In the aftermath of the free agent frenzy of last Tuesday, it appears that a lot of you (and us, actually) have some pretty strong feelings, mostly negative. Given that Glen Sather is working with a $69M cap hit and roughly every single Ranger succumbing to free agency, I won’t sit here and make a case or assign a grade to one day of a lengthy offseason. We lost a lot, sure, but I’m a huge proponent of the old idea of addition by subtraction. But who was subtracted that’ll hurt the most?
This week has been chock full of articles about how badly we’ll miss Brian Boyle and what a dope Sather was to let him walk. In a perfect world, we keep Boyle and Dominic Moore together on the penalty kill to continue their magic (and their magical bromance when the situation arose). There’s no denying that Boyle played well throughout the playoffs, and for once, the playoffs were a long, joyous time of winning. But we have to think before that, and we have to think about terms, which is something we often don’t do when we have a predisposed feeling about a player.
Boyle remembered his 6’7, 240 pound frame just before the playoffs began. Before that, he played small. He played afraid of the front of the net. People cite the Chris Neil shot in the 2012 playoffs which led to a concussion as the reason for this, and those are likely the same people who cite Rick Nash’s concussions as a reason that the goal-scorer can’t quite drive the net as hard as he once did. Forgive me, but when you’re a fourth line winger with all that size (read: grinder) and a third line finesse winger is getting more netside real estate than you are, you don’t deserve to stay on your own terms with no regard for the cap or the team. Boyle was extremely valuable to the team, but it seems he was more interested in getting paid. Do I blame him? Not one bit. But he certainly isn’t the one I’ll miss the most.
Anton Stralman is a good defenseman. The teams’ resident hip checker, Stralman typically flew under the Rangers fanbase radar, which is a good thing for a defenseman. At the right price, he would’ve made for a great re-sign. But for what he received from Tampa, no way. We’ll miss him, but we’ll miss everyone who left the team, as the team went very far this year. Same goes for Benoit Pouliot, a player who finally came into his own under the right offensive pairing and the right coaching. For these two, you can only wish them successful, healthy careers and hope for them that they play halfway as well as they’re being paid to play.
If the only players we lose are those lost on July 1, then the player that I miss the most is Brad Richards. Richards played like he had something to prove throughout the season, the perfect ‘in your face’ to former coach John Tortorella who, admittedly, was between a rock and a brick wall against Boston last year. Without Richards’ performance this year, the Rangers might not win a game to open the season. With 82 games to play in a season, you need every single game, and Richards has the leadership qualities to know that.
Ultimately, despite appreciating Richards’ efforts, his contract was just not viable. With so many players going to free agency, it was basically impossible to keep Richards around. His postseason play was abysmal (how many times did you scream “get Richie off the point!!” during the power play?), but short of him winning the Conn Smythe, he was a goner. Maybe the Rangers should see what they can do about Nash’s NMC so that their backs aren’t against a wall for the next several years, but having two enormous contracts is just not doable.
Richards might do a great job this year in Chicago. He seems to do well when he has to prove himself. But 1 year/$2M is much more affordable for the Blackhawks than anything the Rangers were facing. For that, I wish him the best of luck – til the playoffs, of course."Breakup Aftermath: Who do we Miss the Most?",