What's next for the Rangers, who have the core of a Stanley Cup contender? Based on playoff performances, youngsters Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh should only get better. But the Blueshirts have some avenues to pursue in order to improve next season.
Decisions are needed on eight unrestricted and three restricted free agents. Management will certainly test the free-agent waters. On the trade front, is another run at Columbus power forward Rick Nash in the offing? What about fishing for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, a New Jersey native? The Rangers have the 28th pick in the draft on June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. Or perhaps that pick could be packaged in a swap.
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A quick overview:
Five top free agents
Zach Parise, Devils. If the captain doesn't return to New Jersey, and indications are that he will check his options to cash in elsewhere, the 27-year-old left wing would be an ideal fit for the Rangers, but the Red Wings and other clubs will be in the hunt. He has scored between 31 and 45 goals each year that he's been healthy and is familiar with coach John Tortorella from Team USA.
Ryan Suter, Predators. Another Team USA medalist. All-Star defenseman, 27, averaged 26:30 of ice time. Had career high 46 points, 25 on the power play. Wants long-term deal, probably in $7 million per year range.
Shane Doan, Coyotes. Loves Phoenix, but the 35-year-old might be persuaded to take a short-term deal with a contender. David Jones, Avalanche. More of a secondary scorer, but the 6-2 right wing was 20-17-37 this season in Colorado and could help at the right price.
Justin Schultz. The Wisconsin junior defenseman, who apparently filed paperwork to officially withdraw from school, was a 2008 second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, but without signing is free to negotiate a deal. The two-time All-American is projected as a top four blueliner with offensive skills. Note: Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh are ex-Badgers.
Unrestricted free agents
Martin Biron. The well-liked and solid veteran backup is likely to return.
Brandon Prust. Scrapper and penalty-killer. Won't break the bank.
Ruslan Fedotenko. A Tortorella favorite, earned $1.4 million, interesting call here.
Stu Bickel. Rookie defenseman has promise, but how much upside?
Steve Eminger. Might not have room for seventh defenseman.
Jeff Woywitka. October waiver claim didn't dress in last 39 games.
John Scott. Trade deadline move didn't pan out.
Restricted free agents
Michael Del Zotto. Still raw in some areas, had difficult playoffs. But only earning a little over $1 million. Short-term investment or trade possible?
Mats Zuccarello. Diminutive winger doesn't want two-way deal, could opt to play in Europe or Russia.
Anton Stralman. Improved during season, good playoffs, but prospect Tim Erixon may make him expendable.
On the cusp?
Defensemen Tim Erixon, who played 18 games for the Blueshirts and the remainder in the AHL, should get a long look in training camp. So will J.T. Miller, last year's No. 1 draft pick; Christian Thomas, 34 goals, 67 points in 55 games with Oshawa, and Michael St. Croix, 45-60-105 in the regular season, a 7-12-19 playoff and a WHL championship with the Edmonton Oil Kings.