Found July 01, 2012 on The Prospect Park:
Me Not Crazy Yet
So here we sit fans of the New York Rangers waiting for the beginning of the second most overhyped and overrated days in the NHL calendar. July 1st otherwise known as the start of unrestricted free agency in the NHL.

Ranger fans expect the Rangers to make big move after big move while at the same time praying that the move does not backfire on them. Forgive me as I don't think any other sport in North America makes as big a deal about free agency as hockey does.

It just seems that so many people put so much emphasis on July 1 that if teams don't land the big free agents that their season is already a failure. Landing the biggest names in free agency has rarely ever translated into turning teams into the Stanley Cup winning teams.

Most free agents tend to struggle during their first year after signing the monster contract which is a major reason why I just don't get excited over it.

I am a firm believer in the saying "it's not how much money you spend, but rather how well you spend it." I also wonder how the NHL could say that the salary cap is up to $70.2 million loudly while whispering "only until we work out a new collective bargaining agreement."

It makes me feel kind of nervous because what happens if, when they do settle the collective bargaining agreement that the salary cap drops say $3-$4 million?

And as a long-time Ranger fan, I believe the scars still haven't healed from all those horrible free-agent signings of days past. It just leaves me feeling very nervous whenever I see somebody getting one of those 10 year contracts.

And to this day I still cringe when I remember the Rangers signing somebody like a Bobby Holik who never talked about how he chose the Rangers because they offered him the best chance at winning a Stanley Cup.

That's why when I saw that Edmonton had signed Justin Schultz, I actually was happy that he didn't wind up a Ranger. I may not like John Tortorella's system or his coaching methods but there is a part that I love the hell out of.

I do love the fact that Tortorella has this team playing for each other, putting the team first, and putting personal glory behind team success. When the Rangers sign a free-agent I want to see that player saying he chose the Rangers because they offered him the best chance at winning, not because they offered the most money.

What's really funny is that the moment that Schultz announced who he would sign with that the comparisons to Matt Gilroy and other free-agent college players began. Sure, we can call a lot of those comments sour grapes, but at the same time one thing is true.

Justin Schultz has a lot to prove now and while I don't wish him bad, I do want to see what happens when the Oilers play in Anaheim.

So what should the Rangers do?

The Rangers have addressed the need for a Ranger backup goalie but what about Hartford? Will Jason Missiaen and Scott Stajcer hold up spots four and five on the Ranger goalie depth chart?

They qualified Cam Talbot which basically puts him in the drivers seat for the Hartford starters job but what happens if anything happens to either Henrik or Marty? Would John Tortorella have the confidence to use Talbot?

Which move should they go for next? Solidifying the defense or looking to add offense?

Defense

Girardi- McDonagh
Staal- Del Zotto

Wild cards- Erixon, McIlrath, and Michael Sauer

By rights, you have to think that Tim Erixon has learned enough to step in to an NHL role. Yes he is young but expecting him to at least win a third pair spot is reasonable.

Even before he hurt his knee, Dylan McIlrath was a long shot to make the Rangers directly from the juniors. This is not a put down on McIlrath, but rather realizing that he's just 20 years old and there should be no reason to rush him.

Michael Sauer is "progressing" which can be interpreted 100 different ways so in my book, I would be preparing not to have him for at least half the season. If he shows up sooner then it's a bonus and you worry about that when it happens.

RFA- Anton Stralman

It's a cold, cruel world out there and bluntly Stralman had a good second half, and a decent run in the playoffs. If he's trying to use playing in Sweden as a means to get a multi-year contract, then sorry.

Stralman must remember that the Rangers gave him a chance to play in the NHL after Columbus cut him loose. If he wants a two-year deal say kind of like the one Marty Biron signed then sure I can live with that as it makes Stralman a good insurance policy, as well as an attractive trade candidate down the road.

UFA- Stu Bickel

If you would've said last year at this time that Stu Bickel would have spent most of last year playing with the Rangers; odds are good, most people would've laughed at you. The question now is, can the Rangers count on Bickel making enough forward progress to use him all game long?

It's not like he's gonna make a lot of money but for 800,000, I would sign him and use him as a 7th defender or spare enforcer.

Forwards

UFAs- Fedotenko, Mitchell and Prust

Here I'm glad that I'm not having to make the call on these three because honestly, each one offered me a reason why not to keep him.

Fedotenko is 33, was invisible for most of the season but raised his game during the playoffs. The Rangers could use his character, as well as his ability to be slotted in any position during an emergency.

But otherwise he's a fourth liner/Black Ace not worth 1.4 million. John Mitchell had a great start when he was called up during the midseason.

As as time wore on, Mitchell just did not show forward progress and during the playoffs gave them almost nothing. Easy to replace, so let him walk.

Brandon Prust is very popular with Ranger fans as well as it seems members of the media. But Brandon Prust is not worth 2 million a year for several years.

People I fear are forgetting that during the playoffs Prust would play good one game then brutally bad the next. You're ready on the hook for 1.5 for Mike Rupp who's bigger and in the playoffs was better.

I could see giving Prust a minimal raise up to maybe 1.1 million for two years but anything more than that and I have to say thank you for your service to the Rangers goodbye.

Who do you target?

The easy way is to target the highest priced free agents on the market which has been what the Rangers have done over the years. It's not always worked and has done more harm than good.

If you go strictly by points per game, then here is your list of targets. If you are going to target if you are going to target specific areas like power play scoring then here is your list of targets.

One also has to remember that Wade Redden's salary is added back onto the summer cap for the Rangers as as well. I seem to dream a lot and my dream is that the Rangers target players based upon how well they fit into John Tortorella system not their personal stats.

I dream that the Rangers don't spend every available penny they have and save something for a trade down the road. The Rangers have a good thing going and instead of tearing everything apart; look for pieces that will fit inside the puzzle.

If you give me a choice then I want Ryan Suter not Zach Parise. I would rather make a trade for Ryan Getzlaf than sign a free agent forward.

Let me keep the door open in the hope that the JT Miller or Christian Thomas can make the team in training camp. And most of all I want to keep the forward progress that the franchise has made keep moving forward.

Failing that I just pray that Sunday doesn't bore me to death.



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