Because the UFA market is looking pretty bleak, I decided to take a quick peak at Restricted Free Agency. This year presents a banquet of skilled players. We've already seen the signings of such stars as Backstrom, Kane, Toews, Quick, Keith, and Ward, and we are bound to see many more. But before they happen, the Rangers should use this opportunity to trade for or sign a player that suits our needs.
Peter Mueller: Was a popular prospect in a Phoenix, but his talent didn't translate into production until his move to Colorado. He immediately started scoring at an amazing rate for a 22 year, with 20 points in 15 games. Unfortunately, a concussion cut short his season. I can see him signing for around 2.5 mil, give or take 500k.
Nicklas Hjalmarsson: The Hawks will be looking to cut down on their salary cap this summer after signing their big three, Kane-Toews-Keith to big money and long deals. Not to mention the 1.5 mil bonus Toews will be getting thanks to his MVP award. Hjalmarsson plays a silky smooth game, is skilled positionally and performs fairly well on both offense and defense. Aside from his terrible game 5, he was reliable in the playoffs. For the moment, he would be most comfortable on a 3rd line pairing, but at 23 he has time to grow. A 2 million dollar contract is appropriate, though he may sign for 1.5
James Neal: 55 points in 78 games is impressive output for a 23 year old in his sophomore year. Not to mention nearly breaking the 30 goal barrier already. Neal is the goal scoring power forward we need. The only problem is that he plays on the left wing. Dallas has already resigned Lehtonen and Eriksson, which could mean either that they don't intend on keeping Neal or they don't want to pay him his asking price. I expect him to get a contract for around 4million, so, instead of paying compensation with picks, we should make a trade for him. Maybe Dubi and Sangs?
Bobby Ryan: In the same vein as Neal, but a bit better. Rather than pushing 30, Ryan could be looking at 40 next year. However, he also plays on the left and will be looking for lots of money. I'd also expect him to stay at Anaheim with Getzlaf and Perry.
Niclas Bergfors: Not the greatest player, not the biggest forward, and a former devil. Those aren't usually the taglines used for a player I'd recommend we pursue. Bergfors posted up a fair 44 points in 81 games, which is pretty solid. He could peak at around 60, maybe 70 points. What's good is that we can get him for under 3 mil, or trade Sangs and a 3rd for him. He's also a right winger.
Devin Setoguchi: He had one excellent season with San Jose, but it's hard not to when you play alongside Joe Thornton. (He turned Cheechoo into 57 goal scorer) Since that time, his performance has seemed underwhelming and he never quite got back into favor with the Sharks. Regardless, Setoguchi is a good prospect who can pass and shoot on the right wing. He's probably the easiest person on this list. If we get him early this summer, we can count on him to try to impress us and work on his game. His stock has been slowly going down and we could possibly sign him for 2 million.
Marc Staal: A relative unknown and an unproven defenseman. He has shown some glimpses of talent, but has otherwise been adequate. = ) Signing Staal is a no brainer. Before we look to any of these other players, we should make sure that we have him locked up to a longterm contract.
Honorable Mentions: Erik Johnson, David Perron, Joe Pavelski, Wojtek Wolski, Cody Franson, Nicklas Grossman, Andrew Ladd. (I list these players aside because I'm almost sure they will be kept by their teams.)