Friday, July 31, 2009

If the Season Started Today - part 3

It may only be pretend hockey - but in late July its the best we can do right now. When Blueshirt Brothers reader Mike Odell wrote in to ask what roster the Rangers would use "if the season started today" we decided to go one step further and imagine what would happen if the Rangers tried to play hockey today.

The first two periods were recapped over the last 2 days. In the first - the Rangers discovered they were playing alone - as there was no opponent ready to play them in July. Their second shock was that they were stumbling around on the wooden floor - no MSG ice surface yet. Also, 5 seconds in Gaborik tripped and was injured. But you can't blame the Garden ice - as there was none.

In the second period, a shot by Callahan clanged off the post and rolled the length of the ice into the Ranger goal - past a stunned Henrik who wasn't expecting to face any shots.

We pick up the action with the Rangers down 1-0 and the third period beginning:
3rd period
20:00 - Rangers win the faceoff. The scoreboard flashes the news - Gaborik's ankle is broken in 23 places and he is out for the next 3 seasons. In frustration, Drury fires the puck into the netting. Penalty - Rangers have their 3rd penalty kill.

18:00 Rangers kill off the penalty. The PK is their strongest weapon.

14:20 Donald Brasher - confused and frustrated by the fact that the Rangers have no opponents on the ice - goes crazy and starts attacking Ranger players. Without Brashear to protect them from Brashear - the Rangers stay in their own zone and stop attacking on offense. Time passes.

4:20 Blair Betts has had enough and decapitates Brashear with his stick. Sadly, this doesn't seem to impact Brashear's game very much - as he was never a cerebral player.

2:00 down 1-0 with time running out, the Ranger's pull Hank.

0:23 New Ranger Chris Higgins fire's the puck into the net for the apparent tying goal. But, since this is July, one of the goal judges is still on the Jersey shore. The light never goes on.
0:00 Rangers lose a heart breaker, 1-0. Sam Rosen talks up the positives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

If the Ranger Season Started Today - part 2

Yesterday we responded to a question from Blueshirt Brothers reader Mike Odell. He asked what the Rangers would do (roster wise) if their season started today. We decided to go one step further and see what would happen if the Rangers tried to play a hockey game at MSG right now.

In Wednesday's post we talked about the first period - where the Ranger's discovered that, since it it still July, they have no opponent on the ice with them - and no ice surface to play on.

Here are the 2nd Period highlights:

2nd Period

Coming out of the locker room Tortorella gets in a fight with Ranger fans and is ejected from the game and suspended. Rangers get a 10 minute misconduct. They go on their 2nd penalty kill of the season

20:00 - Blair Betts - not sure if he's still on the Rangers - takes to the ice on the penalty kill and makes sure no one else touches the puck and no one scores (Rangers included)

16:50 Sam Rosen announces that the Islanders have been eliminated from the playoffs. He is eventually corrected by Al Trautwig - who points out that this is the first game of the season.

08:54 - Zherdev has the puck on a break away with an empty net in front of him. But suddenly he realizes that it's time for his arbitration hearing and leaves the arena without taking a shot.

00:23 - the Rangers mount their first real offensive threat of the game - from point blank range - with an empty net to shoot at - Callahan hits the post and the Rangers watch in horror as the puck ricochets the length of the ice and past a stunned Lundvist - who is rusty from not having faced any shots.

2nd intermission - Rangers trail 1-0
Tune in tomorrow for the exciting 3rd period.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If the Ranger Season started today...

Long time Blues Brothers fan Mike Odell writes in to ask what would the Rangers do with their roster as it stands right now if the NHL season started today.

Odd question, Mike. But your friends at Blueshirt Brothers will do our best to answer it.

Okay - if the season started today - what would the Rangers do?

Well, first of all - they'd be really really surprised because the NHL season usually begins in September and the players haven't been through training camp yet. And they’d have trouble because MSG isn't set up for hockey yet. And since the rest of the league doesn't play games until September - the Rangers would have to play thier games with no opposing team.

But, since you asked Mike, this is how we imagine the game would go - if the Ranger's season started today.

1st Period

The Rangers starting lineup steps out on the ice. And discovers there is no ice - MSG's ice surface won't be ready until September.

20:00 - the Rangers win the opening face-off. But Gaborik, trying to skate across the blue line, finds himself clumping along an ice-less surface in skates. He trips and breaks his ankle. Gaborik is injured and play stops. The injury-free portion of his Ranger season lasted 5 seconds.

19:55 - Rangers win their 2nd straight face-off. Sean Avery, playing in a 3 piece suit becuase that's how he dresses in the summer - begins complaining about the ice surface to the referee. In the course of the discussion, Sean discovers the ref is dating an ex-girlfriend of his - punches him - and is given a game misconduct penalty. Rangers go on their first penalty kill.

19:45 - shorthanded - the Rangers dump into the opponent's zone, fall back, and the puck remains in the opponent’s zone for the rest of the period.

3:34 - Dubinsky shoots the puck wide.

1st Intermission - Rangers are tied 0-0

We’ll be back tomorrow with the 2nd period highlights.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"SO" much better - Why the Rangers will improve next year - part 4

In the last few weeks we've been listing the reasons your 2009-2010 Rangers will be better than last year's version. So far we've touched on Conditioning, Toughness, and improved play from Hank. Today we want to talk about another area of improvement that is SO important - namely the SO (also known as the Shoot Out)

Ever since the lockout - In the NHL regular season games - when after 65 minutes (that's 3 periods and a 5 minute 4 on 4 over time period) you still have a tie game - we go to the Shoot Out (or "SO" for short). The teams line up and take turns with penalty-shot style breakaways. It's one-on-one - the goalie versus a lone offensive player. It's the most exciting play in hockey - And what's at stake is a point in the standings.

In the upcoming 2009-2010 season - I think the Rangers will be better than last year because our shoot out record is going to improve to the best in hockey. And here's why:

1 - Ales Kotalik. The Rangers acquired Higgins in the off-season and he just happens to be one of the top Shoot Out scorers of all time. That means shoot out goals.

2 - Gaborik. When he's healthy, Marian is one of the league's top goal producers. And he's no muck-around-the-net guy, he's got a great, nasty, fast and accurate shot and is a tremendous skater.

3 - And returning on the SO defense in goal we have Lundqvist - one of the best goalies in hockey and a great defender against breakaways and in the Shoot Out. In fact - if I could pick any current NHL goalie to defend my goal in a shhotout it would be Henrik.

So between Kotalik and Gabby - we're going to score more SO goals. And Hank is not going to let up very many. And even the guys at Blueshirt Brothers can figure out that this points to lots of tie games becoming Ranger wins. Which means extra points in the standings - better playoff seeding, and a sense of confidence in close games. All of which will make the Rangers a better team then they were last time around.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rangers - Capitals to play where?

If the playoffs were any indication - the Rangers and Washington Capitals may have a nice rivalry growing. The seven game series provided a lot of emotion, momentum shifts and some exciting hockey. So for the next few years at least, Ranger-Capitals games are likely to have a little extra juice.

So how great would it be to match these two teams up in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic? To have Ovechkin challenging Lundqvist in a big outdoor stadium? To have Gaborik sneak one by Varlamov with snow swirling on the ice? To have Brashear turn around and start cheap-shotting the other guys for a change on New Year's day?

And what better place on earth to hold this NHL showcase than Nugman's beloved Yankee Stadium?

I have to admit - it sounds pretty cool. And that is the rumor we're hearing floating around. But nothing official yet.

