OK so if you have not been bored silly with the first 4 parts of our own look at the Rangers then it is time to stop talking about who to get rid of and who to keep and start looking at how to build the 2008-2009 Ranger roster.
We think that with a blend of returnees, some promoted prospects and our idea of who to sign then those who think next season will be a step backwards are wrong. We think that the core of the team is good enough to make the playoffs and with the right moves the Rangers just might shook people.
Jagr/Vrbata/Dubinsky: We believe the Rangers will offer Jagr an incentive filled contract that allows Jagr to keep his pride while protecting the team in case Jagr does not have a bounce back regular season. Thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Rangers can offer Jagr a base salary close to what his cap number was and then if Jagr does earn the bonus money to have it count against the 2009-2010 salary cap. Win win for everyone.
Subtract one Czech in Martin Straka and replace him with a new Czech in Radim Vrbata and you have the makings of one solid line. While a lot of folks are going to say that Vrbata slumped badly not scoring in his last 20 goals we have to point out that he was playing for the Coyotes who went 5-10-2 as part of their collapse. While we hear that the Coyotes are trying their best to keep him at the same time, the lure of playing in front of his countrymen, a chance to make the playoffs and a chance to finally shed the "who?" label he has had in his NHL career is too much to ignore.
Then we have the player who we believe is going to surprise a lot of people with his improvement and that is Brandon Dubinsky. We have known Dubinsky since 2004 and the one thing that defines Dubinsky is that we know of no player or prospect who takes the lessons he has learned from the prior season and work on improving himself for the next season.
You want to see someone who we think just might score 30 goals next season then say Hi to Brandon Dubinsky.
Gomez/Lauri Korpikoski/Avery: We take one playmaker (Gomez) add one first round pick who has finally realized what he needs to do in order to become an NHL player (Korpikoski) and a player (Avery) who is going to realize that NYC is his best bet to be the star he every so badly wants to be in
The Rangers and Sean Avery are going to realize that they need each other more than they want to admit. The Rangers are going to see that the Sean Avery from the series against the Devils is an excellent weapon while Avery is going to realize that no other city is going to offer him the opportunity to be Sean Avery like NYC.
You also take a playmaker like a Gomez and let an Avery play with him and Avery becomes more than a pest. Everyone talks about the pest Avery is but what gets overlooked is that Avery is also a pretty decent defensive player who the Rangers can pair with Gomez as a penalty kill unit.
Of course there are some tiny details to consider: No other city offers Avery the spotlight he loves, no other team's fans will stroke his ego, no other place offers him the nightlife, the TV shows or the magazine features that Avery would appear. Avery is not dumb, he knows that if he played for anyone else that he doesn't appear on Letterman as he did.
That will be too much for Avery's ego to turn down. Yes Avery wants his money but being a star is what he really wants and if he leaves the Rangers then that will not happen. Expect a happy compromise by both with allows each side to save face.
Scott Gomez on the other hand gets a player who will set up in the slot to gobble up his passes and turn them into goals and a rookie with soft hands who will help Gomez set a new career high in assists. Sorry but Shanahan cost Gomez a lot more points than people realize and replacing Shanahan with a Korpikoski is what has to happen.
We throw Korpikoski here because it is the ideal fit, he has a protector in Avery and a set up man to take full advantage of his offensive skills. Soft hands, accurate shot and as Ranger fans got to see in his NHL debut, a willingness to attack. Who knows who or what flipped the switch that woke up Korpikoski but now that he had a taste of the NHL life we believe he will stick around.
We see these 3 as perfect blends, all 3 skate well, they play defense, not afraid to go in traffic and will compliment each other's strengths which is the makings of a productive line.
Drury/Dawes/Callahan: This is the line that during the series with the Devils was the one that got the Rangers going and at times rescued the Rangers from themselves. It is an interesting line because you have 3 players who are known as goal scorers but in the case of Callahan and Dawes it was their forechecking that did the most damage in the playoffs.
We want to keep this line together because we liked the energy this line brought to the table but we are also not going to be a afraid at the same time to break it up. The one concern on this line will be who is going to be the playmaker for the other 2 and we believe it should be Dawes as his passing skills are stronger than people realize.
We believe that both Callahan and Drury are going to have bounce back seasons if they are allowed to stick with the same linemates for more than a couple of weeks. The key though has to be Drury as the Rangers are not paying him 7+ million to score just 25 goals, he must score more.
