If you're reading this it's further proof I am a fools fool. The dangers of pre-writing a post and scheduling it for the day after free agency is real. But since I'm not a fan of those "this link doesn't exist" pages I've simply removed this story from the layout (but I'm sure links of it exist). If you're here, congrats, I am a fool. Never forget this. (Hodgson was signed by Nashville on July 1st, this story wen't up July 2nd.)
As the Rangers wade into the free agency pool on July 1st they're going to be anchored down by some heavy contracts and a lack of cap space. Recent moves trading away Carl Hagelin and Cam Talbot have created some space, but the Rangers are still dangerously close to the top of the cap.
One area that proves to be potentially fruitful in the free agent market is recently bought out players. Last year, as an example closer to home, the Rangers bought out Brad Richards and he signed a very cap-friendly one-year, $2-million deal with Chicago.
There are a few interesting players on the buyout block, the biggest name being Mike Richards who wasn't bought out when the Kings could have used their compliance buyout but who is being bought out this summer with the cap penalties that follow. Richards is on the wrong end of 30, doesn't have the offensive production he used to and is rapidly diminishing as a possession player in this league. He might not be someone you want to chase.
Cody Hodgson, however, is a player the Rangers should at the very least take a look at.
There are a few benefits to going after a recently bought out player. The biggest is that any player who is bought out gets their contract back in full over a number of years. It's why Richards did't care about signing for less than market value last year; he is already getting paid by the Rangers over the long haul.
Hodgson was once one of the brightest prospects in the NHL coming through the ranks in Vancouver before being moved to Buffalo (more on this soon) and while his scoring touch alluded him last year (again: he was playing on Buffalo so this is not surprising) he did have 44 points two years ago and he's only 25.
There are some concerns about a rocky history between Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault and Hodgson floating around. Vigneault was the coach in Vancouver when they made the decision to part ways with their highly-touted prospect. The full story on that situation is here in this 2012 article from The Hockey Writers. The key aspect (to this situation) is below:
More importantly, the Canucks' medical staff would incorrectly diagnose the injury as a bulging disc in Hodgson's lower-back. The misdiagnosis would lead to an incorrectly prescribed treatment which would ultimately aggravate the injury. As a result, Hodgson was plagued by back pain throughout the 2009 pre-season. After his demotion to Brampton, the ailing Hodgson expressed a desire to obtain an additional medical opinion.
For some reason, Hodgson's actions struck a nerve with Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. In October 2009, Vigneault publicly suggested that Hodgson's desire for further examination was an attempt to shift the blame after a poor pre-season. In other words, Hodgson was refusing to accept responsibility for his play.
Seems like it was something of a misunderstanding -- although this wouldn't be the first time Vigneault has called out a prospect. Hodgson did have his original injury mis-diagnosed and got it figured out later that year.
His time in Buffalo, obviously, has not been what was expected when he signed his contract extension. His offensive metrics are pretty solid, although his defensive metrics are worse than imaginable. Again, the Buffalo thing sort of has to continue to be mentioned here. Hodgson was on a team that willingly traded away active pieces for Evander Kane after he got surgery and was out for the year.
Buffalo was worse than bad and that can't be understated at all.
In a limited offensive role -- say a third line winger -- Hodgson should be a productive player. It's fair to note, however, with the addition of Emerson Etem the Rangers already have a glut of the "expected" roles on the third line, but too much bottom-six talent isn't a bad thing at all.
Hodgson is just one name of many that will be available, though.
One name that's surfaced is Mark Arcobello (as much as it hurts the Quinnipiac in me to write about a Yale player in a positive light). There are concerns that he played for four different teams last year and his last team, the Coyotes, looked at his 16 points in 27 games and also decided to let him go by not offering him a qualifying offer -- but the winger scored 17 goals last year and should get some looks.
Arcobello was a positive possession player at even strength last year -- which is impressive since his stints in Edmonton and Arizona were worth 63 of his 77 games -- and can obviously add some offensive pop. Like Hodgson above, he might be able to slot into a third line role, but unlike Hodgson he does not have a contract buyout to fall back on so he might be looking for some more security in his next contract. Especially because he's seen so much personal movement this past year.
Richards (Brad, not Mike) could make a return trip to Broadway if both parties were interested, but I think that might be unlikely. Either way, there are good options on the board