Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Rangers are Centering their Hopes

Yesterday at noon marked the beginning of a big day for the NHL. That is the time when teams officially start bidding on the players they think can best help them on their quest for the Stanley Cup.

There was a time when this was a golden opportunity for the New York Rangers to open up that check book and just throw money at whichever player they wanted. This gave them an advantage over nearly every team in the NHL, but in this post lockout NHL they are going to have to be a little smarter with their spending habits.

The NHL announced Friday that the salary cap for the 2007/08 season would be set at $50.3 million. This number is about $40 million less than the Rangers payroll after the Jagr trade ($91 million) during the 2003/04 season and would leave them with about $23 million to spend going into the up-coming season. This forces them to be smart with their money instead of just wasting it on players like Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis.

But with just $23 million to spend the Rangers are still interested in resigning free agents Brendan Shanahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Petr Prucha, Sean Avery, and Marcel Hossa. Lundqvist is looking at getting about $5 million, Shanahan is rumored to be around $2, and the other three earned a little over $2 million combined but should expect some kind of a bump in pay. This probably leaves the Rangers with around $12-13 million to fill holes and maneuver their roster.

What are the holes that need to be filled? Well the most obvious is addressing their need for both a 1st and 2nd line center-man. While Michael Nylander remains a high priority resigning, he may have out-priced himself as their main target. In fact he may have dropped to 3rd or 4th on their list. The other attractive options are likely Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, and to a lesser extent Daniel Briere all three are expected to receive at least $6 million each in deals.

With only about $12 million to spend and a need for two centers the Rangers are getting creative. The blue-shirts are not delusional to think that these guys will have a hard time finding top dollar on the market, but they do however think that money may not be the only thing they care about. In a complete reversal of their spending habits of the past 10 years the Rangers will try to lure them here with less money. That’s right, according to the NY Post the team will attempt to draw both Drury and Gomez to 7th avenue by convincing them that the best chance they have at the cup is in Tandem at the Garden. There is no word on how much less they are going to offer, but should they both sign at near estimated costs that would leave the team with little or no room to make any further maneuvers.

However there appear to be few other major holes. The Rangers may consider adding a blue-liner after releasing Karl Rachunek. This might not be necessary as they do have Marc Staal waiting in the wings in Hartford. Marc is the middle of the three Staal brothers, Eric was part of the Carolina Stanley Cup champion team and Jordan was part of last years exciting Pittsburgh team.

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