By Brian Monzo
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The Rangers need to have a good, smart offseason.

I think anyone who watches the Blueshirts and reads about them can safely say they have a good team.  They are young, with some good talent and a world class goaltender.  After being eliminated in five games by the Capitals, entering their third full season under coach John Tortorella, the Rangers need to start moving upward.

The Rangers have had an active start to their offseason. They added young defenseman Tim Erixon and bought out their captain, Chris Drury.

Up front, the Rangers have seven forwards signed.  It’s important for them to add a few players, but it’s really important to re-sign their restricted free agents.  Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle are all RFA’s, and the Rangers will be looking to sign them all to multiple years.  Dubinsky and Callahan are two of their best assets (Callahan will likely be given the C with the departure of Drury), and the hope is they sign long-term deals.  There’s also a good chance they bring back Ruslan Fedotenko for another season.

On defense, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are locked up. Ryan McDonagh has another two years left on his entry level deal.  Michael Del Zotto also has another year left on his ELD, and after struggling last season, will be competing for a roster spot. Matt Gilroy was not tendered a contract and will head to free agency.  RFA Michael Sauer had a surprisingly great rookie season, paired McDonagh, and should get a multi-year deal done.  When Erixon was acquired, he was locked up, and there is a very good chance he makes the team.

UFA’s Bryan McCabe and Steve Eminger will likely not be back.  There is a small chance McCabe returns at a very cheap price.  The Rangers have a young defense, and will likely be in the market for a veteran presence on the blueline.

In goal, King Henrik is signed for another three seasons and Marty Biron is signed for 2011-12.  Biron is a great backup goalie — the Rangers seem steady in net for the foreseeable future.

I have a few smaller free agent ideas for the Rangers, but the $50,000 question is: will the Rangers sign top free agent center Brad Richards? 

Without signing their RFA’s, the Rangers have around $25 million to spend.  Clearly the money is there, and with Wojtek Wolski and Sean Avery off the books next season, that makes things even easier.  The fact is, they need a top center. At 31, Richards is smack in middle of his prime.  He won a Stanley Cup with John Tortorella in Tampa Bay, and has 716 points in 772 NHL games. During his Cup run, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

That’s all great, but he is going to want a deal for over eight years, worth close to $8 million per season.  That is one hell of a commitment.

The fact is, there’s a very good shot the last four seasons of that sort of contract will be a disaster.  It’s just how it goes.  However, for the Rangers, they need to look in net and think: how many great seasons from Lundqvist are left? Five? Six really great seasons?

It is a chance they have to take.

To answer the question: Yes, I think they need to go after Richards hard and heavy.

So that’s that. But what else can — and should — the Rangers do?

I think they need to look at two players: center Jason Arnott and defenseman Jim Vandermeer.

By the time the season starts, Arnott will be 37 years old.  He is a great presence in the locker room, still effective on the ice and at a reasonable price, could be a cheaper, better version of Chris Drury.  Arnott is a winner. He’s scored huge goals and is respected around the league.  He could be the 3rd line center and help on the power play.  Arnott won’t score 30 goals, but could be good for 20, and could play the same role as Brendan Shanahan in his two good seasons in New York.  Having Arnott in the locker room with Derek Stepan, Anisimov, Callahan and Dubinsky would be priceless.

Vandermeer is nothing flashy, but he could be a 6-7 defenseman and a veteran presence for Staal, McDonagh, Sauer and Del Zotto.  Even though Staal and Girardi have played for some time, they need a guy like Vandermeer, who has been around for close to decade to balance things out.  He should be very affordable and would fit in well.  He sticks up for teammates, has playoff experience and would be a small move that pays big dividends.

The free-agency frenzy is here.  Richards is the biggest name on the market.  Will he sign in New York? 

Time (probably not too much of it) will tell.

Follow me for updates throughout this exciting time on Twitter: BMonzoNHL660

Should the Rangers make a run for Richards? Let Monzo know in the comments below…

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