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2014 NHL Free Agency: How Did The New York Rangers Do On Day One?

An analysis on what the Rangers did in the first day of the NHL's version of open season.

Bruce Bennett

We're going to take a pretty comprehensive look at all the moves the New York Rangers made yesterday. We've been doing a lot of lists of late but they're effective, especially when looking at numerous moves. Here we go:

Signing Dan Boyle (two year, $4.5-million per)/Not Re-Signing Anton Stralman (five years, $4.5-million per to Tampa Bay)

Our story on the Boyle signing here.

This is one of the moves that needs to be looked at in context with another move. Realistically, the Rangers entered the final weeks of exclusive negotiation knowing Stralman was likely on the way out. Glen Sather and his brass reportedly set aside $4-million a year to try and keep Stralman under wraps in New York. The two sides were even negotiating until the 11th hour, with Stralman's agent tweeting that "the Rangers had 10 minutes to respond or else [Stralman] will hit the market" at 11:30 a.m.

In the end, the Rangers brought Boyle in before Stralman signed with Tampa Bay; and when the Stralman deal was announced people were furious. Many of you would have thought long and hard about bringing Stralman back for the deal he signed with the Lightning, which I understand. Boyle, on the other hand, took less years and less dollars to come to New York and he does have a wealth of playoff experience (70 points in 107 career postseason games) and offensive skill that makes him attractive.

I think Sather looked at Boyle as an option that gives the Rangers a little more flexibility (with only two years locked down instead of five) and a player who brings a jolt to the power play and offense from the blue line -- something Stralman was never going to bring to the table. To me, if Boyle can cover 75% of Stralman's defense and add the offense he did for San Jose last year this is perfect.

The other side of the coin is the Rangers were probably never going to have all three of Stralman, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal locked down long term in the future. Girardi already has a contract extension and Stralman is gone now; that solves that problem to an extent. Also remember that Boyle's pact is a 35+ contract and his cap hit will remain with the team no matter what.

Signing Dominic Moore (two years, $1.5-million per)

Our story on the Moore signing here.

This is really the perfect deal for both sides. There was a reasonable fear the Rangers were going to lose Moore when he hit free agency, but cooler heads prevailed and the two sides came to an agreement. Moore wanted three years, which was the original speed bump during the negotiations, and the two sides agreed on two. It also turned out Moore turned down more years and more money to stay in New York. How can you not love him?

I tweeted the following about Moore before he hit free agency and the Rangers risked losing him:

I think that pretty much sums it up. Moore is as important of a player as you'll find in terms of the Rangers' depth from last year. He was an all-situations type player, who was able to seamlessly play more offensive minutes without missing a beat. Outside of Brian Boyle, there wasn't a more important defensive forward on the team. Not one. Having Moore back is nothing but a positive for the Rangers, and the contract is perfect for both sides.

Not Re-signing Brian Boyle (three years, $2.3-million per from Tampa Bay)

This is a move that's going to be looked at differently depending on the the reality of the negotiations.

If Sather did not offer or match the contract that Boyle got from Tampa Bay, and him signing there was purely a monetary decision, this is a catastrophic failure on management. If, however, Boyle signed with Tampa Bay not for the money but because he was promised a more offensively focused role the Rangers weren't willing to give him it's a different story.

All the evidence points to the latter. Boyle was quoted as saying one of the key factors in going to Tampa was the increased role, and his comments during breakup day support that as well. The Rangers were not -- rightfully so -- going to promise Boyle a role as the third line center. So if that was the difference then there was nothing Sather could have done differently here.

It hurts to lose him, but these things happen.

Not Re-signing Benoit Pouliot (five years, $4-million per from Edmonton)

Not much to say here, really. Pouliot was a very, very important part to the Rangers "third line," which happened to be their most consistent offensive force last year. No one is questioning that. What I am questioning is why Edmonton would give a guy who had a breakout season of 36 points a five-year deal worth $20-million. There is not even an alternate universe where that contract would have been acceptable to match for the Rangers. Sather had no choice here, and in the end he was never even going to come close.

Signing Tanner Glass (three years, $1.45-million per)

Our story on the Glass signing here.

