With the HUGE signing of Brad Richards, the focus for the Rangers and their fans has now shifted from the UFA pool to resigning our RFA's (Dubi, Cally, Sauer, AA, Boyle?). Obviously locking up the youth and homegrown talent that the Garden faithful cherish so dearly should be the number 1 priority for Sather and his humidor full of cuban cigars. However the question I pose to you, Blueshirt Banter, is-- Does Vaclav Prospal have a place on this team?
My answer is YES---kind of. I understand all the variables, and they are a bit scary. At 36, Vinny is not a proverbial "spring chicken". He most certainly isn't the PPG player that he was with the Lightning. The questionable knee coupled with the fact the Rangers are trying to breed young talent, doesn't leave much room for him on the Blueshirts. Yet I implore you to put aside your stubborn opinions and high demands (I am guilty of it, being a fan since birth), and consider the positives that could come of his resigning.First off, the only way he stays a Ranger is if he comes cheap. Coming off an injury, playing for Torts, and playing for a potential Stanley Cup contender are all factors that could enable this scenario. For 1 year @ 1 million still leaves the Rangers 2.5 million under the cap (per Larry Brooks estimation). Enough to sign a gritty veteran 7th Dman or fill whatever other needs the Rangers have. Even if he averages .67 PPG (55 points in a 82 game season), a reasonable number considering he put up 23 in 29 games, he will be worth it.
At this point I know all of you who read past the title are saying there's no way he plays 60 games with his knees breaking down. And with the demands of being a center in the NHL, it would be stupid not to agree with you. At center there is a need for energetic legs to keep up with the young playmakers of the opposition. Yet, the beauty of this signing is the flexibility to play Vinny on the wing. Placing him on the left wing cuts down on the ice he has to cover and helps hide his "lost step". Not to mention, the left side is where Prospal had thrived in his career years with Tampa. Consider also those same career years who he played along side: Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
The fact he was playing with two superstars WAS the reason why he scored his career best 25-55-80 in 81 games in 05-06. But if you look beneath the surface of a statline, you see why signing Vinny could be extremely beneficial. The fact is Vinny is a selfless player who plays well with top-tier talent, and can still help create/score goals. He proved that at the end of the season last year, leading the Rangers during a 8 game point streak in March. This being said, I could forsee a trio of Prospal-Richards-Gaborik becoming a scoring force that teams prepare and focus on stopping. A trio that could lead us to glory.
This glory, of course, is the Stanley Cup. Which seems to be in reach with the Richards aquisition. By adding Prospal, you add that veteran presence and experience that ALL recent Stanley Cup winners possessed. Come April, if you honestly believe that Christian Thomas would be a more productive force in the playoffs then you are out of your mind I would have to respectfully disagree.
Speaking of Christian Thomas, in relation to the Prospal situation, at 19 years of age is he NHL ready? The reality is, no. Listed at 5'9" 165, he needs to adjust to the professional game. He needs to get acclimated to the speed and physicality that he will one day face in the NHL in order to become the scorer we hope him to be. A year of seasoning in the AHL would do wonders, and if he proves that he is too talented for the Whale roster we call him up to stay. That way no confidence shattering demotions and he starts the season in the AHL with something to prove. All the while Vinny Prospal is lighting it up alongside Richards and Gaborik.
What are your thoughts? Has the Richards excitement led me to insanity? Let me know.