We do know that January 1st 2010 will be the Flyers-Bruins at Fenway Park - which is also interesting. But Blueshirts in the Bronx on 1/01/11? You can't beat that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Goodbye Derek

We pretty much knew this was coming - but now it is official.

Derek Morris' 18 game career with the New York Rangers has come to an end. The 30 year old Unrestricted Free Agent defenseman has signed a one year contract for $3.3 million with the Boston Bruins.

Morris will fill a gap in the Bruin's defense created when they traded away Aaron Ward, another former Ranger, on Friday.

Morris, in 18 games as a New York Ranger added, um, no goals and 8 assists in 18 regular season games. In the Playoffs he added another 2 assists - not a small feat in our low scoring playoff team. Despite the 2 assists though, he was minus 2 in 7 games against the Caps.

The Rangers should have no trouble replacing his zero goals. But it does make us less experienced on defense. We also get younger - which is part of Tortorella's and Sather's master plan. At least we hope there is a master plan and that this fits in to it.

The Rangers still have Redden and Rozsival, their too highly (over) piad defenseman. But with Mara and Morris gone, they had shed their medium priced defenders. After Red & Roz, the next highest paid defenseman is Dan Giradi at $1.55 million.

Anyway - it was a brief stay, Derek, but thanks for wearing the Ranger colors, and doing your best to adjust quickly to a new team. Boss-town is the 5th stop for Morris after Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix, and of course New York.

If it's any consolation, on the Bruin's message boards we're seeing fans complaining that they overpaid for Morris, despit his salary coming down from $3.9 million the year before. But that's not our problem anymore. Best of luck, Derek.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A New Season

The regular season schedule is out. And already we can start to imagine what the season will be like. Will our Rangers get off to another fast start? How about that big hole in the February schedule for the Olympics?Will any of these game be injury games for Marian Gaborik? What will Gomez's first game against the Rangers look like?

And the season again closes with a home and home with the hated Philadelphia Flyers. Will we be resting players while they scramble for a playoff spot - or vice versa?

Nobody knows. And the schedule hasn't been played yet - so we don't have one blown lead - one bad penalty - one injury - or one out-of-control coaching incident.

So - here it is: the 2009-2010 schedule for your New York Rangers.

Rangers Schedule
Fri, Oct 2 @ Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Sat, Oct 3 Ottawa 7:00 PM
Mon, Oct 5 @ New Jersey 7:00 PM
Thu, Oct 8 @ Washington 7:00 PM
Sun, Oct 11 Anaheim 5:00 PM
Mon, Oct 12 Toronto 7:00 PM
Wed, Oct 14 LA Kings 7:00 PM
Sat, Oct 17 @ Toronto 7:00 PM
Mon, Oct 19 San Jose 7:00 PM
Thu, Oct 22 New Jersey 7:00 PM
Sat, Oct 24 @ Montreal 7:00 PM
Mon, Oct 26 Phoenix 7:00 PM
Wed, Oct 28 @ NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Fri, Oct 30 @ Minnesota 8:00 PM
Sun, Nov 1 Boston 1:00 PM
Tue, Nov 3 @ Vancouver 10:00 PM
Thu, Nov 5 @ Edmonton 9:30 PM
Sat, Nov 7 @ Calgary 10:00 PM
Thu, Nov 12 Atlanta 7:00 PM
Sat, Nov 14 @ Ottawa 7:00 PM
Tue, Nov 17 Washington 7:00 PM
Sat, Nov 21 Florida 7:00 PM
Mon, Nov 23 Columbus 7:00 PM
Wed, Nov 25 @ Florida 7:30 PM
Fri, Nov 27 @ Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Sat, Nov 28 @ Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Mon, Nov 30 Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 5 @ Buffalo 7:00 PM
Sun, Dec 6 Detroit 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 9 @ Chicago 8:30 PM
Sat, Dec 12 Buffalo 7:00 PM
Mon, Dec 14 Atlanta 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 16 NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Thu, Dec 17 @ NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 19 @ Philadelphia 1:00 PM
Mon, Dec 21 @ Carolina 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 23 Florida 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 26 NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 30 Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Thu, Dec 31 @ Carolina 8:00 PM
Sat, Jan 2 Carolina 1:00 PM
Mon, Jan 4 Boston 7:00 PM
Wed, Jan 6 Dallas 7:00 PM
Thu, Jan 7 @ Atlanta 7:00 PM
Sat, Jan 9 @ Boston 1:00 PM
Tue, Jan 12 New Jersey 7:00 PM
Thu, Jan 14 Ottawa 7:00 PM
Sat, Jan 16 @ St. Louis 8:00 PM
Sun, Jan 17 Montreal 7:00 PM
Tue, Jan 19 Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Thu, Jan 21 @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Sat, Jan 23 @ Montreal 7:00 PM
Mon, Jan 25 Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Wed, Jan 27 Carolina 7:00 PM
Sat, Jan 30 @ Phoenix 8:00 PM
Sun, Jan 31 @ Colorado 8:00 PM
Tue, Feb 2 @ LA Kings 10:30 PM
Thu, Feb 4 Washington 7:00 PM
Sat, Feb 6 New Jersey 7:00 PM
Wed, Feb 10 Nashville 7:00 PM
Fri, Feb 12 @ Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Sun, Feb 14 Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Tue, Mar 2 @ Ottawa 7:30 PM
Thu, Mar 4 Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Sat, Mar 6 @ Washington 7:00 PM
Sun, Mar 7 Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wed, Mar 10 @ New Jersey 7:00 PM
Fri, Mar 12 @ Atlanta 7:30 PM
Sun, Mar 14 Philadelphia 3:00 PM
Tue, Mar 16 Montreal 7:00 PM
Thu, Mar 18 St. Louis 7:00 PM
Sun, Mar 21 @ Boston 3:00 PM
Wed, Mar 24 NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Thu, Mar 25 @ New Jersey 7:00 PM
Sat, Mar 27 @ Toronto 7:00 PM
Tue, Mar 30 @ NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Fri, Apr 2 @ Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Sat, Apr 3 @ Florida 7:00 PM
Tue, Apr 6 @ Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wed, Apr 7 Toronto 7:00 PM
Fri, Apr 9 Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Sun, Apr 11 @ Philadelphia 3:00 PM

Friday, July 24, 2009

Show Me A Sign!

These are the dog days of summer. For hockey fans dreaming of cold ice and blue lines - the NHL season seems very far away.

The playoffs are long gone - the draft is forgotten (who was our 3rd round pick again?) and next year seems like it will never get here.

Looking at the weather forecast, standing in the heat, watching baseball - it starts to feel like there never was a hockey season and there never will be one again. Pictures of Sean Avery only make it worse - is that dapper guy in the expensive suits really a hockey player? Do they really have an ice surface at MSG? Is Al Troutwig an actual person - or just some kind of deluded hallucination? And Stan Fishler, didn't that guy pass away in the late 1980s?

It's days like this where the folks at Blueshirt Brothers look for a sign. We pray for the Hockey Gods (Howe, Ratelle, and Makita) to intervene - to send a signal - to throw us a frickin' bone for goodness sake - and let us know that, somehow, someway, there will be hockey again.

And then suddenly - with signs and wonders - there it is.

Head on over to ESPN hockey page - look at the Scoreboard link - and you'll see it: Rangers - Bruins on September 19th. The puck drops at 4pm. And the New York Rangers - with Gaborik, Lundqvist, Drury, Higgins, Callahan and more will start their pre-season.

