PITTSBURGH -- Glen Sather did not come away from draft weekend with any big prizes through a blockbuster trade, though not for a lack of trying.
But when free agency opens on July 1, Sather promised yesterday the Rangers would be trying even harder to land a scoring forward to augment an offense that not only sputtered too often during the season and the playoffs, but will also be missing Marian Gaborik (rotator cuff surgery) for up to two months if the 2012-13 season begins on time.
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"I think we're going to be fairly aggressive on the free-agent market," Sather said after the Rangers completed their draft by making three second-day selections on Saturday. "If there's somebody out there who can help us, we'll certainly look into it."
Sather has been looking into acquiring Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash since February's trade deadline, but Columbus GM Scott Howson's demands have not come down to Sather's liking. Ducks wing Bobby Ryan appeals to the Rangers, but without a Nash deal this weekend, Anaheim sat tight to see what sort of price Ryan -- who told a Philadelphia-area newspaper on Friday that he wants out and would prefer to go to the Flyers -- could fetch.
"Not much has changed since the trade deadline," Sather said, adding that he had talks with teams who made deals on Friday, including Penguins GM Ray Shero.
Shero sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes in the lone headline-making deal. Sather would have loved to acquire Staal, but it was a non-starter because the Rangers and Penguins are in the same division. "It's really difficult to make a trade that makes sense for both sides, playing in the same division," Sather said.
Instead, the focus was on the draft picks. Late Friday night the Rangers used their first-round pick, No. 28, to take defenseman Brady Skjei, an 18-year-old headed to the University of Minnesota. Yesterday, the Rangers scooped up a somewhat local product with the 59th pick, taking prep school center Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, a fast-skating playmaker from Baldwinsville, N.Y. who will head to Michigan in the fall.
The Rangers also took a pair of European players in the fourth and fifth rounds -- defenseman Calle Andersson of Sweden, whose father Peter played for the Rangers in the early 1990s, and Danish winger Thomas Spelling.
Cristoval “Boo” Nieves
The center (6-2, 184) is a terrific skater and playmaker who had some success in the New England prep school league for Kent, which Isles coach Jack Capuano attended. Nieves had seven goals and 32 assists last season and is headed for the University of Michigan in the fall.
“He’s got three big assets — his size, his top-end skating ability and his playmaking,” said Rangers scouting director Gordie Clark. “He’s got a shot, too, though it needs some work. And when he gets to Michigan, all of those areas will improve under Red Berenson.”
A solidly built (6-2, 211) defenseman who also has a deft passing touch. His father, Peter, was a fourth-round Rangers pick in 1983 and played 39 games over two seasons from 1992-94.
“He’s a very gifted passer, which is what you need from the defense position now,” Clark said.
The Rangers traded back into the draft to select Spelling (6-1, 176), who led the professional Danish league in playoff scoring for league champion Herning and handled himself well in the World Junior tournament for an underdog Denmark squad.
“That’s what caught our attention — he played well against the big clubs, the Canadas and the U.S. teams,” Clark said.