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Rangers continue to be interested in Columbus' Rick Nash

Then-Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash (61) watches a

Then-Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash (61) watches a face off during the third period of a game against the Rangers. (Feb. 19, 2012) Credit: AP

During the first day of the NHL's free-agent season, the Rangers didn't land any big fish or swing a trade, but there is every indication that they are not done trawling.

On the trade front, the Rangers appear to be the front-runner in the race for Columbus power forward Rick Nash, but as was the case at the trade deadline in February, general manager Glen Sather will not include Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh or Derek Stepan in any deal. The Rangers have proposals on the table and Nash has the Rangers on a short list of teams to which he can be dealt, but Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson remains adamant about what he wants.

The two most-coveted free agents -- Devils forward Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter -- are said to be sifting through 10- or 12-year offers worth about $90 million and likely will make decisions Monday. The Rangers are not in that mix.

But after that, it is expected that the remainder of the top free agents will find homes and something will happen with Nash, 28, and perhaps Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan. Coyotes captain Shane Doan, a free agent of interest to the Rangers, said he will not decide on a return to Phoenix until the ownership situation becomes clearer July 8.

The Rangers' deals were small ones and involved acquiring -- and re-signing -- several tough players to compensate for the loss of forward Brandon Prust, an unrestricted free agent who had a chance to triple his $800,000 annual salary and did.

Prust hit the jackpot, signing a four-year, $10-million contract with the Canadiens, a deal that was too rich for the Rangers' blood. Fourth-line center John Mitchell left for a two-year, $2.2-million deal with Colorado.

To ensure that Mike Rupp isn't the only Ranger willing to drop the gloves against opponents such as the Flyers, Devils and Islanders, the Rangers re-signed defenseman Stu Bickel for two years at $1.5 million and added Arron Asham, 34, who has played for every team in the division, most recently the Penguins. Asham, who signed a two-year, $2-million contract, had five goals, 11 assists and 76 penalty minutes in 64 games. He will be the first player to have skated for all five current Atlantic Division teams, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Rangers also brought in Micheal Haley, 26, who had seven fighting majors in 14 games last season and 151 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Islanders over three seasons. With Bridgeport of the AHL, he had a career-high 15 goals and 10 assists in 51 games.

Several free-agent defensemen, such as Milan Jurcina, are believed to be on the Rangers' radar, as well as forward Jiri Hudler, depending on the cost.

The Rangers re-signed center Kris Newbury. Whale goalie Chad Johnson left for Phoenix and the Blue Jackets signed Jonathan Audy-Marchessault.

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