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Free agency: day one recap

Entering the first day of free agency it was widely thought that the Rangers would seek to upgrade their offense and add a depth defender.

Instead, the Blueshirts added grit on July 1st while watching several of their own free agents depart for greener pastures.

Here’s what went down on Sunday.


Brandon Prust – It was disappointing to see the fan favorite go, but in the end GM Glen Sather made the right decision to let Prust cash in with a four-year, $10 million contract to play for the Montreal Canadiens.  Prust was a very valuable soldier in his three seasons with the Blueshirts and will be missed, but his offensive production simply doesn’t warrant that kind of financial compensation.

John Scott – The hulking pugilist came over from Chicago at the trade deadline in exchange for a fifth-round pick and proceeded to play all of six games with New York.  It was obvious that he wouldn’t be retained and he’ll likely continue to be a fringe NHLer for Buffalo, where he signed for one-year, $600k.

John Mitchell – The versatile forward earned himself a solid payday after working his way back to the NHL with the Rangers in 2011-2012 following a stint in the minor leagues.  Mitchell has to be thrilled with the two-year, $2.2 million contract he received from Colorado and is truly a feel good story after almost seeing his NHL career come to an end following his demotion by Toronto in 2010-2011.   Mitchell was an effective player for the Rangers, but is easily replaceable.

Chad Johnson – The 26-year-old goalie was snapped up by Phoenix, joining an ever-increasing stockpile of recycled Rangers acquired by Coyotes GM Don Maloney.  Johnson seemed to fall out of favor with New York this year and was surpassed by Cam Talbot, who will retain the starting job with the Whale this year.

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault – Perhaps the worst news of the day for the Rangers came when J.A.M. inked an Entry Level deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Audy-Marchessault was a terrific discovery by the Rangers’ amateur scouting staff and proceeded to finish tied for 10th in the AHL in scoring as a rookie with 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists).  The Rangers wanted badly to sign Audy-Marchessault, but the 21-year-old likely saw a clearer path to the NHL with the thin Blue Jackets and preferred that opportunity.  Audy-Marchessault had established himself as a legitimate prospect, so it’s too bad the Rangers won’t be able to see their fruits of their labor.


Stu Bickel – A John Tortorella favorite, the Rangers agreed to terms with the 25-year-old depth defenseman shortly after the free agent period opened.  Bickel signed a very reasonable two-year, $1.5 million contract and will likely serve as a seventh defenseman and emergency forward, much as he did in 2011-2012.  Bickel is obviously not a flashy player, but he brings physicality and plays a simple game, two things the Rangers value on defense.

Arron Asham – The 34-year-old right wing joined the Rangers for a two-year, $2 million deal, completing his tour of the Atlantic Division.  Asham was clearly viewed as a more affordable replacement for Prust and should be capable of filling a similar role.  Though he’s proven to be a borderline dirty player, Asham is actually a solid skater and is very effective on the forecheck.  Like Prust, he can kill penalties and is no stranger to dropping the gloves.  Still, it’s a bit puzzling that the Blueshirts offered Asham a greater deal than favorite BSB target Zenon Konopka received from Minnesota (two-years, $1.85 million).

Micheal Haley – Apparently not satisfied with adding two enforcers, the Rangers inked the former New York Islanders goon to a two-year deal.  Financial terms have not yet been reported, but it is believed that the first year of Haley’s contract is a two-way deal and the second year is strictly an NHL contract.  Haley will likely spend the season in Connecticut acting as a bodyguard for some of New York’s prized prospects, but he’ll inevitably join the club for some rivalry games.

Kris Newbury – The Rangers were obviously pleased with the veteran leadership of Newbury in Connecticut and moved swiftly to re-sign him to a two-year, two-way deal.  Newbury has showed that he can handle spot duty in the NHL, so this was really a no-brainer of a move for the Blueshirts.

July 1st may have seemed like a puzzling day for Rangers fans, but it’s important to remember that this was only the beginning of a long summer of roster retooling.  New York is still keenly interested in acquiring Rick Nash and it sounds as though Columbus is inching closer to pulling the trigger on a deal.  There are still other players the Rangers may choose to pursue on the trade market and a handful of other free agents that may interest the club.

