After a long playoff run for the New York Rangers, in which they fell just a bit short with elimination in the Stanley Cup Final, Rangers fans should have a lot to look forward to this offseason. However, with so many unrestricted and restricted free agents the Rangers have this season, it will be impossible for fans to be satisfied with the Rangers’ offseason roster moves.
The smart thing for Rangers GM Glen Sather to do is to re-sign as many of their unrestricted and restricted free agents as possible, since New York just made it to the finals last season, and that is what Sather intends to do.
There is a problem though.
Since the Rangers are just coming off of a season where they made it to the finals, many teams around the league are paying extra attention to the Rangers’ free agents and are willing to give them more money and years than previously anticipated. For example, it was originally thought that third-line winger Benoit Pouliot would make around $2 million this upcoming season after making $1.3 million last year. But reports surfaced yesterday that there are 10 teams interested in Pouliot and some of them are willing to give him more money and years than the Rangers originally intended. Instead of a two-year deal worth around $2 million per year, Pouliot and his agent are now asking the Rangers for a three-year deal at a $3-million cap hit.
This I find fascinating yet worrisome at the same time. It’s fascinating that so many teams would be willing to give Pouliot — a former first-round bust who was about a week away last season from getting released by the Rangers for playing so poorly, but was able to turn it around and have himself a good year — a three-year deal worth $3 million per year after such a small sample size and his history of inconsistency. Plus, many believe most of his success and turnaround last season was due to the chemistry he developed with his linemates Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard. What’s worrisome is that if so many teams are willing to overpay for Pouliot, what about all of the Rangers’ other unrestricted and restricted free agents?
In my opinion, the Rangers either won’t be able to sign as many of their free agents as they had hoped and, as a result, have to find cheaper alternatives through unrestricted free agency, or will pull the trigger on a trade, before the July 1 free-agency period, that would bring in a No. 1 center for a few players in return. If the Rangers go the trade route, then they can fill in the holes left behind in the trade by re-signing their own free agents that fit back in the lineup and under the salary cap.
Either scenario will end up downgrading the Rangers’ roster from last season and result in a step backwards this upcoming season. No matter what happens this offseason, unless it is something amazing and spectacular, Rangers fans will not be satisfied.