Free Agency Watch: Simon GagneMay 20, 2011, by
The Rangers are 99.99…..% likely to at least try and seduce Brad Richards into making Madison Square Garden his home from home – should he make the free agency madness that begins July 1st. Whether they get him or not however, the Rangers would be foolish to put all their eggs in one basket and not consider other targets, either as back up plans or as additional talent to compliment both Richards and the impressive young core assembled in New York.
This is one area that many Rangers fans disagree on. Not whether the Rangers should go after Richards but whether they should look to add more talent short term to aid a contender or continue to build patiently and not put everything on black. Can you build patiently and add talent to try and win at the same time? Tampa Bay are looking like a good example this season that suggests you can, and it’s at Tampa Bay we start our Free Agency watch, in regards to players that might interest the Rangers.
When fit (words so often heard around Rangers signings…) Simon Gagne is a great goal scorer and has been an elite goal scorer for several years. His career includes four seasons of more than 30 goals and 2 seasons where he eclipsed the 40 mark; for his career Gagne boasts 276 goals in the regular season. Indeed, it seems the only thing that has stopped Gagne being even more successful has been injuries. If you thought Gaborik was injury prone, take a look at Gagne. Yet, despite all those injuries, he still remains enticing. Gagne played in just 63 games this regular season and scored 17 goals and 40 points. In 9 games during these playoffs, the French Canadian has 8 points in 9 games proving he still has point/game talent when fit.
With a young Rangers team lacking in pure skill and goal scoring ability Gagne offers both, in addition to the massive experience he brings to the table (99 playoff games and counting). Gagne will likely hit the market this July for the very reason the Rangers should be cautious to add him; injuries. However it’s mainly for that reason Gagne should come cheap. No longer the genuinely elite winger he was in Philadelphia the 31 year old will not command the big dollars or length of deal he once would. A short, relatively modest deal could work for both sides. Low risk, potentially high reward for the Rangers and a chance to play top line minutes with the likes of Richards and Gaborik in NY are among the benefits for both player and team. Given the depth and youth (as well as a certain elite goalie) in New York, finding a true top line could boost the Rangers into the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and a line of Gagne – Richards – Gaborik is certainly top line material.
The Rangers are not in win now mode but younger players certainly benefit from entering a franchise that has a winning culture (Detroit being exhibit A). While still integrating the young prospects such as Kreider, Thomas and Hagelin over the next few seasons, the Rangers would benefit from some genuinely successful seasons that featured a few solid playoff runs. Adding some veteran talent such as Gagne – on short deals – can help reach that aim. Will the Rangers make a move for Gagne? Who knows, but Gagne fills many voids in New York and could do so at a modest cost. While Alex Frolov didn’t work out in a similar scenario Vinny Prospal certainly did, proving that rolling the dice on a veteran – under the right conditions – can bring good results.