With NHL free agency getting ready to begin next month the NHL rumors are starting pick up some steam, especially with the NHL Draft now behind us. It is no secret the New York Rangers need to add some scoring punch to a lineup that, outside of Marian Gaborik, struggled to score goals. Gaborik led the team with 41 goals and will likely miss some time to begin the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. After Gaborik, the Rangers got 20+ goals from only two other players, Ryan Callahan (29) and Brad Richards (25).
Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils is the best free agent on the market and the only elite forward available. After Parise there is a noticeable thinning of the talent pool. Shane Doan, Teemu Selanne, Jarormir Jagr, Alexander Semin, P.A. Parenteau, and Ray Whitney are the among the second tier crop. However, Whitney, Selanne, and Jagr are all over 40 and there is no way Selanne is coming East to join the Rangers. It is either the Anaheim Ducks or retirement for him. Doan will be highly coveted for his leadership and two-way play and I don’t think the Rangers want to get into a bidding war for a player who will be 36, regardless of how well he has played in the past. Whitney still has the ability to score, notching 24 goals and 53 assists and could be a decent stop-gap for the Rangers if he isn’t looking for a multi-year deal. But how much will he have in the tank for a stretch run at age 41 next season? Jagr is intriguing. He has played on Broadway before with some success and a reunion isn’t totally out of the question. However, the Philadelphia Flyers want to re-sign him and might be willing to offer more than the Rangers would financially, if the Rangers even offered a contract. Jagr, like Whitney, will be 41 next season and he notched 19 goals in 73 games so there is a little hockey left in him but exactly how much is anyone’s guess. Semin, who is just 28, has underachieved so far in his career, much like former Ranger Alexei Kovalev did. There is a lot of potential there but it will most likely take a fairly large contract to land him and the Rangers can’t afford to have money tied up in a player who might not show up to play every night. Parenteau is a former Ranger and broke out of his shell with the New York Islanders. He notched 18 goals and 49 assists which would have placed him among the team leaders for the Rangers in points. He is 29 and will likely command a multi-year deal worth more than what his track record has shown. He did manage to score 20 goals in 2010-11 but he doesn’t offer the kind of impact player the Rangers need.
Currently, the trade market looks to be the best place to acquire a top-six forward. Rick Nash is available, albeit for a high asking price. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks might be available as well, again for a ridiculous asking price. Then, there is 25 year-old Bobby Ryan of the Ducks. Because of his age and contract (3 years at a respectable $5.1 million cap hit) there will be plenty of teams interested in the veteran winger. Ryan would make a ton of sense for the Rangers, but at what price?
Rangers GM Glen Sather has a lot of decisions to make. His best option is trying to convince Parise to sign with the Rangers but he will have to fight several teams willing to throw more money and more years at him than the Rangers might be willing to do. After Parise there just isn’t a lot of talent on the market that the Rangers can afford, either in terms of players in a trade or through free agent dollars. Perhaps Sather is content with seeing if Chris Kreider can provide that extra scoring punch. Maybe the Rangers get lucky and Kreider develops into what everyone hopes he will become and Brandon Dubinsky has a bounce back year. Otherwise, the Rangers might be falling just short of their Stanley Cup dreams once more. Count on Glen Sather and the New York Rangers being in the NHL rumors for a good part of the offseason.