This will be the first part of a multi-post discussion about the decisions of General Manager Glen Sather. Sather has come under some real heat lately, as the Rangers are in what appears to be a free fall, and have no cap room to make any adjustments. The highest paid players on the Rangers have been, to be delicate, disappointing. Sather’s strength during his tenure with the Rangers has been his ability to make trades, but this does not overshadow his weakness of evaluating the market and making the best decision for the team. In this series, I will analyze where Sather went wrong, and where he lost the fans.
It was the 2008 offseason. The Rangers, in desperate need of a powerplay quarterback, were going to be key players in the free agent market. Brian Campbell was available, and at the time, the clear cut best defenseman available. Wade Redden was coming off a few poor seasons in Ottawa, but was still a premiere free agent, and was poised to get a decent sized contract. There was also Mark Streit, who was coming off a career year in Montreal, putting up 62 points in his breakout season with the Habs.
There were several problems with the Rangers decision with the Redden signing. The most glaring was the contract length and size. However, the most important, and often most overlooked, was that they chose a player based on his name and not on his past production, especially post-lockout. After a career year in 2005-2006, Redden was on a severe decline, and not just in numbers. He was getting beat by younger, faster players who were finally given free reign to skate. His production dipped, and he was booed right out of Ottawa.
Streit, on the other hand, tripled his production from 2005-2006 to 2006-2007, and doubled that in 2007-2008. All told, from his rookie year to his free agent year, Streit’s numbers improved by 600%. Streit was also going to fly under the radar, as he entered the NHL late at age 28, and was surely going to be overshadowed by the free agencies of Redden and Brian Campbell.
We all know what happened next. The Rangers went with Redden at six years at $39.5 million, and Streit later signed with the Islanders for almost half that price, at four years and $20 million. The results, of course, have been well publicized on both ends. Streit had another great year, putting up 56 points for an Islander team that finished dead last in the NHL. He also finished as a +6 for a team that essentially had no goaltender all year. Just to put some more salt in the wound, he also finished with a +18.4 GVT that season. Redden has been a disappointment so far during his tenure in New York, with a GVT 14 goals lower than Streit (+4.4), and a GVS (Goals Versus Salary) of -18.1, which was third worst in the league.
Where would the Rangers be with Streit’s production and an extra $1.5 million in cap space? It’s tough to tell. This is a basic correlation vs. causality argument. Redden is not the cause of the Rangers defensive woes, but there certainly is some correlation between his exorbitant contract, his minuscule production, and the poor team defense.
The Rangers face a tough offseason in 2010. There are some key RFA’s that need to be resigned, specifically Marc Staal, and the current cap situation is not alleviating the problem. Sather won’t be able to fleece another GM into taking a large contract. These signing mistakes are going to have long term ramifications that we haven’t even seen yet.