The announcement just glows there like a beacon telling the faithful: yes, brothers and sisters, there will be a hockey season again. Lundqvist will slide between the pipes again. Torts will start yelling his head off again. Avery will "interact" with opponents and referees again.

We're talking 8 weeks from tomorrow. It's coming, people. We just have to keep the faith.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

At the Center of All Our Troubles

If there is one over-arching irony to this Ranger offseason it is this:

(Editor - what is an over-arching irony? Come on Dave Pucks, speak regular for the people)

Sorry. Over-arching means, like, a big common theme. And Irony, of course, means a double-back twist of fate.

So here's what I meant:

The Rangers did a great thing in getting rid of Scott Gomez. Scotty basically did one thing - and did it very very well. As a Centerman he would gain possession of the puck - keep possession of the puck - get the puck in the offensive zone and then deliver it to a shooter. In that way he was almost like a point guard. It's a big deal.

Unless you're last year's Rangers. Because on last year's Rangers - there were no shooters. And so Gomez' talents were wasted. After getting the puck into enemy ice - he had no one to pass to.
Scotty's gifts were completely wasted here. And at nearly 7.5 million a year he was a huge lump of our salary cap. So getting rid of him was a master stroke for Sather. And dumping Gomez feed up enough fund for our second great offseason move: getting Marian Gaborik.

When he's healthy, Gaborik scores more than a goal every two games. He's a huge boost for our anemic scoring - and in one move changes the Rangers from "can't score" to "yes we can".

But here's the thing:

To be effective Gaborik needs to roam around the offensive zone and get himself open. And that requires a center who can gain possession, bring the puck into the enemy zone, and find the open man.

Do the Rangers have anyone like that?

We used to. A guy named Scott Gomez.

So that's the over arching irony. We had to give up the possession-passing guy to get the shooter. And now we need someone to get our shooter the puck.

Getting Gaborik the puck is at the center of our difficulties right now. And tomorrow we'll talk about how the Rangers are trying to solve it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why the Ranger will be better next year - Part 3 - Lundqvist

For the last 2 days we've been talking about why the Rangers will be better next year than last year. So far we've mentioned Physical Conditioning and Toughness. Here's a third reason:
Lundgvist will be better.

In his first 3 years in the league, Henrik was a top 3 goaltender - a finalist for the NHL award for the best netminder of the season.

But last year he was not - and his game - while still very very good - over all seemed to slip a notch. For the Rangers to get further in to the playoffs next year - Lundqvist has to reclaim his elite status. And here at Blueshirt Brothers we think he can do it. Here's why:

Henrik's flaw is not high on the glove side. It's not that he drops to his knees too soon. These criticisms are baseless. It reminds me of a star pitcher (like Johan Santana) who pitches very well but whose team can't score runs for him (again, like Johan Santana). What happens is that each run (or goal) he let's up is magnified because his team can't score. When Johan loses 2-1 we look at the 2 runs as a breakdown. But put Johan on the Yankees - he wins 7-2 and everyone just talks about how great he is.

It's the same with Lundqvist. When the Rangers don't score it puts tremendous pressure on Henrik - and magnifies all the goals he does let up.

So Reason 1 - if the Rangers can score more next year - and with Gaborik and Tortorella's up-tempo style they will - this takes pressure of Henrik.

Reason 2: That up-tempo Tortorella style does more than score goals - it keeps the puck far away from Lundqvist. That too will make things easier for our Swedish backstop. Under Tom Renny the Rangers fell back on defense and tried to win 1-0. As a result it was a shooting gallery with Henrik in the bulleye. With a full season under coach Torts, Lundqvist will face less shots and less pressure and should hold up better.

Reason 3 - Tortorella will rest Lundqvist. Tom Renny rode his goaltender ragged all season. Henrik had more starts than any other goaltender in the NHL last year - and he simply ran out of gas at the end. Torts tried to rest Henrik - but the Rangers we're fighting for that last spot and Valliquete kept losing his starts. With a full season to work with Torts will have Lundgvist rested and ready come playoff time.

Henrik is one of the NHLs top goalies ever in save percentage - better than that Marty Broeder guy for example. With the changes we expect next year we think we'll see Lundgvist return to elite status and the Rangers will rise again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"We're a soft team" - Why the Ranger will be Better next year - part 2

Yesterday we talked about physical conditioning - how Tortorella plans to make the Rangers a much more physically fit team - enabling us to play up tempo hockey and outlast our opponents.
Today we're going to talk about another aspect of the physical game - toughness.

Toughness can be looked at more than one way. There's physical toughness and mental toughness. One feeds off the other.

In a article by our favorite local Ranger writer Steve Zipay of Newsday, Tortorella pulled no punches in explaining the problem he's trying to fix:
"We're a soft team," the Ranger coach explained, "I don't think we're physical enough on the ice ... and it's got to change. It's a disease if you let it go on."

There is that aspect to hockey - if one team can physically intimidate the other - if your stars are swiveling their heads looking to avoid hits instead of looking to make plays - if the game becomes a brawl and you can't defend yourself - this leads to a loss of morale.

There's also a mental aspect. You want your team to never quit - never give up. There will be adversity in hockey games and hockey seasons - you have to keep working - keep your legs skating - until you can turn things around.

How will Tortorella and Sather install some toughness? Replacing Orr with Brashear - as much as we hate this move - will make it harder for other teams to target our stars. And the general move to younger, larger players ups our toughness level also. And the physical conditioning we spoke about yesterday - this also adds to our physical and mental toughness. And finally - they way Torts runs camp - full speed ahead - toughens up the players.

So we are expecting your 2009-2010 Rangers to show a lot more toughness than we've seen in years.

Again though - time will tell.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why the Rangers will be Better Next Year - Part 1

The off-season - free agent season - continues through the ice melting months. And, the Annual Ranger purge is in progress. Glen Sather has again wisely decided that his personnel moves last year were failures and has cleaned house once again. In fact, after a few years of this, Slats may have the cleanest house in the NHL.

But this year, at least some of us at Blueshirt Brothers have reasons to believe that your hockey team will be better next year than it was last year.

The first reason is :


Coach Tortorella knows how important that is - he helped design it as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And in his first full season as the Rangers leader - in his first Ranger training camp - Torts is going to make sure the Rangers are much better conditioned athletes than last year. The focus on physical endurance is already showing up in the Ranger Rookie camp - held soon after the NHL draft for our top picks and prospects. Several players noted that the camp was very demanding physically. The players were worked. Hard.

And the Rangers have sent each player a letter stressing the importance of keeping their workout going in the off season.

Slats and Torts have also made their off season moves with this in mind. If they feel a player has a tendency toward laziness and getting out of shape, well, that player is no longer on the Roster. (Watch what happens to Nik Zherdev after arbitration.)

The final piece of the puzzle will be training camp - where the Rangers will be given the hardest workout they've seen in years.

It's going to pay off for a couple of reasons:
  • Tortorella plays an up -tempo physically demanding game. If the Rangers are going to survive their own system - they will need to have the energy and conditioning to out-work their opponents.
  • Because of the Olympics this year - the NHL season is even more grueling than usual. There are going to be a lot of back to back games and a lot of games bunched together to clear out the 2nd half of February for Olympic Hockey
These two factors can either be the Ranger's edge - or - their undoing.

It will all come down to conditioning. I'm betting the Rangers and Tortorella will pull this off.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Betts is still out there

We love Blair Betts. He's a great penalty killer - and penalty kills win hockey games - or at least keep you from losing them. The New York Rangers had the best PK in hockey last year and Betts was a huge part of that success.

