Hey, everyone. You can stop sounding your alarms: I’m covering for Carp this week while he takes a few days off.
The Rangers were certainly busy on Tuesday, the first day of free agency. Their most important addition was veteran defenseman Dan Boyle. Despite him closing in on 38, they hope Boyle can help run the power play in place of Brad Richards. But what was just as notable was who they lost.
Carp had warned everyone that the Rangers simply wouldn’t have enough money to retain their unrestricted free agents and get under the cap, especially once it fell at $69 million. They brought back Dominic Moore for cheap, and I wonder if they view him as a potential third-line center after successful cameos as a top-nine forward when Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan were out with injuries. They also lost Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot, all of them key pieces of the run to the Cup final.
Though Stralman and Pouliot both reeled in five-year deals, the Rangers lost Boyle for about $2 million per season and just three years. They were relatively modest terms for a veteran; that the Rangers let Boyle walk indicates they had no intention of giving him the greater responsibility he sought.
Here’s what assistant GM Jeff Gorton said of the departed: “We’re trying to fit guys who were good players for us. We wanted to sign them, but once that one-week period hit, we started to get wind of what their numbers would be and their terms would be. Going forward, with some of the contracts we have to do and the players we have, it just became difficult.”
Assuming the Rangers bring back Mats Zuccarello, Brassard, Chris Kreider and John Moore, who are all restricted free agents, they will still be left with just three experienced centers (Stepan, Brassard, Moore). Alain Vigneault said J.T. Miller and Oscar Lindberg were among the young players who will have a chance to earn playing time. They also have Jesper Fast up front, and assistant GM Jeff Gorton indicated the club still seeks another forward, either through free agency or via a trade.
Basically, the Rangers seem fine on defense and on the wings (and pretty good in goal), but they still seem very thin at center, which was probably their weakest position last season as well. So are they actually better?