As the feeling of shock lifts from the Ranger fan community, we’ve begun to examine some possible replacements for coach John Tortorella. The new man behind the bench will be the story of the offseason, but the departure of Tortorella could also have an impact on many other important decisions the franchise will make.
Henrik Lundqvist will sign a contract extension
I still believe that The King’s comments on Monday were harmless, but many Rangers fans panicked over Lundqvist’s hesitation to commit to New York long term. To me, Lundqvist was only being smart before negotiating what should be his final NHL contract, one that will put a massive dent in New York’s payroll going forward. Nevertheless, there have been some clues that Lundqvist was less than thrilled with Tortorella. With the ornery general out of the way, no amount of money or years should be an obstacle in locking up Hank for the next eight years. Firing Tortorella was a strong message to Lundqvist and others that New York recognizes its window won’t be open indefinitely and that there’s a sense of urgency every year to bring home the Cup. Expect Lundqvist to ink a new pact this summer.
Brad Richards will be bought out
GM Glen Sather’s admission that scratching Richards in the postseason was “an organizational decision,” not just Tortorella’s, might indicate that the Rangers brass was in agreement that Richards’ time in New York was done, while Tortorella dug his heels. Tortorella and Richards have a long-standing friendship and there’s no doubt that Torts gave Richards a longer leash than many other Blueshirts that have struggled in recent years. Disagreement over a potential Richards buyout probably wasn’t what fractured Tortorella’s relationship with the team for good, but it stands to reason that Tortorella wanted to give Richards another shot next year, while Slats and company were in favor of a buyout. With Tortorella out of the picture, it’s more likely than ever that Richards will soon follow him out the door.
Assistant coach Mike Sullivan’s will also be let go
Sullivan hasn’t officially been handed his walking papers yet, but that’s inevitable. Whoever the new Rangers coach is will surely want to bring in his own staff and Sullivan won’t be a part of it. It’s also a pretty good bet that the new coach will either have proven success in coaching power plays, or be advised to bring on an assistant that does.
Dan Girardi and other Torts soldiers may now be less valuable
Before we knew Torts’ fate, Chris suggested that the Rangers consider trading Dan Girardi this summer. That sounded like blasphemy to me at the time, but without Tortorella it makes a whole lot more sense. A black and blue shot blocker like Girardi could not have been more valuable to Torts, but the next Rangers coach might place much more importance on puck movers like Ryan McDonagh, John Moore and Michael Del Zotto. That’s not a strength of Girardi’s game, so perhaps it makes sense to see if Girardi can be converted into an asset or assets that better suit the new coach. Some of Tortorella’s other favorite soldiers – Brian Boyle? – might be in the same boat.
Glen Sather’s last hire
Sather has done a much better job over the last several years, but it’s still mind boggling that he has kept his job while five coaches have exited Broadway. Sather has never been held accountable for New York’s struggles, but as he said on Wednesday: “every coach has a shelf life.” You would think the same goes for general managers, too. Sather’s age and health issues probably mean the end of his career is in sight regardless of how the new coach performs, but even if Sather was a spry 40-year-old this might finally be his final chance to start over with a new bench boss.
The training wheels should come off for Chris Kreider
Tortorella refused to play the prized prospect more than a handful of minutes in most games because the 22-year-old has yet to become effective defensively. That fact infuriated many Rangers fans, but in Tortorella’s eyes it was a no-brainer. To management, Kreider is the most tantalizing youngster to come through the door in years and the brass won’t want to risk damaging his confidence anymore. The next coach will be instructed that Kreider is to play with skilled players and given major responsibility moving forward.