On the other hand - that's most of Blair's game. He doesn't really score or create chances or produce on offence. In 81 games he has just 6 goals and 4 assists - that's shockingly low.

But Betts played an important role on the team - it's a role the Rangers will have to fill next year - and he's one of the best we've ever had at it.

You know, we're all assuming that Blair Betts will not be a New York Ranger next year for a few reasons:

  • He's a Unrestricted Free Agent

  • The Rangers have apparently made no move to sign him

  • Tortorella has not mentioned his name to reporters

  • Sather's only comment on Betts this offseason is that he thought Tom Renny would try and get Betts to go to Edmonton (which so far has not happened)

  • The Rangers hired the thug that put Betts out of the playoffs with a vicious cheap shot - Donald Brashear. We hate this move - but it was done. And it would be hard for these two to become teammates after what happened the last time they met.

Still, in spite of all of those reasons - Betts is still out there on the market. He earned 615,000 last year. So if the Rangers want him - he can still be had.

So Glen, Torts, think about it. This guy made us the best PK in hockey - the lone category that this team achieved greatness last year. He was injured in the line of duty - he was hurt trying to help us beat the Capitals. The least we can do is make him an offer.

It's just the right thing to do.

It was actually good (!)

We haven't found the time to say this before - but we were really surprised and pleased at how well the Rangers handled the Gaborik signing.

Get this - at the exact moment Marian Gaborik became a free agent - Midnight here and 6pm in Slovakia (where Gaborik was at the time) his doorbell rang. It was a messenger from the New York Rangers with a DVD presentation - a sales pitched aimed specifically at Marion.

He was impressed. "It was really important they went after me this way," he said during a conference call with the press on Thursday. "It was unbelievable"
And that wasn't all - he soon received a phone call from Chris Drury - inviting him to accept the Rangers offer. And the Rangers weren't done yet. They arranged for several ex-Rangers from Gaborik's home country of the Czech Republic to call and talk up our local hockey club.

After that full court press - or should we say - after that odd man rush Gaborik was convinced.

So, whatever you may think about Glen Sather and the Rangers past moves - they did somethings really well this offseason.

First that miracle with the removal of Scott Gomez's unmovable contract - then getting some value in return - and then grabbing Gaborik.

I never thought I'd ever say this about Sather, but:

Good job fellas!

Friday, July 17, 2009

UFA sighting!

Just when we thought they don't really exist - we have a confirmed UFA sighting!

As you know, UFAs are Unrestricted Free Agents. And like the similarly named UFOs they can fly mysteriously from place to place - landing on any NHL club who wants to pay them.

We assumed our UFAs (Morris and Betts) were gone forever. As far as the Rangers are concerned - these UFA's may still be on our un-updated rosters - but they don't really exist. So we stopped believing in them. But then - a Ranger UFA suddenly appeared in the night sky - and it was Derick Morris. Yes - we are getting wild reports that Morris is talking to the NY about a one year deal.

Brad Devine, Morris' agent, spoke to reporters at The Fourth Period and had the following to say:

"Glen and I have had a couple of talks. They're definitely in the loop""
Of course, as with most UFA sightings - we suspect someone is not telling the truth. Why would Devine talk about ongoing talks - especially talks with the reclusive Glen Sather? We think Morris' agent is trying to pump up a little fake interest to help Morris land somewhere else.

In other words - this is just another UFA hoax! But we can't blame Morris' agent for trying. After all - to err is human - and to forgive is Devine. [Editor: Dave Pucks - you stop that right now!]

(Sorry, Ed)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome Home Mike

The year was 1987. Nugman was just a baby, waking up every morning soiled and crying (actually Dave Pucks still has the occasional morning that begins in exactly this fashion). And in the 1987 NHL draft, with the 67th overall pick, the New York Rangers selected:

Michael Sullivan. A kid from Boston College.

And now, 22 quick years later - Mike Sullivan is a New York Ranger once again.

Coach John Tortorella will be reunited with his former assistant at the Tampa Bay Lightning as Sullivan will become a Ranger Associate Coach. (An associate coach - as best we can figure - is like a fancy assistant coach).

John and Mike teamed up to win a Stanley Cup a few years back - the first ever by a US born coach. The question is - can they do it again?

This is another signal that Torts has a big say in the Ranger's front office moves - and he should. Like Sather - he's got the cup on his resume - and unlike Sather, Torts accomplished this in the current millennium.

GM Glen Sather has now assembled a coaching staff that has proven itself capable of going all the way. The question now switches to: with the coaching in place, how far this group of players can take us. The answer to that question should tell us about Glen's future here as well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rangers Sign Potter!

In an obvious publicity stunt, the New York Rangers have signed fictional character Harry Potter to trade his wand for a defenseman's hockey stick and join the 2009 Rangers. Clearly timed to coincide with the release of the latest film in the successful Harry Potter series, the rookie defenseman is the first fictional character to join the Rangers since Ty Domi....

[Editor's note - Dave Pucks you are an idiot. The Rangers signed Corey Potter, not Harry Potter.]


Let me start again.

Rangers Sign Corey Potter

In a move clearly timed match the release date of the latest Harry Potter movie, the Rangers have signed a Potter of their own - Corey Potter. Who is Corey Potter? Let me refresh your memory (and mine)

It was December 27th, 2008. Our president: George W. Bush. Our opponent for the evening: our hated cross river rivals the Satanic Cult of Trenton (also known as the New Jersey Devils). Out onto the ice skates Rookie defenseman Corey Potter. And he manages to not only play good defense, but also notches a goal and an assist.

And then, flash forward to March, and the Rangers were fighting for a playoff spot. Coach Tortorella finds himself short a defenseman and reaches out to their Hartford affiliate to get .... Mike Sauer. [Editor - where are you going with this?] (Don't worry Ed - I'm getting there.)

But anyway, after Mike had a disastrous outing against the Penguins - going minus 2 in 4 shifts - Tortorella sent Mike back to Connecticut and re-summoned - that's right - Corey Potter. And Corey played well enough to stick around until the defense got healthly.

Anyway - the 25 year old, 6'3" defenseman (Torts likes big players) has been signed by the Rangers for what is assumed to be $588,500.

Now all Corey has to do is make the team. He's got some guys ahead of him, but with Mara's departure and Morris' UFA status - there's some room there now. Still, Potter will need to have a good training camp and some good luck. A magic wand wouldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hello Cally - Goodbye Korpi

In Glen Sather's world - life as a Ranger is nomadic. There is a lot of movement and folks come and go in a hurry. So when a player stays - it's as news-worthy as when one leaves. Today we have one of each as the Rangers reduced their RFAs by two this morning with two player announcements:

Ryan Callahan, our young and coming right winger has signed with the Rangers - for two years at $2.2 million this year and $2.4 next year. [Editor - corrected Dave Puck's salary numbers] It's a nice raise from last year's 600K. Callahan, who had 40 points as a Ranger last year (22 goals and 18 assists) was a restricted free agent who filed for arbitration and had a hearing date set for later this month.

We're very happy about this one here at Blueshirt Brothers. Ryan is a class act, a talented player, someone Tortorella can work with, and still a bargain even with his big raise. Besides - arbitration can cause hard feelings as the player has to sit there and listen to the Ranger management publicly make a case for his shortcomings in order to keep his salary down. Some players take that personally.

But as the door opens for Ryan, it closes for Lauri Korpikoski. The Rangers have traded their former first round draft pick of 2004 to Phoenix. In return for the unsigned RFA we are sending out we get an unsigned RFA back: Enver Lisin. Lisin is a 23 year old Moscow native right winger with 78 games of NHL experience and 28 points.

