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30 Teams in 30 Days - New York Rangers Written by habsfan93 - September 7th, 2009

Over the course of 30 days, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season.

Next up, the New York Rangers.

New York Rangers
Season 5: 30-41-6-5 (14th East, 4th Atlantic)
GM: Rochebag (3rd Season)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(Incoming Player in Bold, Rookies in Italics)

Umberger - Savard - Stafford
Stoa - Weight - Karsums
Steen - Wellwood - Vrbata
Thornton - Reasoner - Bochenski

Brewer - Wideman
Tyutin - Hunwick
Greene - Krajicek


What They Did In The Off-Season:

The Rangers were a major player at the trade deadline last March in an attempt to squeak into the playoffs. They didn't make it, but it did leave them with an enhanced roster, including a new #1 center in Marc Savard. As a result, this offseason has been relatively quiet, as GM Rochebag tries to make subtle changes to improve on the team he had already built.

The Rangers were quick out of the gate, as they signed 4 of their 6 RFA's on the first day of negotiation eligibility. This included key players David Legwand and Matt Greene. The lone holdout was Dennis Wideman who appeared to want to cash in on a long-term deal, and he eventually did, signing for 3 years at a reasonable $3,300,000. Wideman, who finished the year on a strong note, is expected to be among the scoring leaders for the Rangers next year.

The Rangers didn't hold a 1st round pick at the Entry Draft...barely. Their first pick came at #31, the first pick of the 2nd round, where they took LW Carl Klingberg, a big winger from Sweden. They followed that up with 3 picks in the 3rd round, including two goalies in Michael Lee and Matthew Hackett. This building of the goaltending depth in the system is a smart move given that Hannu Toivonen did not develop as expected, and would be traded later in the summer for a pair of prospects. The Rangers held 7 more picks throughout the final 4 rounds, to improve on what is a very deep farm system.

In Unrestricted Free Agency, the Rangers set their sights on one player, veteran center Doug Weight. Weight, at 37 years old, is coming off a career year in which he set career highs in goals, assists and points playing for the Washington Capitals. Forced to choose between two players, the Caps let Weight walk, and he instantly became one of the best offensive forwards on the UFA market. Although it took them two weeks, the Rangers were able to ward off several other teams, and sign Weight to a 2-year deal at just over $5,000,000 a year.

The only disadvantage to picking up one of the best passing centers in the league is that it left the Rangers with a glut of centers, including 4 capable offensive centers. Clearly, in this situation, someone's gotta go and the culprit was David Legwand who was sent to the Wild for LW Alex Steen. The sophomore Steen is coming off a great rookie year and he will fit in nicely on what could be a very good offensive 3rd line for the Rangers.

The Rangers made two final moves to strengthen the club in the last 2 weeks. First, they signed veteran goalie Curtis Joseph to a 1-year deal. Joseph will likely split time with Manny Fernandez, in what could prove to be a very capable tandem. And secondly, they traded young dmen Nick Schultz and Roman Polak to Dallas for top defenceman Eric Brewer. Brewer is very underrated, and is coming off two terrific years with the Flames - together with Wideman, he will form one of the best 1-2 punches on defence in the league.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

Offence-First Strategy. GM Rochebag has very clearly stated that he intends to roll 3 offensive lines. His 4th line, at that, only has one defensive-minded player in Marty Reasoner. This is probably one of the least defensive minded group of forwards in the entire CMHL. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the season. GM Rochebag has done a good job by reinforcing the blueline with a defence-first attitude, but without a star goalie, it will be interesting to see if that group can limit the damage.

Goaltending. A goaltending tandem has never won the Stanley Cup in this league. In fact, a tandem has never gotten a team to the Finals. Even the strongest tandem in the league - Backstrom and Huet in Anaheim - has always eventually given way to one goalie who was able to rise above. Will one of Joseph and Fernandez be able to rise above in New York. And if they do, will they be able to handle the competition? This remains to be seen.

Player To Watch:

Dennis Wideman - Wideman was expected by most to elevate himself as a premier offensive defenceman last season. It didn't happen, although we saw flashes of brilliance at the end of the year. In the end, 24 points and a -36 rating made for a forgettable rookie season. But this year could be different. With Brewer at his side, and a commitment from GM Rochebag to let him run loose, we could finally see the Wideman we've been waiting for.

Season 6 Outlook:

I'm going to say this for all the teams in the Atlantic. It is any team's game. The Rangers are without a doubt improved on last season, a season in which they showed an ability to compete. The Rangers have only surpassed 31 wins once in the 5-year history of the CMHL. I most certainly think this year will be their 2nd time. I believe the Rangers can make the playoffs if they continue to develop the way they have been going. This team has been headed in the right direction ever since Rochebag took over.

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