As the Rangers looked to get in to the playoffs down the stretch and now in the playoffs, some of the Rangers best players have been their oldest. These were players deemed not good enough for other teams, even players that didn’t have a team. Ruslan Fedotenko –a try out in camp don’t forget– may have summed up the Rangers work ethos with his spectacular defensive play earlier in this playoff series against the Caps, while Vinny Prospal continues to log big minutes and score important goals. The Rangers should look to bring back both players. Both players –albeit in different ways– lead by example for the Rangers. If it’s not Prospal’s enthusiasm and offense, it’s Fedotenko’s work rate and hunger. Even as the Rangers mature next season these are two players that the younger roster players can still learn from.
Then there’s the forgotten man in New York this year, Michael Del Zotto. A poor start to the season (certainly in comparison to his rookie year) culminated with demotion and injury to cap a miserable 2nd year as a pro for the skilled defenseman. However barring a spectacular trade offer, Del Zotto will be a Ranger next year – they clearly still value the talented blueliner. On top of the likely return of Del Zotto is the news (rumour?) that the Rangers are considering offering a new deal to Matt Gilroy. Add all this up and do the math – there are a lot of familiar faces that should or could be returning next year.
The one position that will likely see a major change is the top line center. With Brad Richards permanently linked to the Rangers, they appear to have their answer in the Dallas pivot. But beyond Richards there may be little change on the horizon. That’s not a bad thing, as the free agent market (beyond Richards and goaltending – certainly not a need) is very weak and most of the Rangers prospects would benefit from another year of seasoning. Bringing back this year’s club with Richards as an upgrade is still a very good, competitive (and still young and developing) team. Bringing back Prospal and Fedotenko as the veteran presence every team needs is the right thing to do. Many doubted Prospal’s ability to recover from his long injury but he’s proven (and is still doing so) that there is still a lot left in that overly tanned body of his. Fedotenko is low maintenance and would be cheap – as well as building a team with the right players the finances need to add up and both veterans should fit in to the financial plan.
Obviously there are a few maturing prospects that could make the team (Weise, Grachev, Valentenko) and several others, maybe getting looks in camp (Thomas, Bourque) that will excite and lead calls for another shot of youth next season but Rangers fans shouldn’t be disappointed if next year’s club looks similar to this year’s. A developing team shouldn’t be rushed and this year’s team is showing Rangers fans that there’s a lot to like and a lot to get excited about already adorning red, white and blue.