This is now the third part of a the decisions of General Manager Glen Sather. Sather has come under some real heat lately, as the Rangers are in what appears to be a free fall, and have no cap room to make any adjustments. The highest paid players on the Rangers have been, to be delicate, disappointing. Sather’s strength during his tenure with the Rangers has been his ability to make trades, but this does not overshadow his weakness of evaluating the market and making the best decision for the team. In this series, I will analyze where Sather went wrong, and where he lost the fans.
In this third installment, we again look at the 2008 offseason. The Rangers found themselves with just four defensemen, and three big names in free agency coming their way. Having just spent a combined $14 million on Scott Gomez and Chris Drury the previous season, the Rangers could only afford one of the big name free agents, while attempting to retain others who were free agents. Of course, the Rangers signed Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin, re-upped Paul Mara, and then traded Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman for Nikolai Zherdev. Perhaps the deal that made the most noise, other than Redden’s signing, was the extension given to Michal Rozsival; a four-year deal worth $20 million.
The Rangers had their fair share of large contracts before Rozsival re-upped with the Rangers. They had the aforementioned Gomez/Drury contracts, and now the Redden contract. In three players, the Rangers had committed more than $20 million. They also had to resign Henrik Lundqvist, who gave the team a break and allowed them to deal with the salary cap woes prior to signing his long term deal. Rozsival was a key cog in the Rangers defense during his stay in New York, and deserved to be resigned. Insert Glen Sather, and his inability to appropriately read the market, and Rozsival now sits with a $5 million cap hit, more than double his previous contract.
This move was, in short, a disaster. For $5 million, the Rangers got a regressing Rozsival who has yet to find his game after his hip surgery. After a career year in which he anchored the powerplay, he became shot-shy, and rarely put the puck on net. Instead, he deferred to the larger contracts of Gomez and Drury to create. He stopped hitting people, and forwards just started skating by him, untouched.
Meanwhile, the current Rangers defense, already with Redden’s abysmal contract, became one of the softest in the league. A more appropriate contract for Rozsival, say three years $10 million, and the Rangers find themselves with more wiggle room, and maybe the ability to trade Rozsival to fill the hole of physical defenseman.
Chalk up this signing to poor timing and a regressing player. Had the Rangers not already committed $6.5 million a year to Redden, this signing would be easier to swallow. As it stands now, both signings are terrible, but Rozsival has become a black hole on defense, and prone to epic turnovers that have cost games.
Luckily for the Rangers, buying out Rozsival is a feasible option (If you haven’t checked out that post, you should, it took me forever to write). It’s not the prettiest of solutions, like the Gomez trade, but it gets the job done.