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 is capable of killing 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. He figures to be a healthy scratch for much of the 2013-2014 season.
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.