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Off-Season Game Plan - New York Rangers Written by habsfan93 - May 14th, 2011

Inspired by Scott Cullen at TSN, I'm going to look at the off-season situation of some of the teams in the CMHL. Next up, the New York Rangers.

The Rangers have a history in the CMHL...unfortunately, its not a good one. Having only made the playoffs once, way back in Season 2, the Rangers may hold the record for the most consistently bad team in the league. This year represented a new low, as the Rangers posted their worst record in team history, managing only 25 wins, to finish up at 25-45-12.

Unfortunately, things don't appear to be looking up. Their farm team, the affectionately named Housting Flailing Rib-Aeros, were the second worst team in the ICHF in Season 7. Given that the Rangers currently don't hold a first round pick until 2013, it may be a while yet before the fortunes turn for the better.

Forwards

The Rangers were led at forward by veteran heavyweight Todd Bertuzzi (pictured with teammate Chris Pronger) who, although he posted his worst career season to date, led all Ranger forwards in goals, assists, points, hits and penalty minutes. Bertuzzi is under contract for two more years at a very reasonable salary, and should be counted on to continue leading the way for the Rangers.

The Rangers started the season with Doug Weight in a pivotal veteran role, but when they got into salary cap trouble, the Rangers decided to buy the veteran forward out at a hefty price given his high salary. This freed up a good deal of salary cap but left the Rangers with absolutely no money for this summer, and left the offense in the hands of Bertuzzi, and a group of four young forwards who now make up the core of the Rangers offense. Patrik Berglund stepped up to become the team's top centre at only 22 years old, however this year may be considered by some as a setback year more than anything. Berglund managed only 32 points (seven points less than his rookie Season 6) while posting one of the worst faceoff rates in the CMHL. Given this, Berglund would stand as a terrific NHL Rerate candidate for the Rangers given his vastly superior NHL production, but as long as Ryan continues to be the GM, the Rangers will have no money to afford this luxury.

Ryan Stoa's stock continues to plummet after his 63 point breakout campaign in Season 5. After putting up 46 points last year, he managed a paltry 27 points in Season 7. Having signed a big contract previously, Stoa is now an overpaid forward who cannot be sent to the ICHF. Similarly, Alex Steen managed to keep his goal scoring at his typical career level but fell off terribly on the playmaking side, recording only 10 assists. Both players will be on pace for 3rd line production while playing 1st or 2nd line minutes in Season 8.

The theoretical bright spot of the four is Michael Grabner. Though his CMHL campaign was average at best, he had a breakout NHL season and represents the Rangers best NHL rerate value. That move would give them a potential 35 goal scorer and a major threat on their first line. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the Rangers have no budget money as long as Ryan is GM, and so this benefit is out of their reach and Grabner will be no more than a 20 point player going into Season 8.

Todd Marchant and Radim Vrbata provided veteran support to the Rangers and both are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents this summer. Given the lack of budget, the Rangers will be unable to resign either player in the loyalty period and they will both hit the open market. Jim Slater, Nicholas Blanchard and Chris Thorburn are under team control for next year and will likely be welcomed back given their CMHL experience. Hugo Carpentier was brought in as a late season bench warmer and should be relegated back to the ICHF, while Martins Karsums has signed in Europe and will not be returning to the Rangers next year.

Some hope lies in the farm system for bodies to come up and fill spots on the Rangers roster, most notably Pierre Parenteau, who could immediately jump into a 1st line role with this team given his 50 point NHL season. The other main hope is Justin Abdelkader should finally be ready to secure a full-time CMHL spot as a 3rd or 4th line player. He has seen 15 to 20 pro games the last two seasons. Alex Burmistrov could be signed off the Rangers prospect list given his 20 point NHL rookie campaign, but given that the Rangers are going nowhere very quickly, the wise move would be to wait and see if he can improve his NHL production before giving him a rookie contract. Signing Marcus Johansson off the prospect list would be a slightly better bet as he had a 27 point NHL rookie campaign, but given that he too could stay on the list for another year, I think it would really depend on how desperate the GM is to fill out the roster with bodies.

