There were many question marks for the Rangers that were pushed to the front of fans’ minds when they were eliminated from the playoffs in April. Would the Rangers sign all of their key RFAs? Would the Rangers address the gaping hole at top-six center? Would that gaping hole be fixed by Brad Richards? Would they be able to fill holes on the bottom defense pairing? Would any of these contracts be a hindrance to the cap? Well, three months later, we have answers to all these questions. And you know what, the general feeling is that the Rangers passed this year’s offseason exam with flying colors.
Starting with the RFAs –assuming Ryan Callahan is signed to a deal, the Rangers signed every key RFA they had to sign. But to be honest, signing them was pretty much expected, although some of us were waiting on bated breath for official word. The difficult part was managing to get all RFAs signed to deals that fit under the salary cap. When all is said and done, the Rangers will have spent approximately $12.5 million on their five RFAs (assuming Callahan comes in at $4.5 million). That comes to an average of $2.5 million for those five players. Not too shabby.
Next was Brad Richards. Everyone knew he was Broadway bound. But what surprised us all was the cap hit of the finalized deal. The Rangers got their man, their top line center, for a cap hit of $6.667 million, the 25th highest cap hit in the league. Richards scored 77 points last season, good for 10th in the league, while missing 10 games with an injury. If you put those numbers into a full 82 game season, that calculates out to 87 points and just outside the top five in scoring.
To make room for Richards, the Rangers made a very difficult decision to buy out captain Chris Drury. The decision gave the organization an extra $3.3 million in cap space to work with, which was essential in getting Richards under contract. All in all, the Rangers essentially replaced Chris Drury with Brad Richards. Also, not too shabby.
Mike Rupp was a questionable signing at the time, but he gives the Rangers much needed grit on the bottom six forwards. More importantly, he will take some of the enforcing duties away from Brandon Prust. Rupp may have received a little more money than most would have liked, but he’s not a cap killer. In addition to Rupp, the Rangers added (re-added) Ruslan Fedotenko and Steve Eminger to round out the roster.
Perhaps the biggest thing that separates this year from all the other years Glen Sather has been at the helm is that there really wasn’t a signing that made you say “what the…?”. The signing that resulted in a big facepalm never materialized; although we were really close when rumors of the Rangers pursuing Andrew Brunnette surfaced on July 1.
Haters will always hate, and will point to Brad Richards as another “Sather payday”. However, the difference between this signing and the signings of past is that this filled a hole in the Rangers roster. The signings of past were attempts to build the roster, which is completely different from filling holes. The roster has been built, holes have been filled. The Rangers are still in great salary cap standing, and will end up with a little more than $1 million in wiggle room at the start of the season.
A core of young players, veterans filling holes, cap space, balanced roster. When was the last time you were able to say that about the Rangers?