While the New York Rangers lost four games to one against the Los Angeles Kings in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, the series felt closer than the result. Two games went into double overtime and no two-goal lead was safe. It was the team’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994, and they showed signs of promise and improvement.
After nearly a week of free agency, the Rangers seem to be at a crossroads. They’re losing some of their key role players to bigger contracts, only being able to re-sign Dominic Moore to this point. Three of their arguably most important free agents are filing for salary arbitration and asking for long-term deals that could cripple the Rangers’ salary cap and chances of improving big needs at certain positions.
What’s been GM Glen Sather‘s response to all of this? The same he’s given since taking over the reigns: Attempting to acquire elite players who are at the twilight stages of their careers. Some recent examples of Sather’s recipe have been trading for 38-year-old Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline, while signing 38-year-old defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year deal. Recently, there have been rumors of the Blueshirts having interest in 34-year-old center Joe Thornton.
But is acquiring players who are past their prime and hoping for a bit of magic from their heydays an answer to win now? Clearly this strategy has failed Sather. If you look back at the early 2000s, when there was no salary cap, that’s all he did. Who can forget players like Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros, who were way past their prime and on their last limbs? Or a group of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez?
It didn’t quite end the way Rangers fans wanted when Sather started to take the reigns in 2000, but maybe it’s the answer now. Let’s not forget the team has a young core of homegrown talent (assuming Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider re-sign) that could use a few veteran players to groom them to play their best hockey. St. Louis actually brought out the best in the team and sparked a little offense that wasn’t seen at the beginning of the season. Thornton is still an elite playmaker who is still a top center. Pairing him with someone like Rick Nash could result in the winger finding some offensive consistency. Boyle brings offense to a blue line that desperately needs it.
Age is a number, but it’s killed the Rangers in the past. Now with a team that is coming off a Stanley Cup appearance and a few young players that have solid potential, maybe Sather’s strategy of getting older elite players could be the finishing touches on a championship.