First I want to step completely out of character and give big props to Glen Sather. Seriously. Look at his last four most important days:
He hired John Tortorella, the best coach he has ever hired in either Edmonton or New York. He worked with his tight salary cap and improved the Rangers dramatically around and at the trade deadline (Avery, Antropov, Morris) without giving up anything the Rangers needed for the coming season other than a second-rounder.
He had a decent draft — we will withhold judgment for years and years, as you must do with any draft.
And yesterday he dumped Scott Gomez’s contract on Montreal, opened up needed cap space to maneuver and improve the 2009-10 roster, got back some potentially high-end young players, and then took Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to school in a Dany Heatley showdown.
Now it’s make or break time. What Sather does with the new cap room, today when the free agent market opens at noon, or going forward through the summer, will define the organization and probably Sather’s legacy here.
Let’s face a few things. The Rangers who collapsed in the first playoff round, who weren’t nearly good enough through the previous 82 games, are worse right now, especially offensively, where they were already dreadful. They have taken off their roster: Gomez, Antropov, Morris, Markus Naslund, probably Colton Orr, Blair Betts, Freddie Sjostrom, Paul Mara, maybe Nik Zherdev and others. They have some young players who will fill those holes.
But Sather has to fill the rest, has to get some offense.
There are stories today that the Heatley $4 million bonus at the crux of Ottawa’s fire sale can now be paid by the end of today … so Ottawa hasn’t cut that check yet. So Heatley apparently is still in play. There are stories that San Jose is interested. Maybe Sather will be interested again. Or maybe that ship has sailed, since the overmatched Murray was quoted as saying that Brandon Dubinsky and Michal Rozsival weren’t enough.
Can’t imagine Slats will sweeten that offer. Not when he can just spend money to improve his team starting in the next hour. What will he do? I have no idea. Nobody does. Maybe he will go the lesser-name route, which historically has been far more successful than the marquee/big-bucks path the Rangers and other teams have traveled (see list from yesterday morning’s post).
I’m taking up too much space and time saying I can’t even speculate what will happen. Watch (see below) and stay tuned here all day.
NHL NETWORK U.S. TO TELEVISE FREE AGENCY SPECIAL ON JULY 1
NEW YORK (June 30, 2009) – NHL Network in the U.S. will have six hours of live coverage to celebrate the opening of the NHL’s free agency period at Noon ET on July 1. The hockey experts from NHL Live! will get things started with two hours of news, analysis, interviews and viewer phone calls beginning at Noon ET. Next, NHL Network for U.S. viewers is presenting a live airing of TSN’s third annual NHL on TSN: Free Agent Frenzy special from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Hosted by James Duthie, the show features TSN’s team of reporters and correspondents providing news of the day’s transactions.
TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger will be at the ‘News Breakers’ desk to bring viewers the most up-to-date information on NHL signings. Duthie is joined by TSN hockey analysts Pierre McGuire, Darren Pang and former Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster on the Instant Analysis panel while Gino Reda will deliver an in-depth look at all of the Free Agents in play. Duthie will also conduct live interviews with players, coaches and GMs from around the League, providing viewers with comprehensive access to instant reaction from the deal-makers and players involved. Dave Hodge is joined in-studio by a panel including Michael Farber, Dave Naylor and Chris Stevenson with additional opinions and analysis. NHL Network will be the only place on television for U.S. NHL fans to keep updated on all of the transactions of the day.