Hartnett: What Rangers Fans Can Expect This Offseason
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By Sean Hartnett
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The Rangers are not in need of a dramatic shake-up. But when free agency comes around, you never know how things will unfold.
Glen Sather and John Tortorella have laid the foundation for a group that is capable of making deep playoff runs for the next half-decade, but are looking to add the kind of scoring punch that can put the Blueshirts over the top.
Obviously, the name on everyone’s lips is Zach Parise. It would be difficult to imagine Parise crossing the Hudson River to join the Rangers as he is an indispensable piece of a Devils’ team that has reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the past, Lou Lamoriello allowed Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik to join the Rangers as they were past their expiration date. That’s clearly not the case with Parise who any team would love to add.
Whether Parise views the Devils as contenders for the long-term remains to be seen. Obviously, having Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique around for the years to come is a great start but legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur could call it a career should he lead the Devils to a fourth Stanley Cup championship.
Tortorella admires Parise’s two-way game and Parise is the prototypical player who could fit into the Rangers’ style of play. The two worked together during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when Tortorella was an assistant coach for Team USA.
Should Parise end his near-decade long association with the Devils, it’s very likely that Detroit could be his next stop. An interesting back-up plan for the Rangers could be Jarome Iginla whose status in Calgary is uncertain.
At 34, Iginla is still one of the most reliable scorers in the league but deserves to play on a team where he doesn’t need to carry the offensive load. The Flames need to get younger and are rebuilding. Sather could dangle Brandon Dubinsky and a few lesser prospects in an attempt to land Iginla.
I don’t see Rick Nash being a fit for the Rangers as they would have to give up a package that would likely include Chris Kreider, Brandon Dubinsky, a young defenseman like Tim Erixon and a high draft pick. Plenty of teams will be fighting to acquire Nash and I expect the price to
Negotiations between the Nashville Predators and defenseman Ryan Suter are about to get underway. Suter is an upcoming unrestricted free agent but the Predators are trying desperately to keep him off the market. Complicating the Nashville’s need to retain Suter is captain Shea Weber who is a restricted free agent. Should the Predators not complete a deal with Suter before July 1, he’ll hit the open market.
Glen Sather and the Rangers definitely have their eyes on the 27-year-old Suter, who would bring immediate help to the Rangers’ lackluster powerplay.
Unfortunately, the Blueshirts might not be an ideal fit should he become a free agent. Suter is a Wisconsin native and may want to move closer to his family in Madison, Wisconsin rather than making the move to Madison Square Garden.
The Red Wings appear to be an ideal destination should Suter not re-sign with the Predators. Whether or not Nicklas Lidstrom retires, the Wings need to find his long-term replacement. Fellow blueliner Brad Stuart is believed to be open to joining the San Jose Sharks to move closer to his California home.
Red Wings’ insiders believe that Suter is Ken Holland’s top priority over Parise but should Lidstrom suddenly decide to retire, they could afford the two top unrestricted free agents.
Instead of taking the plunge by committing an annual salary of over $7 million to Suter, Sather could go for a cheaper ‘Plan B’ option in Jason Garrison. The 27-year-old Garrison is coming off a career year with the Florida Panthers and is expected to test the market.
Garrison has always been a reliable two-way defenseman but became an offensive force this season. He might not rack up the assists like Suter but scored 16 goals with his rocket shot. Although Garrison will come cheaper, the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks could drive up his salary.
Should the Rangers sign Parise, it’s likely they’d have to shift Brandon Dubinsky’s $4.2 million dollar annual salary to another NHL club to clear up cap space.
Ruslan Fedotenko continued his clutch playoff heroics during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs but I don’t expect him to return to the Rangers. Fedotenko would like to re-sign with the Rangers but at 33, it’s likely that the Rangers will part ways with the unrestricted free agent.
In addition, UFA’s John Mitchell, Steve Eminger, Jeff Woywitka, Stu Bickel and John Scott are unlikely to be retained.
I expect backup goaltender Martin Biron to return for another year and sign a one-year deal to remain with the Rangers.
Restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto is expected to complete a multi-year deal. Brandon Prust is an upcoming UFA but wants to stay with the Rangers.
“I love it here — I definitely want to be back,” Prust said on Monday.
The feeling from the Rangers’ front office and Tortorella is mutual.
Anton Stralman is an RFA and could go either way. With Michael Sauer nowhere near playing condition, he could be a cheap option to return should the Rangers have enough space left after signing their big targets.
Mats Zuccarello has indicated he wants to play more games at the NHL level with the Rangers or will pursue a deal with a European team. He figures to be out of the Rangers’ plans and will likely leave for Europe.
“I only played 10 games — that’s not enough for me. I want to be a New York Ranger, but I’m not going to lie, there’s some part of me that wants to go,” Zuccarello said recently.
How do you expect the Rangers’ offseason plans to unfold? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.