So while the additions of Asham and Haley may not address the organization’s greatest areas of need, that doesn’t mean Sather isn’t still actively working the phones and could make significant changes in the coming days.

You can expect more activity today and throughout the week and it’s a solid bet that the Blueshirts will be heard from again, possibly with a major splash.

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  • Couple of comments. I dont think Asham has and PK ability. dont think he has ever played any time of PK role before and doubt he does. That being said, we still have enough FW to cover the hole left by Prust on the PK.

    Yes I would rather of had Konopka. But who is to say Slats didn’t offer him a deal and he chose the other figuring he would not be a 4th line player like he would have been at NYR.

    • Re Asham: Not much last year, but prior to that he certainly did. 24 seconds a game in 2010-2011, :46 in 2009-2010, 1:10 in 2008-2009, etc. Wouldn’t call it the strong part of his game, but he can do it.

      • Well I stand corrected about his past but looking at how much it has diminished I bet it has to do with foot speed. He is not fast enough to be put on the PK.

    • I don’t think it’s greed. For all we know the Rangers only offered 3 years at $1.75 million per year (Boyle money). The Canadiens essentially doubled that offer.

      • Can’t fault a guy for trying to cash in. This was his best chance to make real money in his life, most of us would have jumped at it.

        • Agreed. He will never have another chance to get such awesome payday. Good for Prusty but I will miss him.

      • And its not just money per year, its term. He is set for that amount of time in case he gets injured. And the type of game he plays that’s important.

    • Rob

      If the Canadians wanted to give you $10 million over four years, would you take it? Your damn right you would! This isn’t greed, if the Canadians are that stupid, then Prust is smart enough to take the money, and run. I love the guy, and won’t failt him for this contract. People calling him names drives me nuts, because you would do the same thing given an opportunity to do so. Enough of this greedy crap, just wish him the best, and get over it!

      • Eh, Walt, there is such a thing as loyalty to an organization that gave you a role that you hadn’t been offered before. What did Prust do in Calgary? Who ever noticed him? The Rangers gave him the role that allowed him to make a name for himself in the League. I can’t really fault Prust for chasing the money, but I don’t fault fans for expecting a little more loyalty out of the organization’s players. This unit of foot-soldiers seemed to bond well together, and I doubt Prust will have a better chance to hoist the Cup with Montreal than NY. His ultimate loss in the end. I, personally, would have loved to see him stay, and feel that NY should have been where he wanted to stay, but alas…

        • a little more loyalty wouldn’t have kept him. it’s not like we’re talking about a 5% raise here. for ten million bucks i’d even play for the islanders. sorry guys!

          • Chris F

            Same here as wwpd replyed!

            As for loyality, this sets Prust up for life, and that my friend is what counts.

            I’ve been a Ranger fan for over 50 years, and the team hasn’t always shown loyality to their players over the years. Brian Leetch anyone?

        • Loyalty to an organisation? You can tell the stories about that to Brian Leetch! Prust did the best thing for him!
          Sather doesn’t do the business for love or loyalty. He does it for money! It’s just the way it is…

      • not bashing porust for taking money but i would not take money for my employment services if i think i didnt deserve it prust is a good 4th line player not great and i can understand him chasing the cash because its his last shot at a big salary but it comes to a point in a players life the money is always going to be there every year in free agency but a chance at winning a stanley cup does not come that often just ask shane doan who is stuck in phoenix because he wants to win there instead of chasing the money

  • I would have preferred Konopka, but Asham played with Rupp in Pitt, so that’s probably why they targeted him after Prust priced himself out of NY.

  • Good morning boneheads!!

    Sorry to hear about JAM. I thought we might get a look at him this year. Very quiet day for the blueshirts. Let see what today brings, looks to me the only real player we are in on is Nash.

    Is this going to be the player that makes the difference for the Rangers?

  • I’m sorry to hear that the Rangers are going after Nash. I really thought this team just needed tweaking since they made it to the conference finals. You cannot create chemistry on a sports team. When you find it, you should hang on for dear life because you never know when you will see it again.

