If you’re a cup half full kind of person, assume for a minute that both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi sign back up with the Rangers and the core remains intact. Let’s also assume for a moment that Anton Stralman sticks around for a reasonable cost, and all of a sudden the Rangers fine core remain together; losing ‘just’ Brad Richards who is surely off to pastures new.
With the NHL salary cap going up this summer –and with the Rangers likely to have some serious cap room to play with– the opportunity (or danger?) to go out and entice a major free agent or two is there. Of course, most Rangers fans start getting anxious at the thought of Glen Sather having a blank cheque book. Sather’s Achilles heel is his free agency history.
Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman represent the key to the Rangers spending ability this summer. The upcoming free agency period is absent of legitimate options on the blueline, unless you’re happy to over commit to 36 year or 37 year olds. With Girardi and Stralman (hopefully) under wraps the Rangers retain one of the deepest defensive units in the league, allowing them to focus any spending up front, where there could be a few quality players available.
With a 2014-15 cap ceiling projected to be around $71 million, the Rangers currently have around $29 million space without factoring any of their necessary moves. With just ten players under contract beyond this season, the Rangers do have a lot of work to do. Even with assumed pay rises to Callahan, Girardi and co., there figures to be real space to play with when taking a guy such as Brad Richards off the books. Here’s where it gets exciting or concerning, depending on your disposition.
How would Thomas Vanek look like in Ranger blue? How about Paul Statsny replacing Brad Richards up front? Could you warm to a guy such as Derek Roy adding depth down the middle? The obvious risks are that it’s a seller’s market and prices (as usual) will be inflated. That’s assuming the better alternatives even make it to the July free-for-all. The last time the Rangers made a bold double summer splash it ended in disastrous style as Chris Drury wore down quickly and Scott Gomez turned into a disaster one year in to his tenure.
With the Rangers boasting arguably the best goaltender in the business, and assuming an intact defensive unit able to go toe to toe with any club in the league, imagine the Rangers added some real talent in the summer. The Rangers window to contend is open.
Free agency of course represents a big risk, but it also doesn’t strip a franchise of future-building draft picks. With the salary cap only going up (thank you, Stadium Series), the Rangers deep pockets are back in play. Nobody is saying the Rangers should turn a blind eye to their prospects, but there’s an opportunity for the Rangers to go for it all this summer.
Imagine for a moment a top nine comprising Kreider – Stepan – Nash, Vanek – Statsny – Callahan, and Hagelin – Brassard – Zuccarello. While the likes of the Penguins and Blackhawks may have the best individual talent on their top lines – thanks to countless lottery picks – can any club shutdown that kind of top nine?
Mass acquisition of this kind may not be likely or well advised (because of the necessary commitments in a weak market) but with some careful planning the Rangers have an opportunity to go for it all this summer. Food for thought.