PHILADELPHIA - In his annual post-draft, state-of-the-team briefing, Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather didn't paint the rosiest picture for a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final.
After the NHL draft ended at Wells Fargo Center Saturday, Sather bemoaned the harsh financial realities of a lower salary cap than expected and players who are asking for higher dollars nonetheless.
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Sather revealed that he has given qualifying offers to key restricted free agents (Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and John Moore) and is having discussions with the club's unrestricted free agents (Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore), but he seemed resigned to losing some of them.
"We'd like to retain everybody but it's going to be difficult because of the way the cap is today," he said. "Realistically, I think some of these guys have to probably pull their horns in a little bit . . . Everything's going to be complicated."
With the 2014-15 cap set at $69 million -- it was $64.3 million last season, and estimates had been as high as $71 million for this season -- Sather said he had to trade Derek Dorsett and his $1.63-million cap hit to Vancouver on Friday "to give us some relief . . . we had to make some room.''
"The unfortunate thing about the way this whole thing is structured today is you want to keep your own guys," he said. "But how do you get new guys? The other problem is teams that are so low on the salary cap have to pay a lot of money to guys just to reach the floor and they may not be worth it, it so it blows up everything. That disrupts the market."
The changes forced Sather to make the business decision on a compliance buyout for Brad Richards, who had "a bounce-back year" but "rules changed. Nothing you can do about it."
Judging from Sather's remarks on individual players, it appears that Boyle will not return, that he wants Pouliot back and that he will not give either Zuccarello or Kreider as much money as they might be seeking.
Zuccarello, Sather said, "had a great year . . . sees the ice as well as anybody in the game. [But] he really had only one good [full] year here so far, and Kreider started in the minors. That's what we're going to talk about."
Boyle, a fourth-liner, wants an expanded role, but Sather said: "The reason we got to where we did is because we have a good coach, a good coaching staff, a team philosophy . . . There's roles for different players to play, and if they can accept them, you're gonna have a good team. But if you've got players who aren't willing to accept their roles, that creates problems. I'm not interested in problems; I'm interested in players to want to play within the team structure."
Pouliot, who played on several teams in the past four seasons, "found a place where he was very comfortable, the coach liked him, the line [with Brassard and Zuccarello] was good for each other, they had good structure, good chemistry. You move on to another place, you might be in the same situation you were two years ago. I think you have to decide yourself what's important: Winning or getting a few dollars more someplace else."
So the roster will change, and in an endorsement of one prospect, the team's first-round draft pick in 2011, Sather said he expects "[J.T.] Miller to come and play this year. He probably would've played throughout the playoffs if he hadn't had the separated shoulder. He's going to develop into a very good hockey player. He had a lot of growth this year."