The New York Rangers‘ two biggest needs, in my opinion, that GM Glen Sather will try to address this offseason is the center position as well as an offensive defenseman who can be the team’s quarterback on the power play.
Last season the Rangers’ power play started off hot and were ranked in the top 10, but by season’s end their power play cooled off dramatically and fell to 15th in the league, operating at 18.2%. There is no coincidence in my mind that this steady decline in the Rangers’ power play production as the 2013-14 NHL season progressed was due to the declining overall production of center Brad Richards, who just happened to be the team’s power play quarterback last season.
Richards started the season red hot and so did the Rangers’ power play. Richards ended the season ice cold and so did the Rangers’ power play. However, Richards is supposed to be bought out of his contract before the July 1 deadline. The good news is that the Rangers will not have to worry about Richards quarterbacking the power play, but the bad news is the Rangers may not have anyone on the current roster that can take his place.
Because of this dilemma, I think it would be wise for the Rangers to at least look into signing offensive defenseman Matt Niskanen, who had a breakout year with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. Niskanen played in 81 games and recorded 10 goals, 36 assists, and 46 points last season for the Penguins, and at the age of 27 is just entering into his prime.
Niskanen’s cap hit for the Penguins last year was $2.3 million, so figure the Rangers would have to shell out at least $3 million to get Niskanen in a Rangers’ uniform.
Now, while that does not sound like too much money, signing Niskanen and a No. 1 center to fill the team’s needs would put the Rangers over the salary cap. This would result in either the Rangers having to trade Marc Staal and/or letting Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and maybe Benoit Pouliot all walk in the offseason. Will Sather and the Rangers be willing to do this? Only time will tell.