The New York Rangers had a lot of problems last year. We may as well call it what it is at this point.
Yes, the defense — arguably the team’s biggest problem — remains untouched (well, for the most part), but that entire situation needed much bigger renovations that I expected to happen at the draft. Apparently the brass tried to do what they could there, but to no avail so far.
At the draft Gorton admitted the organization had marked out what areas they targeted to be fixed this summer. The defense, we assumed, had to be priority number one, but if you had split open last year and counted the rings, the penalty kill and the bottom six depth were also major concerns.
You might be forgiven if you were a little nervous about how Gorton was going to handle those two issues after the Daniel Paille incident. True to expectations, though, Gorton made a few really smart moves with what he had available to him.
Mike did a really long (and really great) write up of the Michael Grabner signing here; which doesn’t just add one of the leagues better penalty killers, but also adds a little bottom six scoring pop. The deal is also a two-year deal, which means Grabner can be exposed to the expansion draft next summer. At $1.65-million a year you can’t complain about this deal any way you slice it.
Nathan Gerbe was also locked down, on a criminally-low $600K per year. I can’t believe Gorton got the value he did for Gerbe here, and while you’d love to see that contract last a few years at that value, you have to tip your cap to get him for it in the first place. Gerbe is another very talented bottom six defensive player, who can help on the penalty kill and also add a little offense. Gerbe notched 28 points in 78 games two years ago for Carolina (he was injured for all but 47 games last year).
Adam Clendening was a little surprising — although it’s a two-way deal which more than likely means he’ll end up in Hartford.
My only real issue with what Gorton did was with Victor Stalberg. Stalberg ended up signing a one-year deal in Carolina worth just $1.5-million. I’m not sure how Stalberg doesn’t earn that type of value in New York, especially with the other value adds you made to the bottom six. Tanner Glass will, once again, be up against a rock and a hard place for a roster spot this year -- although we’ve been saying that for two years now. I just don’t see how Stalberg wouldn’t have fit into next year’s plans, especially at that rate.
Overall I think Gorton did a really good (and smart) job at addressing some of the team’s issues through the first four days of free agency. I would also assume that in terms of forwards — barring a trade — the Rangers are pretty much done.
As for the defense, well, time will tell if there’s anything brewing under the surface there.