Sjostrom/Byers/Betts/Orr/Moore: We made this line as big as we did because we think the ability to swap arround players depending on the situation makes all 5 players extremely useful.
You start with Blair Betts who remains the Rangers best defensive player despite his critics.
The problem with Betts is that people look at his ice time and not what he is doing to earn that ice time. When the Rangers give up 9 power plays in a game then your number one penalty killer is going to eat up minutes. When you realize that the other guy did not score on most of the power play chances it is because of Betts.
Yes we know people want more offense but at the same time they forget that keeping the other guy from scoring is just as important. That is why Betts is the only one of this group that can count on playing every night.
When the Rangers want to get physical then the combo of Byers and Orr are going to do a lot to prevent people from running at the smaller Rangers. It has been a long time since the Rangers had 2 true heavyweights on the roster but both Byers and Orr are 6'3 200.
At the same time neither Byers nor Orr will hurt the team by playing, both are excellent defensive players (Byers a proven shut down artist) but Byers is going to also play smarter and offer more offense than the player we want him to replace in Ryan Hollweg.
When the Rangers want to mix and match then Fredrik Sjostrom will offer the speed and skating while Moore a strong forecheck with a 2 way game. Both players also can step up and replace others should the need arise which makes both very valuable.
That all 5 will play for moderately priced contracts is equally as important as that allows the Rangers to spend the money on keeping key players while adding roster hole fillers. That alone increase their value.
On defense we start with those who are returning for sure which are Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Fedor Tyutin then we add in the 2 players we believe would fill the biggest of Ranger needs in Ron Hainsey of Columbus and Kurt Sauer (older brother of Micheal) of Colorado. Nobody is fooling anyone when the Ranger's top priority is vastly upgrading the Ranger defense.
We also will make room for Ivan Baranka and Corey Potter to earn promotions to the Rangers which will give the Rangers a vastly improved defense.
We put Staal and Hainsey together as the first pair, Hainsey has been a very good secret playing in Columbus but we believe because he can play either a 1 or 2 then he will provide Marc Staal with the kind of partner that will allow Staal to further his NHL development without giving up on defense or offense.
Keeping Girardi with Tyutin is a move we hope that will fix whatever went wrong with Tyutin in the playoffs and hopefully get him to stop playing scared. We want to see more offense out of Tyutin and we think that with Girardi will help fix his confidence.
We add Kurt Sauer because for one thing when the Rangers have a one goal lead in the final minutes they need someone who will go out there and not scare you with his play. Sauer will use his body (unlike Malik, Backman or Rozsival) and will not allow someone to simply sit in his crease.
Sauer will move them but Sauer's importance is also going to be seen in the mentoring he can provide the younger Ranger defenseman like Ivan Baranka and Corey Potter. We think both of these kids can make the jump to the NHL and with an experience mentor like a Sauer as there partners will accelerate both development and confidence.
Baranka has the tools but has never been able to remain healthy, he has come very close to earning a roster spot but injuries have repeatedly set him back. Baranka (6'3) has size, will hit anything that moves and has a laser of a shot from the point. We think he can also play on the power play since he is not afraid to shoot the puck.
Potter on the other hand has simply been slow to develop but this season finally put it together playing like someone who wants to make the jump to the NHL. Potter is 6'3 but we would like to see him add another 10 lbs because Potter likes to hit and the players at this level are just as big as he is.
DISCLAIMERS: OK if you thought we would not cover ourselves then you are kidding. If the Rangers do not resign either Jagr or Avery then expect the Rangers to look to make a trade for either Patrick Marleau of San Jose or a long shot effort at Ilya Kovalchuk of the Thrashers.
We think the Rangers still might take runs at both players simply because Marleau is so out of favor in San Jose we expect the Shark Captain to be the traded scapegoat this off-season.
Ilya Kovalchuk on the other hand we believe is going to realize that it is going to take the Thrashers a lot longer to fix the franchise than he has patience for. If the Thrashers fail to address his concernr expect him to demand a trade out of Atlanta.
The further the Penguins go in the playoffs the higher the price tag for both Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik will become. We think the Rangers would be better served passing both players on by and use the money elsewhere so they can get more bang for their buck.
We do believe that given the smarts that the Ranger's Capologist Cameron Hope has that the Rangers will be able to sign and keep whoever they wise.
Tomorrow it is time to draft.
3 hours ago