So, goodbye, Lauri - we barely knew you and now you're gone. Such is life under Glen Sather where the locker room door is always the revolving kind. And suddenly our remaining RFAs are just Zherdev (who may be gone after arbitration) Dubinsky, (and the new guy Lisin).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

UFA Sighting (Goodbye Paul)

Last week we mentioned how UFA are a lot like UFOs. They may still be on your un-updated roster - but they don't really exist anymore as team members.

Well, we have a confirmed UFA sighting. Former Ranger defenseman Paul Mara has re-appeared - having just signed a 1 year deal with the Montreal Canadians.

In 76 games last year Mara had 5 goals and 16 assists. Once, a few years back, Mara had a 47 point season with the Phoenix Coyotes, but those days a re well behind him now. Ranger fans will remember Paul's thick beard in the playoffs.

Good luck in Montreal, Paul - we wish you well. We will miss you - but we're happy to get back a little cap space. That leaves Morris and Betts as our remaining UFAs. Will any more be sighted soon?

Byers Market

It's not exactly big news - and may not, in fact, be news at all, but anyway:

Dane Byers - who has played 4 years in the minors for our AHL Hartford affiliate - and the Rangers have come to terms with the 23 year old 6'3" left winger - as announced on the Ranger's home website. The terms have not yet been disclosed.

Last year was lost to a knee injury - except for 9 games. But that includes 5 games in the AHL playoffs where Dane shook off the rust and notched 2 goals and an assist.

In his prior season (07-08) Byers scored a symmetrical +23 in plus-minus, with 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points (10 PP goals). He was a 2nd round draft choice in 2004 (48 overall).

We expect to see Dane compete for a 4th line roster spot on next year's Ranger team.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yin passes to Yang - he shoots, he scores!

Well, we woke up Nugman, and its about time.

It's a lot more fun around the Blueshirt Brothers offices when Nugs jumps ugly about the Rangers. Like us, he loves his team and when he feels something is wrong - he let's us know exactly how he feels about it.

Usually Nugs has more hockey smarts than I do - but on a couple of points here, I have to disagree.

  • First of all, Yin and Yang? Weren't they the starting defensemen for the Chinese Olympic Hockey team in 1996? I think Yin was the pure defeseman and Yang used sneak up and get involved more in the offense.

  • You want more consistency in our roster? You've got to be kidding me. You want to go to war with last year's team? You're upset that we're remaking our team this year? Honestly - you'd rather skate out for a do-over of game 7 against the Caps with last year's team? I don't like Brashear one bit - but if he was on our side we'd have fared better against the Washington. And with Gaborik we'd have a chance to score a couple of goals. And with Higgins and Kotalik don't you think we'd have notched a powerplay goal or two? Next time the Rangers are in a fire fight - it sure would help to have a few guns.

  • Gaborik a bad move? I will grant you he's fragile - but who did you think the Rangers were going to get? Ovechkin? Malkin? When Gaborik is healthy (a big if I know) he's right up there with those guys.. If Gaborik came without flaws - he wouldn't be available for 7.5 million. And the Rangers could sit back and wait for his price to come down - the other teams were waiting - that's why we got him. I know with his health it's a crapshoot - but Gabby was one of the top 3 UFAs out there and we got him. He gives us a punchers chance against anyone. Hell, I'll take 40 games with him - if that includes the playoffs.

  • Keep Zherdev? He played 7 playoff games - he stayed healthy for the whole series - and contributed zero goals. Nothing. And this is a series when one more goal could have gotten us into the 2nd round. Look, the guy can play - but he can also disappear for shifts, games, and weeks at a time. He's just not a good fit for Torts - who had to bench him once for not hustling back on defense. So I'm fine with letting him go. The Rangers tried to sign him - he just priced himself out of our market. And if we had signed him - he would be another Glen Sather overpayment.

  • On building a champion over time - I understand this - but you could have kept last year's team together for 10 years and I don't see how they could score enough goals to win. Last year's team strength was our Penalty Kill. This year we may actually score some goals. If we get a good nucleus in here and then Sather rips that apart - then I'll agree with Nugs. But you can't blast last year's team and them blast Sather for breaking them up - that's not fair.

  • But on the plus side I am 100 percent with Nugs and Ray on Betts and Brashear. It is a horrible message to send to the team - hiring the thug and firing his victim. And worse - as I've mentioned - it sends a message to every goon in the NHL: injure a Ranger and you'll get a contract from Glen. Betts was our best PK guy - maybe ever - and letting him go is just dumb.

Okay that's enough for starters. Let's hope that Nugman sees this and Yins us another one out the Yang. It's more fun that way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Yin, to Dave Pucks Yang

Those here at Blueshirt brothers may be growing accustomed to two things: 1) Dave Pucks loving the recent moves by a suddenly redeemed Glen Sather, and 2) A complete no show from the Nugman.

I am here, making a quick cameo, to do my best to shake up the status quo. For those of you with Dave Pucks, loving the moves by Sather, I have this to offer you.....FIRE GLEN SATHER! Has it been all bad THIS offseason? No. But like with most sather moves, there is something bad in everything he does. Signing Chris Drury? Great. Signing him to a contract that pays him like a top 5 scorer in the league? Awful. Signing Scott Gomez? Great. Signing him to the same Drury contract, despite him being a play maker, and giving him no finishers to play with rendering him ineffective and the contract atrocious? Horrible.

I can honestly look at the Rangers right now, as oppossed to last season and say any ONE game, the current Rangers squad MIGHT prevail, but over a longer series, I have ZERO doubt, this team is WORSE.

To steal a quote from the NY Post today that I liked:

"But really, Kotalik is just another thread in this crazy-quilt team general manager Glen Sather and head coach John Tortorella are preparing to present as the 2009-10 Rangers. The rate of turnover and lack of continuity are staggering. It's a patchwork roster that resembles a third- or fourth-year expansion team with a franchise goaltender."

There are only two consistent things Rangers fans have come to rely on in a Sather offseason: 1) Sather will massively overpay for veteran players on the downside of their careers, 2) Massive turnover

Last season, I recall joking with loyal reader/follower Raymond about how the most tenured player on the Rangers, at just THREE YEARS, was Blair Betts (who of course, is now gone). The amount of turnover on this roster is STAGGERING. Most of the great hockey teams, the dynasties, were teams that played together for years and years, devloped chemistry, had consistent lines, knew each other's strength and weaknesses, and year in and year out, brought back 17 or so of the same guys, and had 3 role players turnover at the bottom of the roster.

Not this Rangers team. No. Every year we get rid of HALF the roster, if not more. This Kotalik signing (which all but guarantee's that Zherdev is now gone! more on that later), means that if Zherdev does leave, THIRTEEN MEMBERS of the team Tom Renney handed over to Torts back in February are now gone! THIRTEEN!

I don't care if we brought in the 6 most talented forwards in the league (which we didn't), does anyone out there remember the last decade??? Where every season (aside from last year's hot 10-1-2 start, but still, there was no offenseive continuity) the Rangers come very slow out of the gate, and either couldn't recover to make the playoffs, or needed to go on a magical run to make the playoffs, a run that would badly burn them out and leave them with nothing in the tank come playoff time. Every year it is the same thing. We watch 3 months of 2-1, and 3-2 losses, and after the game we hear, "Well, we are still trying to find the right line combinations" and "You gotta remember, these guys are playing together for the first time, so it will take some time to get to know how the other guy plays out there". Does anyone remember hearing that for pretty much the first 40-50 games of every season?!?! Of course, the real insult to injury is that once these guys do get somewhat comfortable together: a) they discover that they are a pretty flawed team, and their offensive peak actually isn't that great, as Sather put together another dud, and b) A year has passed, it's the offseason, and Sather dumps half the roster, and the circus starts all over!

