We’ve already covered some of the more intriguing players that will be available via free agency, but it doesn’t appear likely that the big-ticket guys like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will end up in New York. The 2012 free agent class is extremely thin, but at the draft last weekend GM Glen Sather confidently stated the team would still be “fairly aggressive” in free agency. So who else could the organization pursue on July 1st?
Today we’ll look at the forwards.
Ray Whitney – Scares many off because of his age (40), but he actually seems to be getting more productive somehow. Wants to be paid, but doesn’t require a long-term commitment. Might make a lot of sense on a one- or two-year deal.
Ryan Smyth – At age 36, still good for 20 goals a year. Likely to remain in Edmonton and probably not a good fit for NY.
Brian Rolston – Showed in the playoffs that he can still play a little bit at 39-years-old. A bit of a forgotten man because of his absurd contract, but his big shot and power play experience could make him a little bit intriguing. A long shot, but might be appealing on a one-year deal.
Jason Blake – Now free from the weight of an unreasonable contract, but also well past his prime. Will be 39-years-old in September.
Jaromir Jagr – Rangers weren’t interested last summer, won’t be this year.
Jason Arnott – Solid veteran presence that still has a bit left in the tank at 37-years-old. Not a bad idea on a one-year deal.
Jamie Langenbrunner – Seems to be at the end of the line. Veteran presence, but doesn’t bring enough else to the table to appeal to NY.
Mikael Samuelsson – Goal-scorer still quietly chugging along at age 35. Can still put the puck in the net, but nearing the tail end of his NHL career.
Andrew Brunette – Didn’t work out as well as hoped in Chicago, also very near the end of his career.
Mike Knuble – Can’t skate, a big issue considering the Rangers’ style.
Tomas Holmstrom – He’ll either be back with Detroit or he’ll retire.
Steve Sullivan – When healthy, he can still play. Probably not worth the risk, but he did put up 21 power play points last year and has been an asset on the man advantage for years.
Brendan Morrison – Another age-less wonder, he’s been available many times in the past and the Rangers haven’t taken notice, they won’t now either.
The Oft Injured
Kristian Huselius – Repeated injuries have derailed his career, unlikely the Rangers are interested in 33-year-old damaged goods.
Daymond Langkow – A shell of his former self thanks to injuries and age. Not really worth the trouble.
Jochen Hecht – 35-years-old and coming off a severe concussion. More pure offense than many of the others on this list, but also a risk.
Peter Mueller – If you’re looking for pure offense, then Mueller might be one of the most attractive guys on the market. Unfortunately, he also has dealt with severe concussion issues that limited him to just 32 games over the last two seasons. Still, Mueller is only 24-years-old and began producing immediately upon returning to Colorado’s lineup. 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 32 games with the Avs after such a lengthy recovery is truly impressive and Mueller still has the talent to be a legitimate top-six forward. The Rangers even attempted to acquire Mueller in 2009, before the worst of his concussion woes began, so they may have interest again. Still, no team will want to give Mueller many years on a deal given his past issues.
The Horribly Inconsistent
Dustin Penner – Power forward body and solid playoff season will net him an undeservedly large contract given notorious inconsistency.
Brad Boyes – 43-goal season a distant memory. Wouldn’t be the worst addition as depth offense, just don’t expect big numbers.
Lee Stempniak – Can’t be relied on, but he does bring offense. Might be worth a flier.
Travis Moen – Classic bottom-six role player. Assuming Prust goes, he could be a solid replacement. Good defensive forward and always solid on the PK.
Jordin Tootoo – Physical bottom-six guy. The Rangers have plenty of those.
Paul Gaustad – Good faceoff man, willing to drop the gloves. A solid glue guy that has become very popular. Rangers may be interested, but so will several other teams.
The Poor Fits
Andrei Kostitsyn – Suspended along with Alex Radulov the night before a playoff game this spring. He can score, but he’s the opposite of a John Tortorella guy.
Olli Jokinen – Coming off a monster year, but his first go-round in New York was a colossal failure. He won’t be back for a second.
P.A. Parenteau – Another tiny forward, which the Rangers already have enough of. Impressive point total in 2011-2012, but even if the Blueshirts were interested, he feels like they didn’t give him a fair shot a few years ago and would likely be disinterested in returning.
The Decent Suggestions
Jiri Hudler – Still likely to re-sign with Detroit, but at 28-years-old, he’s just entering his prime. Goal-scorers are in high demand though, so how much should a 20-goal guy command?
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Played very well for New Jersey after coming over midseason. A big-bodied power forward that was effective on the forecheck for the Devils, he could make some sense.
The fact is that while everyone wants the Rangers to upgrade their skill level, there are very few options available to make that happen. It may be disappointing, but patience may be the wisest course of action for Sather.