Believe it or not, the Rangers are in the midst of a roster turnover. Doesn't seem like it right? Well, as of this moment (written on Tuesday), the Rangers have only 17 players under contract. Of those 17 players, 12 of them saw significant ice time, and that is a stretch considering I am including Patrick Rissmiller and Aaron Voros. Plus, with Zherdev most likely being on the way out, the 2009-2010 New York Rangers will end up looking very different than last season.
As much as I have stated that over-spending on a big-name free agent might not be the answer; by doing so the Rangers have almost come full circle by signing Marion Gaborik and shedding (whether intentionally or unintentionally) a good chunk of a roster that at certain points during last season looked nothing like a playoff team. The 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons that both resulted in Conference semi-final losses consisted of a club led by a talented goaltender along with a good offense and an average defense. The good offense was led by arguably the clubs most talented winger ever, Jaromir Jagr; and when he left for Russia he took the offensive mojo of the Blueshirts with him. But with the signing of Marion Gaborik, that constant offensive threat is back in the form of another wingman. Gaborik will not operate exactly like Jagr, who used his physical might and fantastic shot to dominate opponents, but rather Gaborik will make you look silly all while rarely missing an opportunity from the slot. This will all hopefully work because of the final roster change that happened with 21 games left last season; when John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney as Head Coach. Renney was lucky enough to have Jagr and he was smart enough to just let the offense run though Jagr while he would do the coaching on the defensive end. Tortorella, meanwhile, will have to quickly figure out how to unleash the offensive potential of a team that couldn't score if it was prom night, all while not losing the leagues 6th-best defense.
But with all the good of this quiet roster turnover the Rangers have been making comes a lot of potential head-aches for us fans (especially me, the "analyst" here at BB). The biggest reason why we could have another roller-coaster year like the last is because no team wins a game on paper, which is why they play the games. Here's a quick list off the top of my head of what could go wrong; injuries, Tortorella's system doesn't pan out, defensive woes, continued power play troubles, the team runs out of Gatorade... you get the point. The problem with adding and subtracting so many players each off-season is that as much as there is great potential and hope for a new kind of team and season, there are also greater risks involved in changing so much. I am predicting right now that if Marion Gaborik has a great, injury-free year then the Rangers will follow suit. Why? Because signing Gaborik is a high-risk, high-reward situation; he could fix the problems the management and fans have identified with the team, or he could create a whole new batch of them.
Look, I am just as excited as most Ranger fans about next season because of how refreshingly different the team could be, but Sather and company needs to find a core of players ASAP (2 lines, 4 D-men) that can lift this club to the next level. Another reason I think those Conference semi-final teams were good is because both years over 21 players returned to the ice for the Rangers the following season. That number shrank to 15 players returning last season (out of 30 that played), and as it stands right now there are only 11 players set to return to the Blueshirts for next season. Hopefully the changes Sather makes to the Rangers this summer end up being for the long-haul. Otherwise, we can expect more of the same come the summer of 2010.