Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Lot of Changes in New York

It’s been a busy summer for New York, now hasn’t it?

We had already dealt with several changes over the last season. Wade Redden, Aaron Voros and Marcus Naslund were new free agent additions (I hate Glen Sather), Lauri Korpikoski was a rookie, and Nik Zherdev was acquired last offseason via trade. Bye-bye to Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, Sean Avery and Fedor Tyutin. During free agency, Nik Antropov was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second round pick, and Derek Morris was acquired for Nigel Dawes, Dmtri Kalinin, and (remember that thing about hating Glen Sather?) Petr Prucha. Artem Anisimov served as a call up when Blair Betts was taken out by that mean old Donald Brashear. And of course, Sean Avery made his triumphant return to the NHL- and the Rangers- after not-so-pretty remarks against his ex.

We also had a coaching change (HALLELUJAH!).

So we’ve had our fair share of changes throughout the year. I know changes are inevitable, and a lot of times, for the better. But how can you possibly continue to have passion for a team when changes won’t stop? I don’t know or understand this team. And it’s hard to root for a team you can’t recognize.

Don’t worry, though. We always still have the under producers of Wade Redden, Michal Roszvial, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. Because those are stupid, untrade-able contracts. No one will take Gomez for that salary….

Except of course for the Montreal Canadiens, who helped the Rangers start free agency off with a bang. Gomez and change was traded for Chris Higgins, a top defensive prospect, and change on June 30th. Now, I may love the New York Ranger, but I’m a Long Island girl. So seeing Smithtown native Higgins on the Rangers is a little bit like a dream come true for me. And even better, we get to dump Gomez’s huge salary off on the Canadiens.

I liked Scott. More, maybe, than most Ranger fans did considering he was raised and drafted by our hellish neighbors. But his contract, along with Drury’s and Redden’s, was so insane that it had the Rangers completely restrained by the salary cap. Being able to dump just one of those contracts is a huge step in the right direction. However, the Rangers lost some by dumping Gomez. Gomez, despite the fact that he didn’t live up to full potential in New York, was still the number one point-getter on the team. We needed a replacement.

So Sather goes out and signs… Donald Brashear?

The reaction throughout Rangerland was just not good. Brashear, who’s team just eliminated us from the playoffs, who fought Shanny in the center of MSG ice in what was probably the most memorable fight for the Rangers since the lockout, who was a Philadelphia Flyer, who just threw an extremely late hit on our Blair Betts and ended his season one game prematurely… THAT is the guy Sather signs to make all of our woes go away?

And clearly, that meant an end to good guy Colton Orr, who ended up signing with the Maple Leafs. Orr has really developed into a good fourth line player, one of the only things I will concede and give ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney credit for. It was a shame watching Orr walk out the door, and sign for cheaper than Brashear signed here. In my opinion, Orr is the better hockey player. And he has way more class than Donald Brashear.

The signing of Donald Brashear is the first time in a while that I can honestly say I don’t want to see this player in a Rangers jersey. Say what you want about Sean Avery; when Avery breaks someone’s face, maybe I’ll have a different opinion. But Brashear had bad blood with the Rangers, and a history of not playing clean. I can’t respect that. I just hope Brashear keeps his elbows down while he is in New York.

Along with Orr and Gomez, we also saw the departure of Freddie Sjostrom and Blair Betts, who were probably the best penalty killers in the entire league, and Paul Mara, who was probably my favorite Ranger after the trade deadline this season. Betts and Sjo were highly underrated. They were a huge part of the team defense, and the Rangers were top two in Pking all year thanks to their work. Mara stood up for his teammates at every chance he got. With the exception of Marc Staal, he was the only one on the blue line who really got physical. Mara was one of the few who looked like he cared 100% of the time. He also took a paycut because he wanted to be in New York. Really, who else on the Rangers would be willing to take a paycut, and then play their heart out all season? Sjo and Betts and Mara will all be missed.

In their places comes Ales Kolatik, Tyler Arason, and of course, Marion Gaborik. Although the Rangers aren’t expecting too much out of Tyler Arason, he did put up some points only two seasons ago and will probably center the fourth line. Ales Kolatik was signed to a three year deal, and will hopefully get a couple twenty goal seasons in New York. But the big name is obviously Marion Gaborik, who may or may not have groins made out of glass. Signing Gaborik obvious has some disadvantages, as the guy hasn’t been consistently healthy. However, Gaborik gives the Rangers their first real scoring threat since Jaromir Jagr. If Gaborik can stay healthy, the Rangers scoring problems will be significantly elevated.

For once, Sather signed a guy for major bucks who is actually worth those major bucks.

Having Gaborik definitely changes the complexion of the Rangers. We have our superstar that we were badly lacking last season. We have our game changer. But if Gaborik spends some significant time on the IR next year, we’re going to need some backup scoring.

In addition to Unrestricted Free Agents acquired over the deadline, the Rangers had some Restricted Free Agents they needed to take care of. Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Lauri Korpikoski, Nikolai Zherdev and Chris Higgins were all RFAs.

Korpikoski (aka the Korpedo) was shipped out to the Phoenix Coyotes for Enver Lisin. Lisin wasn’t a favorite of Wayne Gretzky’s, only seeing about forty games of action last season with a terrible +/- as a result, but has some tremendous offensive skills. I think it was unfortunate that the Rangers gave up Korpi. The kid wasn’t an offensive monster by any means, but he was very solid, especially in his own zone, and I can’t help but feel preferential towards home grown talent. Good luck to Korpi (and all the little Rangers Maloney is attempt to hoard) out in the desert.

Lisin himself was a RFA until the Rangers locked him and Chris Higgins up quickly.

Ryan Callahan filed for arbitration, although that was settled outside of court rather quickly, as did Nik Zherdev. Zherdev did make to court, which happened last Friday. He was award 3.9 mill.

About an hour ago, the Rangers decided to walk away from Z.

As disappointed as I am to see Zherdev’s potential walk out the door, there is no way Nik was worth that kind of money. Zherdev was lazy and temperamental, and disappeared completely in April. He had a difficult time earning ice time under John Tortorella, who asked for effort and energy only to receive none from Nik. It’s just a shame we get nothing for him.

But with Zherdev off the table, finally we understand the cap situation to sit down with Brandon Dubinsky and strike a deal, which is expected to happen right away now that arbitration is over. Dubinsky and Callahan should remain an integral part of this club, and hopefully Brandon can break out of his sophomore scoring slump.

Once Dubinsky is signed, the Rangers are still going to have a couple holes in their roster. Losing Morris and Mara leaves two empty slots on defense. And there is possibly one or two open roster spots up front.

Up front, Artem Anisimov, who had a strong break out season last year with the Hartford Wolfpack, is expected to make the team out of camp. On the blueline, Matt Gilroy (from Boston University, and another native Long Islander!) was signed and is expected to possibly get the nod to start the season with the Rangers. That leaves at least one defense spot available, meaning Corey Potter, Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael del Zotto, or Ryan McDonough (who came over from the Canadiens in the Gomez trade) will be fighting for that final spot.

The team certainly looks different than last year. Last year’s team had an emphasis on defense, molded like Tom Renney wanted. This year’s Rangers look much more like Tortorella wants; quick, aggressive, and with a more offensive punch. The team is so different it’s very hard to predict line mates and even how the team will play. But one things for sure; the Rangers just got a hell of a lot more exciting to watch. And for that reason alone, I’ll take the changes and learn to love this entirely new team.

And plus; anything's possible with Henrik Lundqvist.

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Lucky13 said...
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