (5-years, $20 million from EDM) and Brian Boyle (3-years, $6 million from TB), did sign Dan Boyle (2-years, $9 million), Tanner Glass (yeah, that Tanner Glass), re-sign Dominic Moore (2-years, $3 million) and a bevy of depth guys in organization headed by Mike Kostka.
I’m failing to see what the Rangers did—or supposedly didn’t do—through two days that would warrant such outrage from fans, bloggers and media members alike.
The Rangers decided their power play needed a true point guard and opted for Boyle. Simple as that. New York gets him for less money and shorter term than Stralman. Could the Rangers’ even strength play from their 2nd defense pair take a slight hit now with Boyle? Sure. It’s a risk you have to take. Not to mention, two years is a good time to let prospects such as Dylan McIlrath, Conor Allen, Brady Skjei and Ryan Graves develop and possibly be ready as Boyle’s contract is movable (assuming he waives his NMC).
The wildcard here is the fourth line, the ‘engine’ of the team last year if you will. Losing a faceoff man and shot-blocking artist like Brian Boyle is a tough pill to swallow. It’s even tougher to swallow when the organization says ‘who was statistically the worst player last year? Tanner Glass? Yeah, lets bring him in.’ But lets not forget something here: right or wrong, stats are not and should not be the whole story to tell on a player. Many factors are at play including emotions, unless you want robots making the calls. Glass’ metrics suck to the high heavens, but Alain Vigneault coached him in Vancouver. He must have been in Slats’ ear as a guy who can be play on the team’s fourth line. What really could’ve been bad was losing D. Moore, creating a gaping wound in the already severed bottom six.
But the main point everyone seems to be missing here is the fact that the Rangers lost very replaceable players. Boyle, Stralman and Pouliot were fine last season, but were they core players? Not at all, and that’s what needs to be hammered home. The important players of the Rangers are still here. Lundqvist, McDonagh, Girardi, Staal (1 year left), Stepan (1 year left) and Hagelin (1 year left). And the other core pieces of Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and John Moore are RFAs, not UFAs that could be plucked away at any moment. Those four players will get deals, be back and the fan base can step back from the ledge it collectively thrust itself upon Tuesday.
There are legitimate concerns left and can still be addressed through free agency or clever wheeling and dealing. Players like Radim Vrbata (assuming his price drops), Dustin Penner, Andrei Loktionov or Daniel Winnik could be of service in the bottom six. We still have training camp to see if Jesper Fast, Marek Hrivik, Oscar Lindberg or Ryan Bourque are ready to challenge for roster spots. Don’t rule out Carl Hagelin and Marc Staal being dangled as trade bait to teams, either. It’s not likely to happen, but all avenues are explored to field a better team and create wiggle room under the cap.
We’re two days into the heart of the offseason. Is there reason to be concerned? Absolutely. Dan Boyle could turn out to be done next season and there goes the power play/fourth defenseman option. The Rangers have a lot of work to do to repair some of the damage done losing their depth. But is it worth flying off the handle? Is it irreparable damage? Hardly. Gone are the days of Sather massively overspending on marginal talent or over-the-hill stars. Take the good with the bad through two days of free agency and let the rest of the offseason moves play out.
Take a chill pill and relax, Rangers fans. Your GM didn’t sign Brooks Orpik to a poisonous long-term deal.