From 10:30 a.m. on will be at training center speaking to players and then the coach, who, as everyone has known from months from his remarks about "the process...building with youth", that he wasn't going anywhere, and would receive a contract extension. I wrote this Sunday morning and it's in today's Newsday...
Check back here and on twitter.com/stevezipay today, tomorrow and throughout the summer. Just because the season's over, the coverage doesn't end....
Thanks for all the kind comments though the season. Great lot you are...
WASHINGTON---With his aching left knee still wrapped after the 3-1 loss to the Capitals eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs in five games, defenseman Marc Staal assessed the young core of the team. “Obviously we gained some experience in this series, any experience is good experience,” said Staal, named an alternate captain this season and no graybeard at 24. “But it’s no consolation.”
Staal has been to the playoff wars with the Blueshirts three times, previously in 2008 and 2009, and another summer of change looms. He and underrated defense partner Dan Girardi will be around for awhile, thanks to long-term contracts.
But for the Rangers, off-season moves are as certain as August humidity, and the forecast is the same.
Overall, the Rangers (44-33-5) had six more wins than in 2009-10, but nine victories came in shootouts. Without a consistent offense---no Ranger had 30 goals or 60 points--- and ravaged by injuries starting in training camp, Tortorella insisted on building with youth, a dump-and-chase offense and strong defense. The Rangers led the NHL in hits and were fourth in blocked shots.
With 14 players under contract for $42.6 million, President and General Manager Glen Sather and coach John Tortorella have issues to confront and decisions to make. Tortorella will be back next season, with some reinforcements, as the management team attempts to keep rebuilding. Sather didn’t swap promising youngsters for veterans to try to get through the first round of the playoffs and Tortorella supported him, preaching patience and pitching the concept of building a stronger team with the ability to contend for several years, not just one spring.
Offense is the overriding issue. Marian Gaborik, a game-breaker last season with 42 goals, struggled. A shoulder injury and concussion limited him to 62 games and did not look like the same player. He finished with 22 goals and 48 points, far too little to justify a $7.5 million salary. Next year will be his third in a five-year deal, and Gaborik needs to rebound.
Surprising seasons from some players helped. Derek Stepan, who left the University of Wisconsin after his sophomore year, finished fifth in scoring among rookies with 21 goals and 24 assists. Brian Boyle posted career-high numbers: 21 goals and 14 assists. Artem Anisimov, the Russian center playing his second full season, scored 18 goals. Brandon Prust, obtained from Calgary in February, 2010, blossomed into more than a scrappy wing willing to drop the gloves with anyone. He scored 13 goals, including five shorthanded, which ranked third-best in the league.
Of the five unrestricted free agents---forwards Vinny Prospal, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Frolov and defensemen Bryan McCabe and Steve Eminger---four likely will not return. Frolov sustained severe knee damage and didn’t play after Jan. 11. McCabe, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline to quarterback the power play, didn’t contribute enough. Only one of the two forwards who played for Tortorella in Tampa presumably will be offered a contract. Prospal, 35, played just 29 games after major knee surgery; Fedotenko is a few years younger.
The main questions involve Chris Drury ($7 million salary cap hit in 2011-12), Wojtek Wolski ($3.8 million), Sean Avery ($1.9), Erik Christensen ($927,000) and Derek Boogaard ($1.6 million per for the next three years). One or more could be bought out to create cap space for a top free agent such as Dallas’ Brad Richards, who could center a line with Gaborik and run the power play.
The Rangers are likely to resign most of their restricted free agents: Ryan Callahan, the all-around right wing whose loss to a fractured ankle on April 4th put a huge dent in the team’s playoff chances, will be back with a significant bump from his $2.3 million salary, as will Sauer, who earned every cent of his $500,000, and Boyle, who at $525,000 was one of the biggest bargains in the East. Brandon Dubinsky, who was 24-30-54 in the second season of a $3.7 million deal, and Anisimov ($875,000) should be part of the roster. Matt Gilroy, who played well against the Capitals, is a question mark, but might be offered a contract at a lower salary.