    • @Sally:
      The team has no offense. They need to add a significant scoring asset or the team will have an uphill battle to even repeat the succes they had last year. Especially with Gabby on IR until the winter.

      • If they want one of our top four defenseman, then we are right back where we started unless Sauer is back and healthy.

    • But to add Nash there will be significant subtraction in terms of players. The defense COULD suffer; the offense could suffer; so nobody can predict success by adding Nash. I would rather see NY rely on Kreider; a rebound season for Dubi, Step, and Boyle – and bring in JT Miller and C Thomas. Forget NASH. Maybe that last option is why Haley and Asham were added !

      • To play devil’s advocate here, you say “could” a lot. But what if it doesn’t? What if the only roster player going is Anisimov or Hagelin?

        Big what-ifs, but there’s two sides to this.

        • If we were trading Hagelin, AA, and prospects/picks, then we would still be making out. I don’t think people understand how good Rick Nash is and how bad the talent was around him. You can’t go by his past point totals. He would be an automatic 80-100 pt guy in NY.

          • I love the comment “people don’t understand how good Nash”. He is a play who’s production has went down for the last 3 years and he has an absolute salary cap destroying contract, to boot you have to give up assets to get him. Sure he’s had poor talent around him but lets call it like it is he’s got a top 5 NHL contract when his production puts him at a top six forward. Additionally the only time the guy has won anything is on international teams when he’s 5th or 6th option, so essentially the only automatic proven is he can win when surrounded by better players.

  • IMO- day one went pretty well. I was worried when Sather said he would be “aggressivw in free agency”, because everyone is being horribly overpaid. Thankfully he showed restraint in signing/re-signing playera to replace Prust’s fighting role on the team.

    In reality, the trade market is where Slats needs to work his magic right now. The team is in reach of the CUP and has plenty of talent to move.

    • Spending $1 million on his roster so far is pretty conservative. People always complain about putting his checkbook away…he did just that.

  • Sign Alex Semin for a short term deal, in the 4 million range and pack it in for the summer. I hate Asham now, but I also hated Mike Rupp. Enforcers have a way of irritating you until they play on your team (their dirtiness becomes slightly vague then). Semin is a low risk signing with a huge upside and if we wait for Shane Doan to relize Phoenix is a sinking ship we may have lost any oppurtunity to sign anyone, not to mention we would lose all leverage for a trade, once the last FA signs and we have no positive additions, Howson’s demands will get greater. Ink Semin that way we do not absolutely need Nash..

    Question… Does McIlrath and Erixon make the team out of camp? Or are they going to mathc whatever offer comes in on Stralman? Our bottom pairing is up in the air, but we have some nice internal options.

    • Disagree with you Mark, adding Semin would be like adding Zherdev. Soft inconsistant playor could never play in the Tortorella system. I say persue Bobby Ryan for a fair price.

    • Mark: It’s a good point on the “dirtiness” factor.
      Don’t think there’s any chance of Semin in NY.
      McIlrath no. Erixon should have a great chance. Stralman is going back to Sweden.

      • Too bad on Stralman, I felt like he had one of those post seasons that could give some moentum to nice 2012 campaign.

        I agree that Semin isnt a torts guy and very similar to Zherdev, but Semin is just money, wheres Ryan is players and money. Don’t get me wrogn would rather Ryan then Semin by a lot, but i fear that Anaheim is going to ask and get a lot for Bobby Ryan.

        Hope to see the Rangers a little more active in the talks over the next few days, but honestly doubtful much will get done on our end

  • Erixon yes, McIlrath needs one more season.

    JT Miller should be given a shot at making this team, he would be an improvement over Mitchell. I wouldn’t be too suprised if the kid from Slovkia, Hrivil, who played for a short time with the Whale late in the season, doesn’t make the tea as well.

  • Why is everyone counting out McIlrath??? With the success we have had bringing in young D men I would not be one bit surprised if he makes it some time this season.

  • Don’t forget Shane Doan is out there. He would also be a good fit for the Rangers, and he won’t cost us any core players.

    He just might be the the perfect player to make a deal with. He is a top 6 forward, that can score, and play in a Tort’s system.

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