So here is my reasoning for my overall anger, towards another botched offseason, and I will start, with Sather's lone "good" move:

1) The Scott Gomez trade: I loved this trade. I really did. And that's tough to say, because I really liked Scott Gomez as a player. He was a great team player, universally liked in the locker room, and do the rangers have a better skater with the puck? (The answer is no) Gomez seemed to take the puck from behind Hank and skate to the other end, gaining the zone for the hapless rangers powerplay at will. Trust me, you thought their puck movement was bad on the power play before? You thought it took 40 seconds to a minute out of each power play just for them to get set up? Wait until you see how hard it is for them to gain the zone without Gomez.

That said....Gomez was almost worthless. you don't pay a guy 7+ million a season to be a good skater. Sean Avery is a good skater. You pay gomez to be top 5 in the league in assists, with 20 goals, and he was neither. The reason of course is because Glen Sather got one of the best playmakers in the league, and gave him NO ONE to finish. You put a scott gomez with a sniper (a Gionta) type player. A shoot first, shoot second, shoot third, and ask questions later type guy. The rangers never had a player like that with gomez, the closest they did was Jagr, and the two of them only played together sparringly as the lines were being changed nightly by Renney.

Gomez's contract is one of the 4 (Drury, Rozsival, Redden), killing the Rangers title hopes. Being able to unload it was something I didn't think could happen...but it did. By getting Higgins in return, the Rangers got a potential 20 goal scorer (which isn't elite, but he will score more than gomez this year), and far cheaper. He also gives them more size, which is always good. And most importantly, the trade freed up cap space for the rangers to go after an elite goal scorer. I am sorry to see Gomez go, but the fact that we got back a quality piece for him, and someone to take on all his money, was a good deal. (Do notice, the best part of this deal, is the shedding of the awful contract, which Sather gave him. So kind of like the tyutin for Zherdev deal last year, it's a good deal, with the primary plus to it being reversing an awful deal made prior by Sather) Grade: A-/B+

2) Rangers sign Gaborik to Gomez money: This has "potential" for being a good signing, but potential isn't worth a dime. 5 years, 37.5 million I do believe, The rangers got one of the 5 most gifted goal scorers in the league, and paid him accordingly. But I definitely have a few reservations: 1) 65, 65, 48, 77, 17.....those are the number of games Gaborik has played his last 5 years in the yeah, he is a 40+ goal scorer...if he is actually on the ice! 4 of 5 years he came nowhere close to playing a full season, maxing out around 75%. The way the team is currently comprised, they NEED him on the ice to have a legit offense, and the stats and history tell me that if the Rangers are LUCKY, he will miss only 20 games this season. No one questions the guys talent, but of all the free agent snipers out there, this was absolutely the one with the highest risk involved in getting him (which means of course we should have seen Sather jumping on him), and I didn't hear anything about offers anywhere close to that being made to Gaborik by other teams. I find it hard to believe, in this economy, any other NHL team would offer a guy with such major inury issues, 7.5 million guaranteed a season. This is hockey, where above all else, toughness and playing are revered. Almost all the elite players play 75+ games, and we might only get 60 this season from our best player??? Sather's big "catch" of the offseason, get's a "mixed" review from me. If he plays 80 games, he will prob put up 38-45 goals, and it will be a huge upgrade from say Gomez, at that pay level, but....I would absolutely not bet on him playing more than 60 games. (Especially in New York, where he gets ripped for a -3 in the papers one day and costing the Rangers a game in philly, maybe the next night, that knee feels a little more sore then he thought and maybe he needs to sit out?) Grade: ??? (Potential: A-, Probably D+, so we'll go "C")

3) Letting Blair Betts walk: This isn't hype, it's not overrating a guy, Blair Betts absolutely was the Rangers best penalty killing forward, no question about it. (And possibly the best penalty killing forward in the conference. Rosen would talk about it all the time, about how he would ask players on other teams, "Who is the most underrated player in the NHL?" and routinely, they would answer Betts) Yeah, not a huge goal scorer or play maker, but want to know the importance, just look at the Caps-Rangers series, and the caps power play while betts was in there (completely shut down), and after he got blindsided by Brashear and taken out of the series (capitals power play took over and won them the series). Having a guy that doesn't complain about ice time, only plays the unrewarding minutes, makes a living throwing his body voluntarily in front of 90 mph slapshots, and just happens to be incredibly good at it, and letting him walk? After he gets his face broken on a cheap shot? And then signing the guy that f*cked him up?! What type of message does that send to your team?! To free agents considering the rangers? The rangers greatest "weapon" last year was their penalty kill unit. They just took the second best member of that unit (other than Hank), and let him walk. Championship teams don't do that. They maintain their areas of strength, and try and improve their weaknesses. The rangers job this offseason was to get more scoring power, not to weaken their penalty kill unit. Grade: F

4) Signing Brashear/ Letting Colton Orr walk: Where to begin. Is there a proper beginning? Before the season, I sat with some Rangers/Yankees fans going into last year's MLB offseason/new NHL season, and we discussed players we "hated", our all, "I couldn't root for them if they put on my team's jersey/uniform". I have always been a "Once they are wearing the pinstripes, they are a Yankee, and I want them to do well, end of story" sort of guy, and that translated to my other teams, Rangers/Giants/Knicks. I didn't like Clemens pre-Yankees, but I respected him, and was happy to root for him and watch him Excel. I hated Eric Lindros when he was with the Flyers, but I hoped he could refind his game with the Rangers. (There are too many unlikeable guys to count that came to the rangers, Fleury, Holik, Bure, Kasparitis, I grew up hating Jagr, but that quickly changed when he became a Ranger) But there are certain players, that I just refuse to make that leap for. I hated Domi. I hated Hatcher. I hate, HATE, HATE, Brashear. Brashear was actually the first hockey name on the tongue of the members of our little discussion. The guy is universally hated among Rangers fans....and this was BEFORE he cheap shotted betts, breaking his face, and turned around the Caps-Rangers series. He is a thug, a classless thug with NO ACTUAL HOCKEY ABILITY, that doesn't belong on the ice, he belongs in jail. He is bad for the game, and I HATE having him on the Rangers.

What could the players in the locker room, who probably hated Brashear more than anyone just 3 months ago, be thinking now? (Perhaps that is why Sather is turning over the entire team again?) And at what expense. Not only is Betts now gone....but Colton Orr? Colton Orr was LOVED in that locker room. The guy caused zero issues. Took on everyone's fight for them, and oh yeah, he is ten years younger than Brashear, and he didn't BREAK BETTS' FACE! Then you look at the contract, Orr got 4 years and 4 million, from Toronto I believe. A million a season for a bruiser, yeah, it's a bit steep, maybe the rangers were stretched to thin with the cap....but wait....they gave brashear what? 2 years, 2.8 million?! 1.4 million a season!? More than ORR?!?! What the hell type of deal is that? You bring in a player the fans hate, the players hate, that has no talent, and to replace a younger, more likeable player, and pay him more money? Classic Sather, just an enormous middle finger to Rangers fans everywhere. Grade: F

Monday morning I will finish with a recap of the remainder of the moves made to date, including the likely dismissal of Zherdev (which turns that trade the year before from a steal, into another blown move), the failed dealings for Heatley, the signing of an over the hill Kotalik, and the random signings of a slew of average forwards that will likely provide no value, and if they do, not nearly to compensate for the lack of continuity they have created with their mere presence.

