GREENBURGH, N.Y. - With Rangers training camp opening Sept. 12, unsigned center Brandon Dubinsky scrimmaged Monday with about 30 Rangers players and prospects and said he expects to reach a deal shortly.
"I want to be a Ranger," Dubinsky, 23, a restricted free agent who declined a qualifying offer of $698,000 this summer, told Newsday after the workout. "The Rangers want me here; something's gonna get done real quick and this will all be an afterthought. I'm in here working hard, getting ready for the season, not worrying about that. Everything falls into place eventually, so I'm not losing any sleep over it. Obviously, there's been a lot of speculation, but I know where we're at and where we're gonna be . . . It might be 12 days away from camp, but 12 days is a long time. You can have a lot of conversations in 12 days. It only takes one."
The Rangers - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - reportedly refused to include Dubinsky in a trade with Ottawa for disgruntled forward Dany Heatley, but they have been unable to reach an agreement with the Alaska native, whose name has been floated by coach John Tortorella as possibly playing on the No. 1 line with newly acquired sniper Marian Gaborik.
On the other hand, Tortorella - who is restricted from being on ice for workouts before camp - also said he wants to see maturation from Dubinsky, who had 13 goals and 28 assists in 82 games last season and went 1-3-4 in the playoff loss to the Capitals.
Beginning in July, the Rangers began to dismantle the squad, shipping Scott Gomez to the Canadiens, letting go of Nikolai Zherdev, Nik Antropov and Derek Morris, acquiring Gaborik, Chris Higgins, Ales Kotalik, Vinny Prospal and Donald Brashear, and re-signing Ryan Callahan.
Dubinsky, who appeared relaxed and confident Monday, said he was not shocked that the process has played out so long. "You always think it's going to happen right away, but it's been an interesting summer for our team, all the changes," he said. "I knew there was a chance it was going to take a while because heading into the summer, we had a lot of free agents - not only restricted but unrestricted - so they had to make some decisions. Even some of the restricted free agents had arbitration. So I was able to get the qualifier and hang out."
Asked if he is ready to play under the qualifier, Dubinsky hedged. "We'll see,'' he said. "I don't want to talk about numbers and figures and terms. I'm ready to play. Leave that to the businessmen; that's why we pay those guys."
As for his game, he changed his summer routine a bit. "I shot a lot of pucks," he said. "I passed on too many opportunities last season."