The New York Rangers made numerous moves last Thursday on the first day of free agency in the National Hockey League - they re-signed two of their own and brought in two others. Dan Giradi and Marc Staal remain to be re-signed, but they are all restricted free agents so GM Glen Sather can take all the time he needs with that. Despite the face changes, the Rangers seem to be right where they were just a couple of months ago as far as their roster goes. Yes, adjustments were made and some needs were fulfilled, but overall this team has not changed. That is not necessarily a bad thing either.
Assuming all of the players mentioned above are re-signed before October, the only swaps we have seen to this point are Jody Shelley with Derek Boogaard and Alex Auld with Martin Biron. Contract terms aside, these are not extraordinary additions that will improve the club. Because of this, you are basically staring at the same roster that was eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in early April during the final game of the regular season. We again will see that 7th-11th place team take the ice for another year unless something earth-shattering happens within the next two months (i.e. Ilya Kovalchuk).
Now here's the thing - and this goes back to what I have been saying for a while now - if none of Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, or any of the other NHL-ready prospects are worked into the lineup for 2010-11, the Blueshirts have not made any progress whatsoever. Right now there main objective is to introduce a new young core that is going to start with guys like Derek Stepan, who have proven they are very skilled players with unlimited potential. In order to do that, head coach John Tortorella needs to find ways to incorporate some of these youngsters into the lineup beginning now, and continue to do so for years to come.
Continue reading after the jump.....
To me, it seems as if Torts is fully willing to do that. Sather has given him the 'okay' to go ahead and hold an open training camp where pretty much anyone who impresses has a shot at cracking the lineup. If that means waiving Wade Redden because a McDonagh or Valentenko beats him out, then so be it. The future is now and the Rangers cannot afford to waste precious time and rare opportunity.
The Blueshirts have one of the better systems in the NHL when it comes to their prospects. They have more depth than most organizations and the plan is to eventually bring that depth to the professional level where they will have the chance to develop into a solid contending squad. This is the process that the Chicago Blackhawks had to go through. This is the process the Pittsburgh Penguins had to go through. This is the process the Washington Capitals had to go through. Well, look how those teams turned out. Just look at them now and for once, imagine the Rangers finally being that good.
If things are handled properly, in two to three years, they will be that good. They will be making the Conference Finals and battling for a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in over a decade. A winning culture can be brought back to the city of New York as long as these young players are brought up as soon as possible.
Chemistry is a big factor in championship teams, and the only way to develop chemistry is by playing together for a long period of time. At prospect development camp this past week, Derek Stepan, Ryan Bourque, Evgeny Grachev, Chris Kreider, and Ryan McDonagh have already begun talking about being friends and how much of a pleasure it would be to play together. Heck, Grachev was already referring to Stepan as his linemate. That is what you want to see, and you can only imagine the magic those two will make while skating beside each other.
As Herb Brooks once said "Great moments are born from great opportunity." That is what the Rangers have here. They have great opportunity to slowly but surely become a contending team again. One that will actually have fans at the edge of their seats instead of slouched down ashamed to show their faces. Whether management and staff realize that, I cannot confirm for you, but I will say that is the correct direction to move this team in. It is the right way of doing things and it will eventually lead to success on the ice of Madison Square Garden; something we are not used to at all.
This is where we have to have faith in our management. I know it is a hard thing to do, but one thing I have come to find out while becoming more and more popular as a blogger and meeting more and more fans; this fanbase is one of the smartest and more aware fanbases in all of sports. That gives me confidence that when I write stories like the one you just spent several minutes of your life reading, you take from it and understand my points whether you agree with me or not.
But you have to believe me here. This is the only way to ever bring a cup back to New York. Free agency will not do it, trades will not do it. It is all about bringing homegrown talent up to the NHL level and allowing them to develop. If the Rangers can do that, they have an unmeasurable advantage over a majority of the league. They can do this, it is very possible. Trust me.