One year ago, the New York Rangers were making a major push to land the biggest free agent available in Brad Richards and write him a big check. This time around, they are not putting on a dog-and-pony act to entice Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the darlings of the class, to play on Broadway. Rather, the Rangers opening free agency act consisted of taking care of a few of their own and some small additions to add depth at the NHL and AHL level.
The Rangers kicked off their free agency spending Friday evening, re-signing backup goaltender Martin Biron to a 2-year ($1.3 million AAV) deal. While Biron’s play dipped in the second half of 2011-12, the alternatives on the free agent market for a backup goaltender were paltry at best. Biron knows his role, is an ideal complement to Henrik Lundqvist and seems to be a good guy in the locker room.
Stu Bickel (2 years, $750,000 AAV) will never be mistaken as a Norris Trophy candidate or the next Erik Karlsson. But the Rangers do know what they are getting in Bickel – a guy who will drop the gloves and inexpensively fills the role of a 6th or 7th defenseman. He can also move up to forward in a pinch, something he did a few times in 2011-12.
There has been no official announcement by the Rangers, but Kris Newbury also reportedly re-signed with the Rangers. The 30-year-old has played a total of 18 games at the NHL level since joining the organization in 2009. Newbury fills an AHL roster spot and, as he has during the last 2 seasons, could be called up if the Rangers need him in an emergency.
Arron Asham (2 years, $1 million AAV), who is completing his tour of the Atlantic Division upon signing with the Rangers. His four prior teams being the biggest Rangers’ nemeses, Asham will have his work cut out for him to win over the Garden Faithful as he tries to replace a very popular player in Brandon Prust. Prust he is not, but in what’s becoming even more of a rough and tumble Atlantic Division (The Islanders added playoff villain Matt Carkner and Devils castoff Eric Boulton. The Penguins replaced Asham with Tanner Glass) the Rangers needed to return to the lineup some of the physical presence they were losing with Prust’s departure. Asham will need to serve the last game of a 4-game suspension he was handed for his attack on Brayden Schenn in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers before he’ll get his chance to get in his first regular season game as a Ranger.
Micheal Haley (terms not yet disclosed, but reportedly a 2-way deal) was the second “crossing enemy lines” free agent signing for the Rangers Sunday, coming over from the Islanders. With Bickel, Asham and Mike Rupp on board and the Rangers on a quest for more offense, he doesn’t quite fit on the NHL roster at this moment. This is a depth move that gives the Rangers another body on their Whale roster and someone they can call up should they need extra toughness in the lineup.
John Mitchell (to the Colorado Avalanche, 2 years, $1.1 million AAV). Mitchell had been called up from the Whale in late November and became a staple on the Rangers’ fourth line. It will be a good opportunity for him and for the Rangers, it potentially opens up a roster spot for a prospect to make the team out of camp.
John Scott (to the Buffalo Sabres, 1 year, $600,000), we hardly knew ye. Scott was a minor trade deadline deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Actually, inconsequential trade deadline deal is more like it. Scott, at 6’8″, is one of the more feared fighters in the League, but it doesn’t do any good when his actual hockey skills (or lack thereof) are a greater liability. Scott saw action in all of 6 games for the Rangers after being acquired on February 27th.
Not surprisingly, fan favorite Brandon Prust headed for (much) greener pastures. Prust gave his all as a Ranger, playing all 82 regular season games in his 2 full seasons as a Blueshirt, despite hand and shoulder injuries (“it’s just pain,” he famously quipped during the 2010-11 season). He signed a 4-year, $10 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens, getting the money he was reportedly seeking from the Rangers. It’s an odd situation that the Rangers, still saddled with the reputation of throwing dollars at anyone and everyone, have lost a player over money. The Rangers loss will be the Canadiens gain, but in the grand scheme of things walking away for that price was the right thing to do. More power to him for finding a team to give him what he was looking for.
Also going are minor leaguers Jonathan Audy-Marchassault (to the Columbus Blue Jackets ) and Chad Johnson (to the Phoenix Coyotes). The diminutive Audy-Marchessault tied for the Whale lead in points in 2011-12. It would have been nice to see him come to camp and maybe have a shot with the Rangers, but moving on to a rebuilding team in Columbus gives him a better chance to crack an NHL lineup this fall. With Lundqvist and Biron firmly planted on the NHL roster and Cam Talbot and Jason Missiaen in the fold, Johnson became odd man out.
No, the Rangers did not address their most pressing needs on Sunday and on paper are not better than they were in 2011-12. Unlike other teams who spent a lot of money in the days leading up to and on July 1st, they did not overpay for players and have several short-term, cap-friendly pieces in place. There are 103 days left until the puck is scheduled to drop on the 2012-13 season, leaving Glen Sather time to take care of business.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927