As the third day of free agency begins, it’s hard to see how the Rangers have improved so far this summer.
GM Glen Sather has watched many of his depth players depart via free agency and has spent only $3.5 million total on a fourth-liner and a seventh defenseman.
But it’s a long offseason.
Sather remains engaged in trade talks with Columbus regarding 28-year-old left wing Rick Nash and is still surely targeting several unrestricted free agents, one of which is likely Shane Doan, who has a number of contending suitors ready to duel for his services should Phoenix’s ownership situation remain unresolved by Monday.
Though pickings are slim on the free agent market, there’s still a very strong chance that Sather will make a couple of significant moves in the coming days and weeks.
But for a moment, perhaps we should step back and consider the Rangers’ roster as currently constructed.
Obviously there are a few holes that must be filled by prospects or mercenaries, but for the most part, New York is in a pretty enviable position.
It’s easy to imagine “what if?” scenarios given how close the Blueshirts got to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, but the reality is that the organization is way, way ahead of schedule.
There’s no rush to add that one missing piece today, tomorrow, or even this summer.
While there’s certainly an argument to be made that the Rangers are built to win now while Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist are in their primes, each still has at least a few strong seasons left, if not more.
Even in the wildest dreams of Rangers’ executives, 2011-2012 was not expected to be a contending year and 2012-2013 would have been the very start of the window of opportunity.
Sather should absolutely do his due diligence and make inquiries on Nash, Bobby Ryan, Keith Yandle and a host of other superstars. Any playoff team should.
But Sather should not feel pressured or rushed into making a move. Thus far he’s held up very well and there have been no indications that he’ll make a panic deal.
And why should he? Sather holds a number of chips. He knows he already has a playoff caliber roster featuring the best goalie in the world, arguably the best top-four group of defensemen in the league, a couple of superstars up front and a young core that still has plenty of room for improvement.
Sather has the means to pull the trigger on a deal for Nash, but he doesn’t have to. There will be other big names that come on the market and may make more sense for the Blueshirts both from a financial standpoint and that require lesser pieces in a return package. While Columbus knows it has to dump Nash, Sather by no means has to cooperate with Jackets GM Scott Howson.
And if that means the Rangers enter the season without any major improvements, so be it. The Rangers are still poised to be a solid playoff team and if things go well, there’s no reason they couldn’t surprise again just as they did last season.
Chris Kreider could become a 30-goal scorer in short order, Derek Stepan has only begun to scratch the surface of his offensive ability, Ryan Callahan has just recently established himself as a fearsome scoring threat, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov are both capable of far more production, Ryan McDonagh is emerging as a future All-Star, Michael Del Zotto is slowly developing into a deadly weapon from the blueline and the list goes on and on.
Sather knows all this and even if you believe that is a very glass-half full attitude, remember that New York’s core group is the envy of the league.
If Sather can’t get the player he wants at a reasonable price now and still deems a major acquisition necessary, then he’ll have plenty of chances to bring in another big fish in six months or next summer. But he shouldn’t feel obligated to make a splash because the Blueshirts are on the rise, with or without a major addition.