We all wish it was as simple as slightly increasing a player’s salary and having them sign the dotted line with no issues. Unfortunately for the New York Rangers, players’ egos, agents and teams willing to overpay all ruin that offseason free agent dream that will start up on July 1.
The Rangers’ two biggest needs that GM Glen Sather will have to try to fix is acquiring a No. 1 center and a quarterback defenseman for the Rangers’ power play. But while buying out Brad Richards‘ contract, which the Rangers did just yesterday, the Rangers have six unrestricted and five restricted free agents from last season’s roster that the Rangers need to resign. Now obviously it is impossible to sign all 11 of them, but the Rangers definitely plan on retaining four out of the five RFAs and three or four of the six UFAs which would leave only enough money to sign just one of the Rangers’ needs.
While only addressing one of the two Rangers’ needs in the offseason may be disappointing to many fans, this will be even more discouraging. There is a strong possibility that Sather will not be able to address either need for a few reasons. Yes, the Rangers will be able to afford one of them like I said, either a No. 1 center like Paul Stastny or a power play quarterback defenseman like Matt Niskanen, but at what price are the Rangers willing to pay one of them?
Stastny, for example, is not an automatic No. 1 center. Meaning while he would be a No. 1 center on the Rangers if they were to acquire him, Stastny would not be on a good number of teams around the NHL because he is just not what you would call an “elite” player.
Stastny would definitely be an upgrade, do not get me wrong, but just how much of one and for what price? Stastny’s last contract with the Colorado Avalanche had him at a $6.6 million cap hit and last season recorded 60 points. The Rangers’ current No. 1 center is Derek Stepan, who has a $3.075 million cap hit and last season recorded 57 points. Is only a three point difference in production really worth $4 million or more, depending on what Stastny and his agent are asking for?
As for Niskanen, if the Rangers ultimately decide to go the power play quarterback route, he would be asking for at least $3 million after his breakout year last season, but was it just one great year? Before last season’s 10 goal, 36 assist season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the best full season Niskanen had in the NHL was his sophomore season with the Dallas Stars where he recorded six goals and 29 assists. Last season was the only year in Niskanen’s seven-year career that he reached double digits in goals. Will he ever score that many again and will the Rangers be willing to spend over $3 million to get him?
Another option the Rangers can explore is a trade for a No. 1 center like Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza or Ryan O’Reilly, but just how many players on the Rangers’ current roster, prospects and draft picks are the Rangers willing to give up to acquire one of those players via trade?
Signing Stastny or Niskanen would result in letting more RFAs and UFAs walk this offseason, which would really hurt the Rangers’ depth. If Sather decided to trade for Thornton, Spezza or O’Reilly instead, then at least one current roster player and prospects (a.k.a. the Rangers’ future) would be sacrificed in the process.
No matter which way you slice it, Sather has quite the dilemma on his hands this offseason.