I don't know what to make of this move. There is virtually no upside to signing one of the worst players in the NHL (in terms of fancy stats) to a team that leaned on it's depth so heavily last year. It's pretty clear he's the cheaper replacement for Derek Dorsett, but he's only about $200K cheaper and is not the player Dorsett was, is and will be for the Canucks.

This is another signing that can be looked at through two lenses. Either:

1) Glen Sather needed an "enforcer" and wanted to bring in a guy to make the Rangers tougher.

2) Alain Vigneault pushed for this signing due to a relationship he had with Glass in the past (Glass played with Vigneault in Vancouver) and wanted to bring something to the table this year.

If it's the latter, I'm giving Vigneault the benefit of the doubt, since the man lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final despite all the fans kicking and screaming the entire year. He hit all the right buttons last year, and this might be another one. I don't understand it, but I also hated the Dan Carcillo trade and ended up loving it.

If it's the former, it's another mistake contract handed out by Sather to a player who fills a role no one needs. Enforcers do not "create space for star players" or "protect star players from having bad things happen to them" or "make the Rangers tougher to play against." Do not point to the Bruins as an example of a team with toughness that makes them tough to play against. The Bruins are big, mean and tough, no doubt. They're also all good at hockey. It's rare to find a combination of the two. Glass is not a combination of the two.

The Wealth Of AHL Depth Signings

They might seem minor on the surface, but this was fantastic work by Sather yesterday, it really was. The Hartford Wolfpack were dreadful last year. Seriously, they were horrible in every aspect of the game. And while that might not impact the Rangers on the surface, it does indirectly hurt them because it stunts development.

We don't have a great handle on how good guys like Conor Allen, Danny Kristo J.T. Miller (during his AHL time) and Dylan McIlrath really were because of the way the team suffered. Bringing in guys like Chris Muller who just won the Calder Cup -- the AHL's Stanley Cup -- and has been a point-per-game player in the NHL help change that. The depth added to the defense with Mike Kostka, Mike Hunwick and Steven Kampfer and also in goal by adding Cedrick Desjardins will only help that team get better.

A better AHL system helps prospects develop quicker and more fully and gives management a better idea about where prospects stand in their development. Don't tell me it's not important. It is important. And these things don't impact the team outside of emergency depth and total contracts.

Glen Sather's Day As A Whole

Again, some of this is going to hinge on what actually happened in the negotiating room -- which I don't know.

The biggest mistake I saw from Sather yesterday was the Glass signing. I don't like it and I don't think it helps the team at all. But again, if it was Alain Vigneault's call I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. If not, however, it's serious mismanagement of assets.

For the Brian Boyle situation I'm giving him no blame. Again, this is assuming the Rangers moved on when Boyle demanded a bigger role which the team couldn't give him. He went to Tampa Bay because he was promised a bigger role. Whether they follow through or not is another thing, but he believed them and that's all that matters. However, if this is a situation where the Rangers could have matched the contract and kept him, it's another mismanagement of assets except this time on a catastrophic scale.

I do really like the Dan Boyle signing, if for nothing else because he's a guy with big-game experience, can soak up 18-20 minutes a night if needed, brings offense to the blue line and is a major jolt on the power play. Yes, he comes at the expense of Stralman, but I'm not sure the Rangers were willing to commit so many years to Stralman at $4.5-million per. Boyle is much older, but he also comes off the books three years sooner.

I'm very happy Sather didn't go anywhere near Pouliot's five-year, $4-million deal with Edmonton. That's insane money and insane years for a guy who had a breakout season of 36 points. Fancy stats speak favorable for Pouliot throughout his career, but not that favorably.

Keeping Dominic Moore was a slam dunk, although things did get a little hairy towards the end. He bring stability, veteran experience and depth to the Rangers' bottom six. And while depth was the team's calling card last year, it took a major hit this summer. Some of it (D. Boyle) was unavoidable. Other parts of it (Dorsett for Glass) was self inflicted. Sometimes that's the nature of the game.

Overall, I think things could have gone much worse for the Rangers. I think the biggest losses (Pouliot and Boyle) forced their own hands and there was nothing Sather could do. Stralman for Boyle was a decision made by management and only time will tell if it will pan out. Glass is a tough sell, even if Vigneault asked for it.

So yes, things could have gone much worse. They could have gone better too, though.