Recently two of the bigger fish have been removed from this upcoming off-season's free agent market. Both Alexander Semin and Matt Moulson were given contract extensions. The Washington Capitals offered a one-year extension to 26 year old Russian sniper Alex Semin worth $6.7 million next year, Semin has 35 points in 39 games this year. The New York Islanders locked-up 27 year old Matt Moulson, who would have become a free agent after this season with a 3 year extension supposedly worth $9.4 million.
It is no secret that the Rangers are involved in the offseason free agent market each and every year. This past offseason the Rangers landed free agents Derek Boogaard, Martin Biron, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Frolov, and Ruslan Fedotenko, with a considerable amount of players becoming free agents after this season and some cap room freed up there is a lot of talk about the Rangers pursuing some big free agents. With Semin and Moulson off the market, the free agent market just got much shallower... though the big fish Brad Richards still remains an UFA and a possible target for the Rangers this summer. More after the jump...
Upcoming UFA for the Rangers: Ruslan Fedotenko ($1 mill), Steve Eminger ($1.125 mill), Alex Frolov ($3.0 mill), Vinny Prospal ($1.08 mill base + $1.4 mill bonuses)
Upcoming RFA for the Rangers: Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Mike Sauer, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Matt Gilroy
I will leave interpretation of the RFA alone for now because I think it is safe to say at this point that the Rangers want to bring back as many of the RFA as possible, especially Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, and Boyle. Of all of the UFA for the Rangers I think it is safe to say that the Rangers will bring back no more than two of them, if any at all. It goes without saying that the Alex Frolov experiment is done here in New York and possibly in the entire NHL. Vinny Prospal isn't getting any younger, and though he was a bargain this year and last year for the Rangers (despite being injured) the team can go with the kids instead of the veteran Prospal. Both Fedotenko and Eminger have been great fits in New York but their spot on next year's roster is anything but guaranteed. The Rangers might pursue bringing back Eminger if they think the kids on the blueline might not be ready for shouldering the load but in reality the Rangers will be just fine without the services of Eminger next year. If the club can get him for a bargain he'd be a great 7th defenseman to keep on the roster. Ruslan Fedotenko is 32 years old, that fact alone might dissuade Sather from bringing him back for another year (or few) at a similar salary cap hit. There is no denying that Fedotenko has been valuable to the team this year, his play alongside Prust and Boyle has made him stand out as a key two-way forward.
So what does this all mean? At the very least the Rangers will find themselves with an additional $4 million in cap room (Frolov and Prospal's cap hits) and possibly more. A significant amount of the cap will be eaten up by negotiating new deals for Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle, Anisimov, and the other RFA. There is still some talk about the salary cap being increased next season and even if it isn't there might be some room for the Rangers to go after a free agent... but how much room?
The fact of the matter is I am happy that Semin and Moulson are off the market. Alex Semin has been a player many Ranger fans have been targeting this upcoming offseason along with Brad Richards. Alex Semin has an all-world wrist shot, he has an amazing nose for the net and he is pure offense. He also does not fit into the Rangers' system and style of play. This is a fact that we have to look dead in the face whenever we talk about players we wish we should go after. To me Alex Semin and John Tortorella seems like putting kittens dipped in oil into a spark factory, it wouldn't end well and there would be a lot of children crying. Reviews are mixed about Alex Semin but this much is clear; he is inconsistent and doesn't much care for the defensive part of the game. Matt Moulson looks like he will put up another 30 goal season playing for the abysmal New York Islanders, which is quite an accomplishment. I wouldn't mind Moulson becoming a Ranger but knowing how the Rangers handle free agency we would have overpaid for an overachieving player who will be 28 years old next year. There is also the issue of Moulson having that Islander stink on him, which I simply can't overlook.
As I said earlier, I am glad that some of these big targets are off the market. We have so many great young assets on the team now that we should invest in. The youth movement has been a long time coming for Ranger fans, and I would hate for it to be spoiled by the Rangers dealing away prospects and young players to bring in stars on the wrong side of 30 or inconsistent players with the potential to be stars. Undoubtedly Slats will go after one of the bigger UFA this upcoming off-season, hopefully it won't be Alex Frolov 2.0. I won't go into the cap room details anymore because there are several guys here on the Banter who can analyze it better than I can and I won't dare write another sentence about Brad Richards because frankly, I am tired of talking about it. At least we know we won't be paying $6.7 million for Alex ‘Bongos' Semin, the Rangers thankfully avoided that sticky situation.