John Tortorella (continued):
I said that on breakup day he mentioned the need to upgrade the skill level, and that July 1 is an opportunity to do that without altering the plan of staying with the youth, and asked how crucial tomorrow is.
“It’s an important day for us because I think it’s a day where you have an opportunity to improve your team. See, I think we’re in a situation with our club right now where, the past couple of years, we’ve kept our assets. We’ve developed our assets and stayed with it here. And there’s a point in time where you’ve got to say, ‘OK, they’re growing; we have a good solid foundation,’ Now you start looking at other areas where you add, maybe from outside the organization — free agency, a trade, whatever it may be.
“I think we’re there. I really like the way Glen has stayed with it as far as allowing us, with our kids, to grow. And I think we have a really strong foundation. So we’re at, I think, a different stage of the process. And July 1 certainly comes into play.”
I asked if he is optimistic that something can get done:
“I have no idea what will happen. Come July 1, it’s such a frenzy, you never know what’s going to happen. I just know our whole thinking is, we’d like to improve our team in certain areas, not just one particular area. You never know where it leads to. I know Glen and the whole organization feels, ‘OK, there’s our kids, there’s our foundation, now let’s see where we can add and continue to try to get better.’ And there may be a situation where, you know what? … that didn’t work, let’s not add just for the sake of adding. Stay with it. That’s a key come July 1 because it turns into such a frenzy that you get a little crazy. If it isn’t what we need, and it isn’t the right piece that we need right now, then we have to stay pat and continue to develop.”
On the prospects camp so far:
“They’ve had a good camp. You’ve got to remember, these guys, it’s the middle of June and we’re putting them through paces and they’ve done a lot here in the past few days. I like the way camp’s gone. It gives us a chance to see some kids that we had in last year’s camp, even in the big camp, to see how they’ve grown. And you get to see some of the guys we got this year. Maybe even a couple of surprises that we weren’t even sure of. That’s what you hope happens here. As far as the work ethic and what was accomplished in this camp, it’s been terrific, for June. And some of these guy haven’t even been on skates. For the time of year, they’ve done a really good job.”
On how involved he gets in the recruitment of free agents once July 1 rolls around:
“I’ve gotten on the phone a couple of times. I got on the phone with Gabby once we did sign him. Gabby was worried about camp, because he heard so much about camp and I wanted to explain to him … (laughs). So it’s not so much prior (to signing). It’s getting to him right away. And you know what I’m telling him. I’m telling him to make sure he’s in shape because we’re going at it hard right away in camp. So it’s not so much me. …
“As far as talking people into it? I don’t believe in talking people into something. If they don’t want to be here, we don’t want them. So I haven’t really done much of that. It’s been more after-hand, trying to get them into the program right away.”
(I later asked him if, after talking to Gaborik that day, the Rangers had to come up with even more money. He laughed).
On getting guys who fit in:
“It’s not difficult. You don’t have all the information. You think you may have the information on that particular player, but it happens with all teams, where it wasn’t really the true information. I think you have to be careful when you’re always looking to the free agent and maybe there’s another guy that maybe we do know. He may be the better answer than looking to get somebody you think is better than that guy. So you have to be really careful there. We’ve gone through the list.
“I liked our team last year, and I said it then and I’ll say it again today. I think we have to improve in some areas. We all know the areas we have to improve in. But I just don’t want to force-feed because there’s some guys that played with us last year that are free (agents) that we should have interest in as we go along the way here, that we know, and they know us. So you have to be careful in that situation, where you want to keep changing things over. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think that’s what we’ve done the past couple of years, is stay with it here.”
On Glen Sather saying you can never have enough defensemen, and whether Steve Eminger might be a guy they look to re-sign:
“Yeah. You’re always looking for defense. Emmy falls into that category. We know what Emmy is. We put him on both sides. I thought he played with a lot of bite in his game. There were struggles at times. But he gave us some good minutes most of the time, basically playing out of position most of the year. So you don’t have to keep combing down the free-agent list and forcing yourself to get maybe that sixth or seventh D from another team when maybe Emmy is the guy.
“I’m not saying he is. It’s a great question. Look at Fedotenko. Same thing. You go down that list. We know what Feds did, and if it isn’t good on that list, maybe Feds is the guy. So that’s where you have to be careful, always looking to try to get someone else, where we already know who these guys are, and they know who we are.”
On keeping other UFAs, including Matt Gilroy and Vinny Prospal:
“I have interest in those guys. I thought Gilly has gone through a process that he continues to go through, and probably will continue. But I saw improvement in him in the last quarter of the year. I thought he had a good playoff. So, yeah. I have interest in Gilly. Vinny Prospal’s a guy that, again, left here … I stayed a month after the season and he was here working every day. He’s a guy that, I think he has to wait his turn to see what happens. I think that’s a world he lives in now as a player, not only for us but for other teams. We’ll see how it goes. But I’m certainly not going to say we’re done with Vinny Prospal. It would be wrong to say that because I still have interest in him. I do.”