Entering free agency, the New York Rangers were one of the teams that was expected to make a major move. However, July 1st came and passed, and The Rangers, just like most teams, didn’t make any major acquisitions. With top free agents such as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter holding off on deciding their futures for at least one more day, the ripple effect that would have taken place hasn’t happened yet. Still, that didn’t mean that the Broadway Blueshirts weren’t active on day one of free agency.
After the end of the playoffs, the Rangers had ten players who were set to become unrestricted or restricted free agents. In the days leading up to free agency, the Rangers were able to keep one of their pending free agents, Martin Biron, in the fold by coming to terms on a two-year deal worth $1.3 million per season. However, a few of the Rangers’ free agents signed with other teams on July 1st. The first player to go was John Mitchell, who signed a two-year deal worth $1.1 million per season. Mitchell was called up by the Rangers in mid-November, and contributed as a solid bottom-six forward, playing in all situations.
Another Ranger free agent who signed with another team was Brandon Prust. The grinding forward was given a four-year deal by the Montreal Canadiens, worth $2.5 million per season. Prust’s departure wasn’t a surprise to the Rangers. The Rangers and Prust tried to hammer out a deal in the days leading up to free agency, but the Rangers decided to move on after they weren’t willing to give Prust his asking price. Also, John Scott, who was acquired by the Rangers at the trade deadline, signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres for $600,000.
While the Rangers lost three players in free agency, they also signed three players. The first deal was the re-signing of defenseman Stu Bickel to a two-year deal for $750,000 per season. Bickel was called up halfway through the season, and was a physical presence on the Rangers’ third pair. In an effort to fill the void created by Prust’s departure, the Rangers signed two physical forwards. The first forward the Rangers signed was Arron Asham, who signed a two-year deal worth $1.1 million per season. Asham is no stranger to the Rangers. By signing with the Rangers, the forward becomes the first player to be a part of all five teams that play in the Atlantic Division, and the Rangers hope he can be the physical presence that he was against them in previous years.
The second forward that the Rangers signed was Micheal Haley. The forward was signed to a two-year deal, with the first year as a two-way deal, and the second year as a one-way deal. Haley played fourteen games with the New York Islanders last season, and picked up seven fighting majors.
But even though the Rangers added size to their roster on July 1st, their major need this offseason is scoring, and the speculation is about who the Rangers will get next. The one name that has been linked to the Rangers since the trade deadline is Columbus Blue Jackets’ captain Rick Nash. A deal between the two teams appears to work for both sides: the Rangers need the scoring and have enough cap space to take on Nash’s annual $7.8 million cap hit, and the Rangers have the assets that Columbus wants to make a trade work. However, the number of suitors for Nash, and the amount that teams will be willing to trade in order to acquire him will likely change once the top free agents are signed.
Overall, the Rangers organization did a solid job on day one of free agency. Although they lost a few players, they were able to find suitable replacements to fill the void. And, the best is still to come.
Michael Rappaport is a junior at New York University majoring in Sports Management. He is one of the Featured Writers for the New York Rangers for The Hockey Writers, and joined THW in January of 2012. In addition to his work for THW, Michael has been featured in numerous publications such as New York Hockey Journal, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy Blog, The Huffington Post, Spector’s Hockey, and Kukla’s Korner to name a few. You can talk hockey with Michael by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want to shoot a quick message, following @Mike_Rappaport on twitter.