It’s been well-documented that the 2010-11 New York Rangers were one of, if not the, hardest working teams in the NHL. Their grit and never-say-die attitude became their hallmark and reputation over the course of the 82 game schedule.
As well-documented as that has been, their lack of true high-end talent has been the 2000 pound elephant in the room. Outside of Marian Gaborik- who had a sub-par season- this team has zero pure talent throughout their lineup. The Rangers’ inability to put pucks in the net, especially in the playoffs, is the biggest hole the organization has entering another early summer off-season.
At break-up day Monday at the Rangers’ practice facility, several players addressed the concern for scoring, especially Gaborik, who played without a true top-line center for the second season on Broadway.
“It would be definitely great to have someone you could click with,” said Gaborik via Rangers Report. “So we’ll see what’s going to happen. There are a few free agents out there that are top guys, so, I’m sure … you know that they’re going to, they always have, try everything to get guys and I’m sure Glen will definitely try to do something. So we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
The obvious target entering July 1 will be Brad Richards, who in 2004 as a member of the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, coached by current Rangers coach John Tortorella, is the top fish in the pond.
The question is whether Glen Sather and the rest of the Rangers’ brass can free up enough space to acquire the center and powerplay quarterback they’ve lacked for years now. It could mean cutting ties with Vinny Prospal and Ruslan Fedotenko, while buying out Chris Drury and Woltek Wolski.
The Rangers nearly traded for Richards at this year’s trade deadline when rumors circled that Richards would only waive his no-move clause to head to the Big Apple. The rumored deal that involved Artem Anisimov as the center-piece and picks and prospects eventually fell through.
Richards is the total package, something the Rangers desperately need. In 2009-10, Richards finished with 91 points, including 67 assists. He followed that up with a 77 points in 72 games this season, including 28 goals, which would have led the Rangers.
The Rangers, if they are able to free cap space, have to feel like the front-runner to land Richards. His history with Tortorella makes him a perfect fit to join the club, and fills two voids (top-line center and powerplay quarterback) immediately. Sather will obviously have to do some juggling with the cap to make it happen, but if we’ve learned anything the last couple of seasons, it’s that Sather has a knack for cleaning up some of his mistakes. We’re looking at you, Scott Gomez.
The Blueshirts created an identity of hard-work and grit this past season, but the Washington Capitals showed them that can only get you so far before skill takes over. Tortorella has this team moving in the right direction, but there’s a big dark spot in talent. Richards will shed light on those dark corners.