Now the Rangers are really on the clock.
After three days of discussions and speculation, the NHL's two top free agents -- Devils winger Zach Parise and Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter -- each accepted a 13-year, $98-million contract with the Minnesota Wild Wednesday.
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The free-agent market, which had been frozen while the pair decided, will loosen and the Rangers' pursuit of Columbus forward Rick Nash and Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan in trades can begin in earnest. But they will face increased competition from teams that have spending money, assets and cap space (the Rangers have about $16 million) who were spurned by Parise and Suter.
Nash, 28, an All-Star left wing who has a $7.8-million annual cap hit through 2018, has a short list of teams to which he would accept a trade. The Rangers had a significant offer on the table that included Brandon Dubinsky and prospects at February's trade deadline. The Red Wings, Penguins and Flyers, who made significant offers to Parise and Suter, are said to be on the list, along with the Sharks.
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, who rejected the Rangers' offer, wants young forwards who can step into the lineup. Rangers general manager Glen Sather has refused to include forwards Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan and defenseman Ryan McDonagh in his bid.
If Howson sends Nash elsewhere, Sather is expected to turn farther west: Anaheim. But other teams that do not acquire Nash also might set their sights on Ryan, who has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last three seasons.
Ryan, 25, carries a $5-million cap hit, and the Ducks have been spreading the word that they would want a second-line center and picks at the minimum for the winger, who grew up in south Jersey.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan, 35, is another unrestricted free agent who is drawing interest from those teams, including the Rangers. Doan, who prefers to stay in Phoenix with his family, said he will not make a decision any earlier than Monday, when the team's long-term future may become a little clearer. The 6-2 right wing was 22-28-50 last season and has scored at least 20 goals in 11 of his past 12 seasons.
Parise, 27, a Minnesota native who said he wanted to return home rather than commit long-term to New Jersey, and Suter, who grew up in Wisconsin, are close friends and spoke several times during the decision-making process. The signings immediately make the Wild, which failed to make the playoffs the last four seasons, much more competitive in the Western Conference.
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