Since the start of free agency the New York Rangers have already added a bunch of new players, but there still seems to be a gaping hole at the most important position besides the goaltender.
That would be the center position, a spot that’s suddenly quite thin for New York after parting ways with Brian Boyle and Brad Richards. The Rangers have Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard to be their top two centers, but then it gets a little more complicated.
The Rangers are happy to re-sign Dominic Moore, but it will be interesting to see whether Moore is strictly a fourth-liner or if coach Alain Vigneault tries to put him on the third line. Either way, the Rangers lack a fourth center to round out all the lines. Vigneault likes to rotate four lines quickly, and the Rangers need to regain some of the depth that they’ve lost.
Of all the free agents that New York has signed thus far, none of them will be able to jump into the third-line center role. There have been plenty of rumors about the Rangers attempting to trade for Joe Thornton from the San Jose Sharks, but the possibility has seemed low as of late.
The Rangers might need to turn to the remaining free agent pool, which actually has some decent talent left. Centers like Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy are solid players and are still available, but their services likely cost more than the Rangers have to spend.
New York needs to make sure there’s enough money to re-sign Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. Not to mention the Rangers should start thinking seriously about trying to get Marc Staal a contract extension.
In the midst of it all, New York will have limited money to spend on a free agent center after taking care of their restricted free agents. The Rangers may be able to swing signing a guy like Steve Ott or Michael Handzus, as their prices will be much lower than a guy like Ribeiro. Either one would work, and it seems the Rangers will need to turn to free agency to ultimately fill the spot in the lineup.
However the Rangers figure it out, the center position is the center of their concern at this point. They were deep at center last season, but the departures of Boyle and Richards (which were necessary) leaves them shorthanded heading into the middle of the offseason. One thing’s for sure: The Rangers would rather fill the spot sooner rather than later.