The New York Rangers signed two more players this week in winger Lee Stempniak and center Matthew Lombardi, but the front office’s work is far from over before the Rangers begin training for the 2014-15 season.
While the Rangers have added defenseman Dan Boyle and executed a number of smaller signings, there are still four restricted free agents who the Rangers need back next season. Defenseman John Moore and forwards Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider all remain without new contracts.
Moore might not fall under the category of “needed,” but the other three players were key to New York’s miraculous playoff run last season that had them in the Stanley Cup Final. Nevertheless, Moore is a player who the Rangers should want back, as he can continue to play with Kevin Klein on the third defensive pairing and retain any chemistry they developed last season.
As for the forwards, they all need to be signed as quickly as possible. There’s been uncertainty about what the Rangers should do with Brassard, but he is more important to the team than people think. As long as New York signs Brassard, he should make the jump from the third line where he played last season to the Rangers’ second line. If Brassard is to be the second-line center, the Rangers need to get on settling a deal with him.
Zuccarello came out of nowhere and became one of the most popular Rangers and amazingly led the team in points last season. He was the best player for New York at times and was definitely the most consistent. Zuccarello has expressed his desire to return to New York and claims that money isn’t a big issue to him. Make of that what you will, but regardless of how much they pay him, Zuccarello needs to be back on Broadway.
Then there’s Kreider, a player who can dominate games with his size and great speed. Finally, it seems Kreider is showing signs of developing into the player he has the potential to be. He got more of an opportunity under coach Alain Vigneault and played on New York’s top line alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan for most of last season. There’s no doubt that Kreider is a rare talent combination of size and speed, making him a popular candidate to receive a multi-year deal from the Rangers.
The Rangers’ roster still might not be set for next season after signing these four players, but they all have to be high priority at this point. The offseason is still relatively young, but it’s better to have your RFAs signed and out of the way as soon as possible than to drag it out all summer.