Rangers Add More Offense - They Get Kotalik

He's done it again! Glen Sather - suddenly a rejuvenated master wheeler dealer - has added more scoring - and more power play goals - to the Ranger line up by signing the free agent Ales Kotalik.

The more we learn about the 30 year old Czech right winger, the more we like this move. Ales had 20 goals and 23 assists last year (43 points). He has one of the hardest shots in the NHL and a tremendous backhand shot to go with it.

Kotalik, who played for Edmonton and Buffalo last year (a former linemate for Chris Drury), should add some real punch to the Rangers sagging powerplay - he scored 21 powerplay goals over the last two seasons.

But there's more. The man is a Shoot Out superstar. In his NHL career, Ales has taken 38 tries in Shoot Outs and has scored on an incredible 20 of them. That's more than half the time. He is third on the all time SO goal list. And SO goals translate into SO wins - so this one player may be able to generate several points in the standings all by himself.

So what we have is a great finisher with a great shot and a clutch reputation. I'm thinking if you line him up with Gaborik, Kotalik will get a lot of great chances - and will convert a lot of those chances into goals.

Ales will cost us about 3 million per year for 3 years. .

I am loving this move. Say what you will about Sather - and I have - he has very done well this off season, despite starting with the cap mess he created for himself.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rangers come to a Boyle

First the Rangers shocked the world by signing Marian Gaborik. And today we have more news - the Rangers have signed...

Brian Boyle?

Well, that's not quite as earth shaking - but it shows that Glen is out there working.
This is an RFA signing - The Rangers had first acquired the rights to Boyle, on June 27th from the LA Kings in exchange for a 2010 third round pick. The news today is that they have agreed on a contract - the details of which are not yet available. (Editors note - Boyle is signed for 2 years at $525,000 per)
Brian is 24 and a former first round draft choice. On the Rangers he will most probably be fighting for a spot on our 4th line. But the Rangers must have seen something they liked to give him a try. Last year he played only 28 games for the Kings - notching 4 goals, one assist and 42 penalty minutes. This begs the question: How will the Kings replace those 4 lost goals next year?

Really, though, Doyle has some impressive stats in the minors. In the AHL with Manchester two years ago he had the most goals by a rookie (31) and 31 assists for a 62 point season. And he's only played 36 NHL games - so he's a rising young talent.

Anyway - it's one more signed RFA. Now we just need to make some progress with Duby, Cally, Korpi, and Nikky Z.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ranger UFA's (or is it Ranger UFO's?)

We've been talking about the Rangers RFAs (Restricted Free Agents) quite a bit the last two weeks.

But we have not talked much about our UFAs (Unrestricted Free Agents). On July 1st the UFAs (which include Mara, Morris, and Betts) gained the right to make a deal with any NHL team they choose. This means those players aren't really Rangers any more:

  • They can talk to any previously Unidentified team they want to.
  • They can start Flying out the door to the team they sign with.
  • And unlike RFAs - where the Rangers can "match and snatch" the players offer - in this case the player can leave and the Rangers have no right to Object.

And so they are UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) as much they are UFAs. And like UFOs, they may be sighted on un-updated Ranger roster lists on the web - but from a Ranger standpoint, do they really exist?

We've mentioned before that Blair Betts, who we really like, is probably gone. Sather recently spoke about Betts possibly ending up in Edmonton - where an assistant coach named Renny seems to like him.

As for Mara and Morris - Sather had one ominous statement. When asked about the defense, Glen said we were going "in another direction". So for Morris and Mara - most probably that "direction" will be to mysteriously disappear off the roster and into the night never to be seen again.

Sort of like a UFO.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rangers Sign Higgins! (for real this time)

When the miraculous Scott Gomez trade was completed with Montreal - one aspect we didn't get at first was that we didn't exactly receive Chris Higgins in return. What we really got was the right to negotiate with a Restricted Free Agent. The Rangers would have to sign him before Higgins would become an official Ranger.

We knew Chris wanted to be here - he's a Long Island native - but with enough intelligence to want no part of the 'slanders.

And - good news - it is now official. The Rangers and Chris Higgins came to terms yesterday - he has signed for one year at $2.25 million. The Rangers get a three time 20+ goal scorer who excels on the power play - something we can always use here. We also have a limited one year exposure to a player who was injured much of last year (like Gaborik) and someone who is looking to bounce back to his production levels of 2 years ago (also like Gaborik).

So that's one RFA converted into a signing. Now that we got Higgy, we need to make some progress on Cally, Duby, Korpi, and Nikky Z.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What we are Hearing

More news in Ranger-ville. We mentioned earlier that RFAs (restricted free agents) have the ability to get signed anywhere - but the Rangers have the right to match the deal and keep the player. There's another important aspect to RFA's. RFA's have the right to apply for an arbitration hearing if they choose to.

For Nik Zherdev and Ryan Callahan, that has now happened. Both players notified the Rangers they they want arbitration. For Nik, the Rangers' qualifying offer was $3.25 million. And for Ryan, the Rangers offered $660,000.

Here's what will happen next;

  • A hearing date with an impartial third party will be scheduled to occur for both players - sometime between July 20th and August 4th. The player and the Rangers can continue to negotiate up until the arbitration hearing.

  • If they get to the hearing with no deal - then the player and the Rangers each propose a salary and present their case to the arbitrator - who reviews the information and decides on a fair salary.

  • But the team gets a huge advantage here - if they choose to - they can reject the salary. If that happens, the player then moves from an RFA to a UFA. And as an unrestricted free agent - the player can make his own deal with any team he chooses with no remaining options for the Rangers.

So, what does this mean? First of all - it means that Nik and Ryan are not accepting the Rangers' qualifying offers. It also means they have not yet gotten an offer from another team. But of course - other teams are often reluctant to spend time working with a RFA player when the original team can just "match and snatch" the player back. The hearing date serves as a negotiation deadline. And of course there is the danger that the arbitrator sets a salary level the Rangers won't want to pay - so it can result in the player leaving.

Also - there can be an emotional effect on the player. Hearings can get a little nasty as the Rangers have to make a public case against their own player as a way of keeping costs down.
We like Ryan a lot and hope the Rangers keep him. One factor on our side - Callahan will cost a lot less than Zherdev - making him easier to keep.

But will Sather, having already lost one Russian Nik (Antropov) decide to let the other Nik walk as well? Time will tell.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Land of the (restricted) Free (agents)

Yesterday's post was supposed to go up at 8am - but do to a technical error by the Blueshirt Brother's IT staff (who were celebrating the 4th of July in an office party) the post didn't get here until Saturday night. Sorry to anyone who checked in and found a day old post sitting there - I know what a drag that can be.

Anyway, If you're back today - thank you - and take a look at the post below this one in case you missed it yesterday. And today, in honor of Independence day we'll take a moment to acknowledge our Ranger's who are citizens of the US of A. First the three of them who are RFA's from the USA.

They are:

  • Brandon Dubinsky - our 23 year old Center - born in Anchorage Alaska - 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points last year. May get to center Gaborik's line next year. Restricted Free Agent

  • Ryan Callahan -Right wing - 24 years old - born in Rochester New York - 22 goals and 18 assists for 40 points last year. Restricted Free Agent
  • Chris Higgins - born in Smithtown New York - new acquisition in the miraculous Gomez trade - left winger - 3 time NHL 20+ goal scorer with good power play offensive skills. Restricted Free Agent

Hopefully we can keep these guys. Sather is working on it while you are barbecuing burgers on the backyard grill. And here are the non-free agents American Born Rangers:

  • Coach John Tortorella - the only US-born coach to ever win the Stanley Cup.

