As we wind down towards the playoffs it remains clear that Rangers are very unlikely to make the second season. The team is flawed, unreliable and in all honesty, a mess. Tortorella it seems has finally come to deal with his frustrations with this team and understands the deep flaws. He just tries to roll the best lines he can, and sometimes it backfires, as we saw last night with Henrik having to be pulled. The Rangers have some hope of course, but as well all know being in a big market, the Rangers will continue to try the free agent solution to make this team a winner.
Here's what I believe the Rangers should do, to ice a more competitve club next year.
The front office:
Can we expect Glen Sather to retire? I for one would be truly giddy if he did step down. He's had his run of bad contracts, good and bad draft picks and i feel that his age coupled with his errors, it's time for a change. I vote that Jim Schoenfeld be given the reigns with Mark Messier as his assistant. The Rangers need to make a positive step, and Shoeny has proven to be a solid talent evaluator and mentor.
The coaching staff:
John Tortorella is a good coach. I am a fan of his. I like his style. In his defense Torts has not had a true top line playmaker and one could argue he hasn't had a second line playmaker either. He takes chances with players and gives players more time when they play hard for him. Holding Torts accountable for a flawed roster would be dumb. I think we give Torts another year, and hopefully we give him a better team.
The Rangers as it stands will probably draft around #10. I assume the Rangers will draft size either up front or on the blue line and my vote goes to either Derek Forbort, a huge American born blueliner, with a projectable frame, he's 6'4 already and skates well. He can also handle the puck. My other choice would be Kiril Kabanov. Kabanov also has good size at his young age and is a true offensive weapon. Kabanov has seen his stock dip, largely due to the rise of other North American prospects getting more attention.
In the later rounds the Rangers need to add a center, size on the blueline and perhaps a project sniper.
Current upcoming free agents and roster moves:
Olli Jokinen UFA: Sure Olli was once an excellent scorer in the NHL, but this guy is a disaster and he will likely want a 3-4 million dollar contract, for at least a few seasons. I say, he walks.
Wade Redden: He's under contract and as we all know, overpaid. If a trade cannot be found for him, waive him and deal with it later. The Rangers have several other options, all younger, that might play a lot better.
Vinny Prospal: I was surprised the Rangers kept him. How can you be in hockey for all those years(Sather) and not realize that even with Prospal, the Rangers are on the outside looking in? I think Prospal walks, but I would be fine with keeping him, for a similar reasonable contract.
Erik Christensen: Erik has been a great find for the Rangers I hope he is retained on a 2 year deal, with incentives. Anything to keep motivating this kid. Eventually a winger spot would be ideal for him, with power play time to boot.
Enver Lisin: Lisin has so much speed and desire. He just can't finish......just like a lot of Ranger prospects. I think the Rangers should qualify Lisin, at least to retain his rights.
Prust, Newbury, Shelley, Eriksson - all four borderline roster players. I like Shelley, and Prust seems to play with a lot of energy. Keep Shelley and Prust, dump the other two.
Dan Girardi: His game has been up and down a lot this season. But I still believe Girardi is a top 4 defenseman. Keep him, long term.
Marc Staal: Could be our best skater, in terms of age and upside. Long term contract for Staal.
Spending in free agency:
The Rangers will actually have around 10 million in cap space going into free agency.
They could go after Marleau with about 6.5 of that and keep the rest for the season.
Marleau would look nice centering Gaborik and whomever. I think the whomever addresses my following point. Why should the Rangers spend this cap space? They obviously lack wingers to put the puck home and have several young forwards playing in the minors. The Rangers could improve quicker by just keeping the freed up cap space, and playing their own players, guys like Grachev, Dupont, Byers, Lisin, Crowder, Hillier, and perhaps a re-signed Parenteau. My hope would be that the Rangers pave the way for younger players, keep the space under the cap and go forward. If the Rangers are playing well during the season, they can go out and add to it. There will be sellers as always and the Rangers with cap space could be scarier than that if they signed away all their freed up money on guys like Marleau or Kovalchuk.
We all know that with good coaching and patience, hockey teams can become downright nasty. The Rangers way of doing things has never worked, except once, but i guess some people argue it only takes once. How many Messier's are in the league now?
The time has come to play the kids, save the cash for when the team is close. Buying it only frustrates the coach, the players and the fans.