At the end of last month I did something I never thought I would do and which was to advise Glen Sather to go out and spend money on a free agent. The caveat of course being this was not a high priced NHL free agent but rather an undrafted free agent playing for the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL, Brandon Manning. Manning is the Captain of the Bruins and as a 20 year old defenseman is tearing apart the WHL so far this season with 10 goals, 16 assists, a plus 5 rating and 57 penalty minutes in just 20 games. In writing that article just over three weeks ago I finished it by saying the following:
I do not ask Glen Sather for much in terms of things I actually want him to go out and spend money on but this player is one I will. Manning will undoubtedly win his bet on himself and make more than he would have signing in camp, but that number is only increasing daily so time to pony up before someone else does.
Fast forward three weeks to the other day when I was writing about the scoring race among Rangers prospects and in discussing manning I talked about how someone reminded me not to get too excited about him until he actually signed, but that I could not help it. I went on, “When you see a player playing as well as Manning is this season and your team has the potential to sign him you have to get excited even if it means you are disappointed if it falls through.” This morning both my worry of three weeks ago and the reality of the disappointment would become crystalized as it was announced that Brandon Manning signed a three year contact with another club and if that was not bad enough it would have to be the Philadelphia Flyers. If those things were not bad enough the figures from capgeek twist the knife a little deeper as the 3 year deal is worth a grand total of 2.145 million and a cap hit of 715K a year.
I know that some Rangers fans will tell me he is just a player in Juniors and who knows what will come of him and that the Rangers have plenty of defensive prospects. All of those things are true, but when you have the ability to sign a player with his upside, especially for a very reasonable sum, you have to take that chance every time. The Rangers do possess a number of defensive prospects, but as I wrote just three days ago, “If this young man does sign with the Rangers he easily becomes the Rangers best defensive prospect as he is the most complete of all of them and would climb the rankings to maybe be the best prospect overall they have right now.” The Rangers possess a myriad of defensive prospects who all have their own specialties, but there is not one prospect in this system that has the total package Brandon Manning possesses in his ability offensively, defensively, leadership and even fighting.
As much as people talk about the huge blunders that Sather has made over the years in the draft or free agency, moves like these hurt just as much long term even if they are sparsely covered or talked about. Just sad to see a rival organization like the Flyers run better than the Rangers are and then people wonder why their results on the ice are better too.