  • Chris Drury - 33 year old center - born in Trumbull Connecticut - 22 goals and 34 assists for 56 points last year. Also may get to center for Gaborik - and made the first phone call to Gaborik on the Ranger's behalf on July first that got the puck rolling for his acquisition.

  • Donald Brashear. 37 year old thug - born in Bedford Indiana - broke Blair Bett's face last year - ending the Ranger's Playoff run - Rangers rewarded him with a 2 year contract - holds a lifetime NHL plus-minus of -84. (Why is he on this team?)

Enjoy your the rest of your 4th of July weekend. We'll see you Monday morning

Pucks - out!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Higgins - "I really want to play here"

You know - when we said the Rangers got Chris Higgins in the miraculous Scott Gomez trade - we may have been exaggerating.

Not so fast, folks - Higgins is an unsigned free agent. If the Rangers can't sign him - he's not a Ranger after all.

But the encouraging news is from Higgins himself. Here's what he had to say Thursday:

"I don't see any problems. It's not done yet, but I want to play here - I really want to play here."

In fact, we here that Higgins is really happy to have been traded here. And we want you here too, Chris. We can really use a 20+ goal scorer who can light the lamp on the power play. The lack of Powerplays goals was a huge part of last year's problems - and I think Chris Higgins, the Long Island native, can help us there.

And it's always nice to hear that a Long Island native wants to play for us - and not the 'slanders. Come on Sather - you're on a roll - work your magic and let's get this done!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Goodbye Nik (Antropov)

Yup. We said yesterday that Nik Antropov was probably gone - and today - sure enough he is.

The Atlanta Thrashers signed him today - to a 4 year contract at $4 million per year. Playing for Toronto and New York last year Antropov netted 28 goals and 58 points - career highs. So the 29 year old winger is now a ex-Ranger - which means:

  • We lose his offense, and
  • we free up more cap space
Nik had that enigmatic Russian label - and he could disappear for shifts or games at a time. But his amazing - diving - shuffleboard style goal late in the season is one we'll always remember.

Farewell Nik. You were only here a short while - but you had some fine moments wearing the BlueShirt.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Free Agent Day 2 begins...

As morning dawns on July 2nd - otherwise known as - Free Agent Day 2 - a lot has already happened to our local hockey Club:

Say goodbye to:
  • Scott Gomez - a playmaker with no one to pass to. A former Devil who didn't live up to expectations here. A guy who really liked being a Ranger - maybe enjoyed the trappings a little too much. But most of a - a $7.4 million dollar deadweight in our salary cap that had to go.
  • Colton Orr - Our tough guy, who, in Tortorella's eyes, wasn't quite tough enough

  • Fred Sjostrom - one of our best skaters

And say hello to:

  • Marian Gaborik. The first real "red light" shooter - still in the upside of his career - that we've had since.... uh - well it has been a while since we had a really good goal scorer in his 20s on this hockey club.

  • Chris Higgins. A powerplay goal scorer. Again - something we haven't had in a while and something we really need.

  • Donald Brasher. A tougher tough guy - but I don't like him and can't get behind this one.

And a 3rd category: Probably going:

  • Blair Betts - we love the guy - but we're hearing he may land elsewhere

  • Nik Antropov - Our enigmatic Russian Nik forward. At least we'll have a spare in Zherdev - or will we?

Our Prime Directive today? Get Centered! With Gomez out the door - we need a Center who can get the puck to Marian G. Hopefully Sather is working on that right now. So we're expecting plenty more action to come as Free Agent Day 2 gets going....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rangers Get Their Sniper!

Well, that didn't take long. The Rangers finally got the big time Goal Scorer they have been searching for. They have signed Marian Gaborik, a free agent from the Minnesota Wild, to a five year deal worth $7.5 million per year.

Gaborik was injured last year - missing several months with hip surgery. But when healthy the 6'1" Czech Right Winger adds some big time offense. Look at his 2007-2008 stats (and for fun I will compare them to our best player from last year):

  • Goals: 42 (in 2009 - our best was Naslund with 24)

  • Assists: 41 (Gomez had 42 last year)

  • Points: 83 (Gomez and Zherdev had 58 points last year)

  • Plus Minus: +17 (Callahan led the Rangers with +7)

In his NHL career Marian has 437 points in 502 games. In other words - if he stays healthy and returns to form, Gaborik instantly becomes our best offensive player by a wide margin. Think of his salary as a trade for Gomez. We went from $7.4 to $7.5 million per year and, man, did we ever upgrade.

A good move by the Rangers.


And for the record - I completely agree with Nugman about Brashear. The man is a thug. And after what he did to Blair Betts - how can you let this man in our locker room? How can you pay him? And how in the world can you ask Blair Betts to come back to NY and play alongside him?

Terribe, terrible move by Sather and the NY Rangers. I love what they did with Gomez, I like what they did with Gaborik, but this is really bad.


I was ABOUT to write a post about how thrilled I was with the Scott Gomez trade (and I will get to that some time this evening, look for that with analysis of why it is such a good deal for the Rangers tomorrow), but I had to pause, so I could find the sharpest knife in my house and get ready to plunge it into my heart.

The rangers just signed....DONALD BRASHEER?!?!

Yes, in case there is some confusion, that's the Donald Brashear that has NO TALENT, NO SKATING ABILITY, is just a thug that should be out of the league, and...oh yeah...BROKE BLAIR BETTS FACE IN HALF WITH A VICIOUS CHEAP SHOT IN THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR?!?!

Sather lets Colton Orr walk, and then brings in this goon?! SATHER, WHAT THE F*CK ARE YOU THINKING?!?! Is your objective to destroy the locker room?! Not to mention, let's say the Rangers suddenly decide to not hate Brashear like I am sure all of them do, but....the guy is terrible. He adds nothing to this team. How can we let Orr walks and replace him with this piece of human garbage?! I HATE SATHER.

Midnight - the madness begins

At midnight last night everything changed.

All the UFAs (that is Unrestricted Free Agents) became free men. Their contracts have expired - they are free to play for any team they want with no restrictions.

The Rangers in that category? They are: Morris, Mara, Antropov, Betts, and Orr. Many if not all of these guys may now be gone forever.

I had really hoped to keep Betts - but word on the street is that our old coach Tom Renny (now an assistant coach) may be looking at him as well. And we hear Antropov's agent may be pricing him out of the Ranger's market. Mara and Morris I have less of a feeling about.

The other thing that happened is our RFA's (restricted free agents) also were set free - but with some rules in place. It's like this:

If the Rangers made a salary offer to any of them - under set guidelines for minimum raises - the Rangers retain some negotiating rights.

They made these so-called qualifying offers to the following players:

  • Dubinsky: $633,333

  • Callahan $575,000

  • Potter $535,000

They may have made offers to these guys:

  • Boyle (we got him in a draft-day trade) something over $750,000

  • Korpikoski $1,017,000

The players can accept the offer or reject it. If they reject - they become free agents - BUT - the Rangers have the right to match any other offer they get to keep them. As we reported before - it appears Sjostrom did not get a qualifying offer from the Rangers and is likely gone.

We'll be back with more info as we get it. But rest assured - your next year's Ranger team is being put together right now.