If you’ve been one of those folks who has been reading this site for a while, you know I tend to make radical suggestions every offseason to try to get this team where it needs to go. Last season it was to sign Ilya Kovalchuk. This season, I think we need to go into The Joker territory of insane and try to get this team into the conversation of legitimate cup contenders. Especially after the Flyers finally got themselves a goalie, and the more than likely return of Jaromir Jagr to Pittsburgh (I don’t believe he’s going to Detroit). We know the Devils will be much better with a healthy Zach Parise, and we know the Islanders will continue to improve as their young core group of players come together. The Isles are really the only team you can say going into the offseason that the Rangers will be better than. That’s not good.
So, what do we need to do? Personally, I think it’s time to start using some of our assets to get better now. I think the Rangers should sign Brad Richards AND trade for another true blue elite forward. I think the Rangers defense is fine the way it is, and you can infuse even more youth into it as our kids are clearly ready and able. I have 5 targets the Rangers should go after, any of these 5 would be just fine with me.
Jarome Iginla: Power Forward, can score, plays John Tortorella physical style hockey, and a natural leader. Calgary has a horrendous prospect core and need to infuse more youth into their lineup. They are already on the verge of trading Regehr so you know a house cleaning may be in order. Iginla would only be productive for another ~3 years, but during that time can help change the culture of this team.
Rick Nash: Nash is an incredibly talented forward with a unique combination of size and skill. He’s also the face of the Columbus franchise and has an incredibly high cap hit of 7.8 mil for another 7 years. Acquiring him will be difficult and cost a fortune, but if it can be done, I would look into it.
Paul Stastny: Incredibly talented center. Would help us down the middle. Is young still (25), and a big time point producer (321 points in 348 games played). His father angered the Avalanche by making some ill advised comments, and let’s face it, the Avalanche have been known to make some bizarre trades.
Evander Kane: Evander Kane would be my #1 target out of these 4 players listed here. Plays a mean game, is incredibly talented, and has the most room to grow. At only 19 years of age he’s already a 40+ point scorer while delivering a knockout blow to Matt Cooke in a fight which is never a bad thing. Evander perfectly fits where the club needs to go. I would be willing to offer Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto, Our First Rounder, and Dylan McIlrath (and more if need be) to make Evander a Ranger. That’s how highly I think of him.
Jason Spezza: My least favorite choice, but still a good one. Spezza is incredibly talented, there’s no doubt about that. However his game isn’t really suited for Tortorella hockey, though you’d love to see the magic he could make playing on a power play with Brad Richards, and Marian Gaborik. I question Spezzas mental toughness though.
Here’s an example using one of the players above on what we should do this offseason…
The Rangers should offer Richards one of those long deals that drops the average annual contract hit down to about 6 million bucks. They should buyout Sean Avery for a cap hit of 1.333 mil. They should trade Wojtek Wolski, Michael Del Zotto, Tomas Kundratek, our 1st this year, and our 2nd next year for Jarome Iginla. They should place Chris Drury on Long Term Injured Reserve, and they should go to war with this lineup:
CAPGEEK.COM CAP CALCULATOR
Jarome Iginla ($7.000m) / Brad Richards ($6.000m) / Marian Gaborik ($7.500m)
Brandon Dubinsky ($4.000m) / Artem Anisimov ($1.850m) / Ryan Callahan ($4.000m)
Evgeny Grachev ($0.816m) / Derek Stepan ($0.875m) / Mats Zuccarello-Aasen ($1.750m)
Carl Hagelin ($0.662m) / Brian Boyle ($1.500m) / Brandon Prust ($0.800m)
/ Erik Christensen ($0.925m)
Marc Staal ($3.975m) / Daniel Girardi ($3.325m)
Ryan McDonagh ($1.300m) / Mike Sauer ($1.500m)
Pavel Valentenko ($0.850m) / Tim Erixon ($1.750m)
Steve Eminger ($0.875m)
Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m) / Martin Biron ($0.875m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $64,000,000; CAP PAYROLL: $59,004,166; BONUSES: $2,287,500
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $4,995,834
Subtract $1.3 mil for Sean Averys buyout and you are at $3,662,501 in cap space. The real problem here is the summer cap number of $70,400,000. I’m not sure which of the players above count for that number so I cant do the exact calculation. For example I know Erixon doesn’t, but Mats Zuccarello-Aasen may or may not, I’m not sure. To get this to work the Rangers may have to wait until training camp to announce the signing of one of their kids, like Dubinsky for example.
The lineup above satisfies a few things we all want. It incorporates more youth into the lineup with 4 rookies in the lineup, and another 4 players with only 1 season under their belt. It solves our power play woes with a Quarterback (Richards), a shooter (Valentenko who, by all accounts, has a canon for a shot), and 2 strong wingers (Gaborik & Iginla). It solves our lack of offense by adding in at least 130 points into the equation while only subtracting a nonexistant Drury, enigmatic wingers in Wolski and Avery, and productive yet redundant parts in Prospal and Fedotenko. Our defense will be green and tested early and often, but I think they are up to the challenge, especially with Henrik between the pipes.
To me this is a team that could compete for the Stanley Cup. It has toughness, like the Bruins. It has skill, like the Canucks. It has goaltending, it has speed, it has it all. As long as it can stay healthy (*crosses fingers*) these guys can be the first true stanley cup capable team we’ve had since Wayne Gretzky retired.