It seems as though every day the pool of available second and third line forwards gets shallower and shallower as Glen Sather continues to sit on the sidelines…
Leafs have agreed to a 1 year deal with Mike Santorelli, $1.5 mil.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 3, 2014
David Legwand comes to terms with the Ottawa Senators on a 2 year deal, 6M total #TSN
— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) July 4, 2014
Obviously, I have no idea if Santorelli or Legwand were interested in signing with the Rangers, but that doesn’t seem to matter because I didn’t see a single legit rumor linking the Blueshirts to either of those players or any of the other recently signed forwards (Graboveski, Kulemin & Vrabata) anyway.
Not going after Santorelli is particularly curious as he’s a young guy trending upward just as he’s entering his prime (10g, 18a in 49 games before season ending shoulder surgery last season), who can play both center or wing and obviously could have been signed for cheap. Not much downside there.
So now the question is, what the hell is the game plan? Sure there are still low cost reclamation projects on the market including Mike Ribiero, Dany Healtey and Dustin Penner, but if the Rangers don’t act quickly those guys won’t be available either.
When Sather is your GM, a blockbuster trade is always a possibility, especially with how quiet things have been around Rangersland lately.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is it. Against all odds, Sather might actually be entrusting young guys such as JT Miller, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast and Ryan Haggerty with the responsibility of filling the offensive holes created with the departures of Brad Richards and Beniot Pouliot.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem smart to go into a season counting on rookies to make up the 87 point void left by those two veterans, especially when you don’t have a genuine #1 center to take the pressure off the bottom six, but Miller isn’t completely wet behind the ears as he does have 60 NHL games (including four in the playoffs) under his belt, while both Lindberg and Fast (11 NHL regular season & three playoff games) have played against men during their time in the Swedish Elite League so neither should be entirely overwhelmed by the pace and physicality of the NHL game over the course of an 82-game season.
And for all grief Derek Stepan received from Rangers fans at times last year (myself included), he actually ended the regular season with just three less points than Paul Stastny (57 to 60), despite a horrific start as he attempted to work himself back into the lineup after his prolonged holdout. In fact, over the last two seasons Stepan has been the far superior point producing center as he’s outscored the highly regarded and paid Blues #1 center 101 points to 84, while also being four years younger. Not bad for someone who isn’t considered a legitimate top tier center.
Who knows, if Sather isn’t enthralled with any of the remaining UFAs and Montreal isn’t willing to hand the Rangers PK Subban & Max Pacioretty for a Scott Gomez signed puck, maybe going into the 2014-15 season with the current roster isn’t the worst thing in the world. Stepan will have a full training camp to get himself prepared, Rick Nash has the entire summer to find his balls, Martin St. Louis will be here for 82-games, Dan Boyle will improve the power play, Will Smith will hopefully use the mind eraser instrument from “Men in Black” on Dan Girardi to wipe his brutal playoff performance from his memory bank, while all the young players will be a year wiser especially after a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Oh yeah, the Rangers also have this pretty good coach behind the bench. Alain Vigneault proved last season that he has the patience and savvy to deal with any adversity that may befall his team, so I have all the confidence in the world in his ability to make the proper adjustments to suit his roster’s needs no matter what it looks like.
I’d still feel better about things if Sather is able to pick up another scorer this offseason, but if he doesn’t the Rangers should have enough to remain competitive until the trade deadline when the Blueshirt’s GM will have a larger pool of players at his disposal to help fill his team’s needs and get them back to the Stanley Cup Final.