Here are Josh Thomson’s stories from break-up day:
By Josh Thomson
GREENBURGH – With a top goaltender and a young core of talent, the Rangers seem destined to build on their run to the Stanley Cup Final. First, it will require Glen Sather and his staff to sift through the possibilities for a team with several key role players set to hit free agency.
Two of the most important unrestricted free agents, forward Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman, were integral to the Rangers’ success and could prove difficult to replace. On Monday, both expressed a desire to return to New York. But Boyle, a fourth-liner and ace penalty-killer, covets more responsibility, while Stralman seeks stability after spending his seven NHL seasons with three organizations.
Boyle met with coach Alain Vigneault Monday and was told his future role with the Rangers would be largely unchanged. He saw the value in it during the postseason, but hopes it can expand if he re-signs here.
“That would be my role. That’s what we did, and I think we did a pretty good job with it,” Boyle said. “Hopefully, we could squeeze a little bit more juice out of the fruit next year with the same role, the same minutes, the same expectations.”
Fellow fourth-liner Dominic Moore will also hit free agency this summer and said he will seek a return to the Rangers.
In addition to his clear chemistry with Boyle, Moore may have another impetus to stay. He returned to the Rangers after sitting out the previous season to grieve over the loss of his wife, Katie.
“I’m grateful to the team and to my teammates for helping me get through that,” Moore said. “It took a few months before I thought I was playing even decent hockey.”
Negotiations could prove trickiest with Stralman, who at 27 recorded just 13 points in the regular season but provided improved defensive value in a steady pairing with Marc Staal.
Stralman’s play in the playoffs was widely praised, and he is expected to enter the offseason with multiple suitors because of it.
“The only thing in my mind, really, is security for me and my family,” Stralman said. “We’ve been moving a lot. We’ve been on four teams in seven years now. All we’re really looking for is stability. We want to stay in one place. This is obviously where we’d like to stay. I hope it’s going to happen. We’ll see.”
Forwards Benoit Pouliot and Daniel Carcillo and defenseman Raphael Diaz will also enter the offseason as unrestricted free agents.
LUNDQVIST’S PAIN, CAPTAIN MAC, TALBOT’S HAND:
By Josh Thomson
GREENBURGH – Nearly three days had passed since the Rangers lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Kings, and Henrik Lundqvist still felt the hurt.
The articulate goaltender spoke mostly in a monotone on Monday, calling the result “a big disappointment” when the team met the media at its training facility.
Lundqvist said the team’s success will fuel him and the Rangers in their future quests for the Cup.
“A lot of times it starts with what you expect of each other, not only as players but an entire organization,” Lundqvist said. “To be close, to get closer, I think it raises our expectations for next year. I think that’s important. You want to be there, and you really have to challenge yourself to get there.”
No player meant more in the Rangers’ first trip to a Cup Final in 20 years than Lundqvist.
His 2.14 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this postseason ranked second in the league, and he shut down the Flyers and Penguins to win his fourth and fifth straight Game 7s.
Still, the former Vezina Trophy winner said coming closer than ever to winning the Cup was not satisfying enough.
“I guess when you’re that close, there’s a lot of inspiration and motivation,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where you want to be. You just have to make sure you make it all the way next time.”
Captain Mac? Ryan McDonagh just turned 25 last Friday, but he blossomed into one of the NHL’s top defensemen this season under coach Alain Vigneault.
With the Rangers’ captaincy vacant after the deadline deal of Ryan Callahan and acting captain Brad Richards a likely buyout candidate, McDonagh was asked if he’d be ready to wear the “C” next season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “This year, with the way my play was escalating, I felt more confident as the year went on. When you’ve been given a lot more responsibility and are able to step up and help our team win a lot of games, I think that helps guys believe and rally around you. When you say something in the room, guys follow behind and want to do better.”
After a slow start to the postseason, McDonagh led the Rangers with 17 points, recording a team-best 13 assists.
Broken hand for Talbot: The mystery surrounding backup goalie Cam Talbot has been solved. Talbot suffered a broken hand during warmups for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Canadiens, leaving him unable to practice or dress against the Kings.
Talbot said he reached back to bat down a puck and was hit, breaking a bone in his right hand. The injury did not require surgery. He said he would’ve skated Sunday to test his availability had the Rangers advanced to a Game 6.
Journeyman David LeNeveu, who had never played for the Rangers, dressed as Lundqvist’s backup in Talbot’s absence.
“It was a terrible situation,” Talbot said. “I just wish I could’ve been a part of it.”
Photos: Stralman by the Associated Press; Boyle by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News.