Defence

Things start looking a little bit better for the Rangers when you go behind the offence to the backend. The Rangers defence is punctuated by two of their prime assets - Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf. While both effective offensive defencemen, their one fault is that they take too many penalties for their own good. Nevertheless, they are terrific assets and both on long term contracts. Moving one of them to shore of the team's depth at forward could be an option that the GM might explore this summer.

Matt Hunwick had a career year for the Rangers with 39 points and is signed to a great long-term contract, while Matt Greene provides a heavy hitting defensive presence. Greene is an RFA this summer, but should be a priority for the Rangers. Overall, the Rangers have a solid top 4 core in place.

Nick Boynton was a mid-season acquisition for the Rangers, and provided a respectable #5 guy, but Boynton is a UFA this summer and he will hit the open market. Bobby Sanguinetti rounded out the top 6. Sanguinetti realistically should still be honing his craft in the ICHF, but he did a respectable job in limited minutes. Don't be surprised if he finds himself back in the ICHF in Season 8.

The Rangers don't have any defencemen in the ICHF that are ready for a CMHL job, but they do have Travis Hamonic on the prospect list who has to be signed or released this summer, and who could immediately step into a #5/6 role for the Rangers in Season 8. Hamonic's style would fit in perfectly with the brand of aggressive hockey that the Rangers play on the backend.

Goaltending

The reason the Rangers don't have a first round pick until 2013 is because they gave their picks in 2011 and 2012 to the Hurricanes in exchange for the signing rights to goaltender Cam Ward on an offer sheet last summer. A risky move for a team that has missed the playoffs for the last several years and is generally in rebuild mode, it didn't exactly pay off. Its not so much that Ward was bad - in fact, he was actually pretty good...his save % this season was the best of his career and his GAA was nearly his best. But he had absolutely no supporting cast capable of scoring goals, and thus the Rangers lost many games at no fault to Cam Ward. Ward is signed into Season 8, and should continue to provide stable goaltending for the Rangers. If they can build a reasonable supporting cast around him, they have the potential to really turn things around quickly.

Not only do the Rangers have Cam Ward, but they have a solid backup in Jeff Deslauriers, who posted personal statistics as good, if not better, than Ward himself. Also signed into next year, Deslauriers could potentially make for valuable trade bait to shore up the offence.

If the Rangers have a real bright spot, it actually is goaltending. On top of having a terrific and young 1-2 combo at the pro level, they have terrific depth at this position at the farm level. Sergei Bobrovsky was signed out of nowhere by GM Ryan (possibly his best move as GM of the Rangers since taking over the team), and he surprised many by grabbing a starting NHL goaltending job. This will give the Rangers 3 pro level goalies going into Season 8. Bobrovsky is on a terrificly cheap contract, and makes Deslauriers all the more expendable.

The Rangers have four additional goalies at the ICHF level, though none particularly notable, and have Calvin Pickard on the prospect list who appears to be developing nicely.

Draft

As mentioned, the Rangers do not hold a first round pick going into this summer's draft, which is unfortunate as they would be holding on to the #2 overall pick (or potentially #1 depending on the lottery results). They do hold 2 mid-2nd round picks, and and 2 early 4th round picks, so there is some more room to grow team depth. The focus should absolutely be at forward first, with defence coming a distant second.

Salary Cap

The Rangers are in a pretty good place salary cap wise thanks to the buyout of pricey veteran Doug Weight. Pronger, Phaneuf and Ward represent their only major commitments at the moment. Steen and Stoa are overpriced, but not a terrible burden at $3,000,000 each roughly. The Rangers will get nearly $5,000,000 in cap freedom when Marchant, Vrbata and Boynton hit the Unrestricted Free Agency market, and Martin Karsums defection to Europe represents a savings of another $1,500,000. All in all, the Rangers have a lot of breathing room, and there should be no reason for cap trouble here. With all this cash, the Rangers could be a major player when the UFA market opens to try and get whatever they can to shore up their forwards group.

Offseason Priorities

1) A major overhaul of the forwards group is required here. The Rangers could be major players when the UFA market opens.

2) Resign Matt Greene to keep their top 4 D-core intact.

3) Turn either Deslauriers or Bobrovsky into something that can help them...maybe a first round pick in the draft?

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