If the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup wasn’t motivation enough (it is), several Rangers have additional motivation to step up and perform against the Los Angeles Kings starting Wednesday night.
Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard have been the Rangers most consistent forward line all season, and all three go into the Cup Final looking to earn extended stays with the Rangers. Zuccarello in particular can be considered a foregone conclusion. For the little Norwegian, it’s now about how big can he make his next deal and that is a strong motivator.
Brassard and Pouliot’s talent and relative success should make them both Rangers beyond this summer, but a strong Finals series would also give them a strong position to negotiate from. Worst case scenario, they’re entering hockey’s biggest shop window. Pouliot in particular would like to earn a multi-year deal from someone.
It doesn’t stop there with regard to free agency. This Rangers team chose a great season to make a Cup run, as Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle have had exceptionally strong postseasons, forming two-thirds of one of the best fourth lines in the game. At least one of them should be back. With free agency looming, they have the chance to squeeze a few more dollars out of Glen Sather. Like Pouliot, Boyle and Moore are unrestricted this summer so again, the shop window is pretty wide open right now.
Another player fighting for his future is of course, Brad Richards. Unsure of his future but likely headed for the exit, Richards is another who is surely auditioning for a new home. What better way to attract suitors than to be a difference maker in the Stanley Cup Finals? Richards could also begin to make a case for Hall of Fame consideration. Two Cups and a Conn Smythe? Stranger things have happened.
The roster is actually littered with players playing for their futures. Anton Stralman, Dan Carcillo and even Raphael Diaz are all heading into a summer of uncertainty bringing the total number of Rangers with a home to find up to nine, which is actually ten if you factor in the forgotten Justin Falk.
It’s not just about money though. Rick Nash wants people to believe he has the game to excel in the postseason. He too could put to bed concerns about his big game ability with a strong series against the Kings. Nash doesn’t need to be dominant, but he does need to score. It’s what he has been paid to do, and with an improved showing against the Canadiens in the books, Nash could continue his quest to shed the lingering question marks by helping the Rangers win Cup number five.
Personal pride is also on offer. Whether it’s the apparent best defenseman in the game Drew Doughty or Cup winning goaltender Jonathan Quick, key Rangers Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist have personal opportunities (read: duels) on tap. McDonagh could cement his place as a superstar defenseman by upstaging the impressive Doughty, while Lundqvist’s place at the top of the goalie pile would surely be without question if he can out-duel Quick and add a Cup to his impressive résumé.
Of course, all this is secondary. The Stanley Cup is the greatest prize in sport and one of, if not the hardest trophy to win. A shot at immortality is all that’s needed as motivation, but several players have even more to play for. That’s never a bad thing to have going for you. Motivation is one thing Coach Alain Vigneault isn’t going to need to find for his players. Besides, Vigneault has his own motivation: Getting that extra elusive win and his own Cup after his disappointment with Vancouver. Plenty of motivation to go round it seems."Plenty of motivation to be found throughout the Rangers",