Rangers have room to bring in big talents
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
There won't be much dissecting of this Rangers season, at least not publicly. John Tortorella will meet with his players Monday and send them on their way for the offseason with plenty to think about, but the anti-cliche coach sent his message loud and clear in the minutes after Friday night's overtime loss in Game 6.
"You know how I feel about our team," Tortorella said, unable to contain a smile even after a crushing loss. "I love our jam. I really like what we have here."
And because this season's Rangers overachieved -- they were going to be better than the previous season, but an Eastern Conference regular-season title and six games into the conference final might have been more than expected from a young club -- now that the games are done, the mandate for Glen Sather is clear.
Get a scorer. Maybe get two scorers, given the $16.4 million of salary-cap space the Rangers have going into July. You could even call it $20 million, given that the summer cap adds 10 percent and that even if a new collective-bargaining agreement reduces the overall cap number, that won't come until September (or later), meaning free agency will be business as usual for the Rangers.
The Rangers' brain trust will convene in California within the next 10 days. Sather and his sharp crew -- assistant GM Jeff Gorton, scouting director Gordie Clark and the rest -- will debate the merits of trading for Rick Nash before July 1 comes, and then the merits of making a front-loaded offer to pending free agent Zach Parise once July 1 arrives.
The fact that the Rangers conceivably could make both moves certainly is a surprise. A package beginning with Brandon Dubinsky, defense prospect Dylan McIlrath and the 28th pick in the June 22 draft could be enough to entice the Blue Jackets to surrender Nash. He was on the block at the trade deadline, but Columbus GM Scott Howson sought the moon and stars from Sather.
He might do so again when trade talks resume, most likely before the draft. Sather has that mass of cap space to hold as a chip. He could go after Parise and another scoring forward, such as the Kings' Dustin Penner, instead of giving up a player.
No matter how you look at these Rangers, they hold a lot of cards going into the summer. That won't ease the pain for these players or their coach just yet, but it certainly could soothe the worries of fans who believe this team just doesn't have enough to get by more experienced teams such as the Devils.
The Devils are on a terrific run, but the franchise's massive financial problems will make it tough on them to sustain it. The Bruins might be in flux with Tim Thomas' pending departure and an aging defense. The Caps need a new coach and need to decide what sort of team they will be. The Penguins' shocking first-round flameout has them wondering what to fix. Ditto the Flyers, who are getting old on defense and are locked into $61.3 million in salaries for next season.
That leaves the Rangers, with space and a slew of good, young players, as the prime destination for a disgruntled talent such as Nash or a blue-chip free agent such as Parise.
The season ended Friday, in a most painful way.
But the offseason begins Monday. What the Rangers can do this summer will ease a lot of pain.