Going into the NHL free-agent market, which opened at noon Friday, the Rangers knew they were more handcuffed than in previous years.
With five restricted free agents to be signed and the decision to keep Brad Richards and his $6.67-million cap charge for another season, frugality, rather than free spending, was the word of the day.
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While other clubs dropped tens of millions on long-term deals, the Rangers filled some holes, spending only $2.9 million overall for center Dominic Moore, left wing Benoit Pouliot and defenseman Aaron Johnson.
Earlier, new coach Alain Vigneault reaffirmed what had been fairly evident for weeks: "We'll be looking to add some depth to our team, but I'm getting the sense from [our scouts and front office] that we have a lot of good young players that need an opportunity to show what they can do."
Barring a trade to shed some salary, the front office has about $11.1 million left under the salary cap to sign those restricted free agents: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Justin Falk. Teams can add another $6.43 million during the summer but must be cap-compliant by opening night.
For Moore, 32, the transaction marks a return to the NHL and to the team that drafted him in 2000. Moore, who will be paid $1 million for a year, debuted for the Rangers in 2003. He played for Hartford during the lockout that wiped out the following season, then rejoined the Rangers in 2005-06 and played primarily on a checking line. He was traded to the Penguins in 2006 and has skated for seven other teams, including the Sharks in 2011-12. Moore, who has 67 goals and 185 points in his career, sat out last season after the loss of his wife, Kate, to liver cancer.
Moore's signing gives the Rangers four experienced centers, and allows Vigneault, like former coach John Tortorella, to move 6-7 Brian Boyle to wing.
Pouliot, 26, agreed to a one-year, $1.3-million contract. The 6-3, 205-pound left wing played for the Lightning and Bruins, was 8-12-20 in 34 games with Tampa Bay last season and led the team with a plus-8 rating. In 2011-12, Pouliot had 16 goals and 32 points in 74 games for Boston.
Johnson, 30, who played for the Bruins and AHL Providence last season, received a one-year deal worth $600,000.
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