CHICAGO — The Rangers are changing not only on the ice but behind the bench this offseason.
Assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom, the former Rangers defenseman who was added last summer to oversee the defense on head coach Alain Vig neault’s staff, has been offered another position with the club, general manager Jeff Gorton said Saturday.
It is widely believed that former Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff will step in, but no official announcement has been made.
“We met with Jeff, and we agreed on both sides to offer him another job. He wanted to do something else and we’re going to put him in another role, yet to be defined,” Gorton said. “As far as his replacement, it’s ongoing. We’re trying to figure that out right now. There’s rumors, but we don’t have the answer yet. Hopefully soon.”
Ruff, 59, who could not be reached for comment, has not been an NHL assistant since 1996 with the Florida Panthers before going to Buffalo, where he was the head coach until 2013. He then coached in Dallas for four years but was fired at the end of last season. He is fifth on the NHL all-time list with 736 wins and fourth in games coached at 1,493. He also played three seasons for the Rangers from 1988-91.
“It’s always nice to have experience,’’ Gorton acknowledged when asked about Ruff.
Beukeboom was an assistant in Hartford for four seasons before joining Vigneault’s staff.
After the buyout of Dan Girardi and the trade of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona on Friday, the Rangers have about $20 million in salary-cap space to add players, such as defensemen, a center and a backup goaltender via trade or free agency starting next Saturday. About $2.9 million more would be available if defenseman Kevin Klein, 32, decides to retire from the NHL, forgo the final season of his contract and play in Europe.
“I talked to Kevin maybe 10 days ago. We agreed to talk again soon, so we don’t really have an answer as to what he’s going to do,” Gorton said. “I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”
Gorton also is working to sign two restricted free agents, current top-line center Mika Zibanejad and right wing Jesper Fast.
Zibanejad, who arrived from Ottawa last summer in exchange for Derick Brassard, had a salary of $3.25 million and a salary-cap charge of $2.625 million last season. “We’re open for anything as far as Mika,” Gorton said. “We want to make a good deal. It could be short-term, it could be long-term, we’re wide open. I’ve had conversations with his guys.”
Zibanejad, who suffered a broken leg and missed 25 games early in the season, finished with 14 goals and 37 points in 56 games and was 2-7-9 in 12 playoff games.
As for Fast, who will not be ready until about November after hip surgery, his contract will be less expensive. He was paid $1 million last season, with a $950,000 cap charge.
“We’ve been talking to him for a while. It’s ongoing,’’ Gorton said. “Jesper’s been a good Ranger. Hopefully we’ll get it done pretty soon.”