Is the final piece of the puzzle Jason Arnott?July 24, 2012, by
One name that has consistently popped up on Twitter in the search for the final pieces to the Rangers’ roster puzzle is that of 37-year-old center Jason Arnott.
Arnott seems like he’s been around forever, but the grizzled veteran still has some left in the tank. He posted 17 goals and 17 assists in 72 games last season for the St. Louis Blues, respectable numbers for a team that struggled to score. Arnott can’t carry an offense, but in a supporting role he is still capable of chipping in.
And of course, Arnott comes with a Stanley Cup winning pedigree. The Rangers’ locker room is among the best in sports, but the team did lose some of its veteran leadership with the departures of Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust. Arnott is one of the most respected players in the league and might be another voice worth adding for his invaluable postseason experience.
But is Arnott really a good fit?
As Steve Zipay noted and we’ve argued on Blue Seat Blogs, NHL teams can never have enough depth down the middle. It’s an essential part of the recipe for success in hockey today. However, the addition of Jeff Halpern has pretty much solidified New York’s pecking order at center. Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle and Halpern are all locks to occupy pivot roles this season, so it’s difficult to see where Arnott fits in. Arnott has played some wing in his career and could be an attractive Plan B to Shane Doan, but there’s little doubt that he’s a natural center and the Rangers may believe they’re set at that position.
Arnott made $2.875 million last season and would probably have to accept an offer closer to $1 million to fit financially for New York. The Blueshirts have committed roughly $56 million to the salary cap next season and still have to re-sign Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman and likely add another wing, be it a free agent or a youngster. The 2011-2012 salary cap number of $64.3 million is very likely to be reduced under the new CBA, probably to the neighborhood of $60 million. Money could get pretty tight in a hurry on Broadway and Arnott, who could surely command more money elsewhere, might be difficult to fit under the cap.