Of course the Rangers are linked to Matt Beleskey because, well, aren’t the Rangers linked to every single free agent and trade candidate? This year’s prime buyer beware candidate is Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey who will officially test free agency and was actually ranked by several media outlets as the top free agent forward available. That he is ranked numero uno to some speaks volumes about this season’s weak free agent market and is one reason why the Rangers shouldn’t conduct any major roster surgery through free agency.
Beleskey actually would be a nice addition for the Rangers. He has size, he’s physical and he has suddenly discovered a scoring touch but he’s a classic free agency risk. He shot around 15% this regular season which is unsustainable (especially given his career 8% mark) and yet he still ‘only’ potted 22 goals in 65 games during the regular season. Considering Marty St Louis and his 21 goals are being chased out of New York City it’s hard to see why you would overpay for a guy that has had plenty of ice time with one of the league best tandems (Perry and Getzlaf) in recent years and hasn’t yet truly broken out.
Beleskey has never had more than 11 goals in a season before this year. This was his first year of 30 or more points and yet when he hits the market he may realistically command $4m per year on a multi-year deal. Yikes. But back to the Rangers. Beleskey is just one example why the Rangers should exercise caution. Yes, no assets were harmed/lost in the making of free agency but the Rangers need to be careful with their dollars, their cap situation is precarious. Even with the cap figure topping out at $71.4m (yay for Rangers fans).
The Rangers have done a good job in recent years of gradually inserting youth into the line-up and as such it’s a relatively young line-up with an in-his-prime, all-world goaltender. There’s no need to chase a quick fix, nor does the roster need major surgery. Free agency needs to be used for the right reasons. If the Rangers can go find another Matt Hunwick, or a physical third line forward with a scoring touch (that comes at an affordable cost) then they should do it but caution is the key word in all of this.
Everyone seems to have confidence in Glen Sather when trades are the order of the day but everyone reaches for the bottle when the Rangers approach free agency. Sather needs to show caution this year more than most years because the current on ice product is good. It is. It’s a contender. But in a league that swears by parity, a reckless free agency and a handful of roster mistakes can mean significant regression. This is why buyer beware is more important now than ever.
In an offseason where Adam McQuaid (a solid but hardy inspiring defenseman) is one of the better defenseman available – ugh – the Rangers need to shop carefully. Matt Hunwick is again a good example. An unheralded, cheap, not signed one minute past free agency opening, player that proved to be a valuable asset and depth player, the type of which successful teams have in their ranks.
The Rangers need to remember that this roster came close for the second year in a row. Some teams (consider the 80’s Oilers) take a while before reaching the summit. Free agency is sexy, it’s fun and it offers oodles of hope to the uneducated masses but it is also littered with examples of bad investments. The Rangers don’t need much and that’s a good thing. In a year when the term buyer beware has never been more meaningful, it’s time for the Rangers to exercise caution.