The best teams in the NHL, or any sport for that matter, are the teams that live for the now but also constantly have one eye on the future. In the NHL this usually means scouting, drafting and player development. There is however, another way for the Rangers to continue to build a perennial contender. They may have an opportunity that not many clubs will have.
The Rangers have an opportunity but it depends what you think of the current roster. In my opinion the Rangers are in great shape heading into next season. They have acquired top end skill (Mr Richards), solidified their top 6 defense (with Erixon) and have a great tandem in net – an understatement. The Rangers have cap space, a ton of depth up front (mostly young) and entering camp there are plenty of prospects ready to compete for NHL roster spots that, thanks to the aforementioned depth, may start their seasons developing in the AHL. So, what is this unique opportunity now that we’ve identified that the Rangers are in a good state entering next year?
The example is the San Jose Sharks. The Rangers should, barring an unexpected opportunity, resist making additional moves and take advantage of rare cap space. A few seasons ago the hard pressed New Jersey Devils had a roster problem by the name of Vladimir Malahkov (remember him?). The only way the Devils could solve this was by giving away a quality draft pick to the Sharks to ‘persuade’ them to take on the contract of Malahkov. He never played for the Sharks and eventually that draft pick became David Perron, a very good young NHL’er who has already had a 50 point season in his young career.
With potentially 3-4m in cap space entering the season, the Rangers should look to make the same kind of move. Indeed, with the Parise situation the Devils may once again be a team eventually looking to shed a bad contract but there could be several teams in this situation. With some patience and the cap space allowing for bigger (prorated) contracts in-season, the Rangers could offer to help a desperate team during next season. All they would want back is a quality draft pick. The Rangers are fortunate that with their deep pockets and big market presence they can bury a bad contract in the minors if it isn’t the same scenario like the Sharks had with the retiring Malahkov.
We recently saw wily operator Brian Burke make a lopsided trade with Nashville as the Predators needed to clear space in preparation for a new Shea Weber deal. Toronto took advantage of their own cap space by taking on Matt Lombardi’s deal. Glen Sather is also a wily, veteran general manager. Hopefully Sather and Tortorella think the team is ready based on what is already in the organisation and can then use this cap space to grab some picks/assets to help in the future. The Rangers have drafted very well in recent years so using their (at present) good situation to their advantage should be a serious consideration.