Too often the New York Rangers walk into the first day of free agency, climb the latter to the high dive, throw on a pair of goggles and try to make the biggest splash possible. Big names on the market are linked to the Rangers like a planet's gravitational pull on a passing meteorite. No one can control it, it's just something that happens.
This year it's different. Actually, this year is the start of a lot of things being different. Glen Sather officially stepped down from his post as general manager yesterday, replaced by Jeff Gorton who has long been in the wings waiting for this moment.
I don't think it's fair to try and assume what Gorton was or was not a part of during these past few years. But I have no qualms whatsoever of believing every decision yesterday was moved by Gorton's hand. And if that was yesterday's first day on the job for Gorton then he made a really good first impression. I can't remember the Rangers ever having a smarter first day of free agency in recent memory.
It Would Be A Huge Mistake Not To Trade Klein
Kevin Klein's value will never be higher than it is right now, which is exactly why the Rangers need to sell high on him.
The Rangers didn't make the big splash, they made precision signings that fit and were remarkably affordable while still improving the team. They brought Raphael Diaz back for two years at a $700K cap hit before swooping in to grab Viktor Stalberg for one year at $1.1-million.
Every year we talk about players who are hanging around until the end of free agency waiting for jobs because non-analytic teams don't see their value (last year it was Daniel Winnik). Then, strangely enough, come the deadline those players who were essentially looking for jobs all summer have enough value to be moved for second round picks leading up to the playoffs.
The Rangers grabbed two of those players on the first day. Kevin had a little note on Stalberg below:
Viktor Stalberg is good. Viktor Stalberg on 1.1mil is VERY good pic.twitter.com/La5DaBbAUS— Kevin Power (@Kpower90) July 1, 2015
Diaz has his own strengths, including being able to shut down top line players. (Note about the below chart: The bigger the blue bar the better the player is at that particular stat. The only row a player cannot control is the first one, which is time on ice. A player who has his stats surpass his time on ice bar is better than he's being used. If a player's time on ice bar is beyond all the other stats then he's not as good as his coach thinks he is.)
These are smart and effective moves. The Rangers got a lot better yesterday, even if those two depth signings were the headline moves on Broadway.
Things didn't end there, though. Gorton kept on working, bringing in three AHL depth signings in Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna and Matt Lindblad. Gibbons might be the biggest impact of the three, since he's split time in the AHL and NHL the past three years and has even seen some playoff action but I'm not sure he's going to surpass other options like Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Bourque.
The final move of the day saw Gorton move a 2016 6th round pick to Nashville for AHL goaltender Magnus Hellberg. Hellberg should be seen as nothing more than goaltending depth for a team that's currently without number one AHL option (and NHL unbeaten) Mackenzie Skapski who is out for 4 months and will miss the start of the AHL season.
Personally I think Gorton is going to bring a change to this team. We'll have a longer story on this later, but Gorton is now able to shape this team in his image. If July 1st is any indication, it's a good vision to have.