MINNEAPOLIS---The Rangers will likely open their regular season in Europe not just this October, but for the next three seasons. The team has made qualifying offers to Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Michael Sauer and Artem Anisimov, but not defenseman Matt Gilroy. Ruslan Fedotenko likely will be back. And yes, despite the stable of young defensemen in the fold, the Rangers will look for another veteran.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather, whose infrequent interviews always generate news, discussed all of those topics yesterday following a day in which the Rangers traded once-touted prospect Evgeny Grachev to St. Louis and added two picks to their portfolio on the second day of the draft.
First, the barnstorming across the pond. The Blueshirts, who played two game sin Prague in 2008, will open next season in Stockholm with games against the Ducks and Kings on Oct. 7 and 8.
But Sather expanded the calendar: “We’re going to do this for three years, so you really have to learn to travel and adapt to it. As long as the transformation (of the Garden) takes place, we’re going to try to go to Europe each year. It’s a good opportunity to create relationships for the league, to enhance the markets. The other thing is the relationships you create with the club teams, the people you meet, information comes from that, there’s still players (prospects) over there we miss….but we don’t have anything lined up yet. I think it’s an adventure.”
As for the pursuit of free agents---with No. 1 center Brad Richards the unnamed target---Sather conceded that the Rangers were trying to create space by not rushing to sign their own restricted free agents ---or UFA Ruslan Fedotenko, who he said wants to return to New York. “We’ve had conversations…It’s a priority of what you’re going to have when free agent market opens,” Sather said.
Gilroy, whose qualifying offer had to be $2.1 million, is too rich for Sather’s blood. “We made him an offer and his agent would like to shop him around and see what he can do. He played well in the playoffs. I think since we made the deal to get (defenseman Tim) Erixon, he’s a little skeptical about how he sees himself on the team. But I mean, it doesn’t matter who you have on the team, you have to make the team.”
But Sather was mum on the status of captain Chris Drury, who the team wants to buy of the final $7 million year of his contract to free up cap space, but has knee issues that may force him to long-term injured reserve. The buyout deadline is June 30.
“I haven’t talked to him recently, I assume he’s feeling fine,” said Sather. Asked specifically about the buyout, he said: “I’m not going to tell you about that until the time comes.”
Given the risk of injuries, the Rangers also seem to be in the market for a low-priced veteran defenseman, similar to Steve Eminger, an unrestricted free agent who signed for a year last fall,
“I don’t think you can really have enough defensemen, especially the way the game’s played today," Sather said. "Look what happened to Vancouver in the playoffs…The things we’ve done to change the game, to speed it up, they’ve done that, but they have changed the way you can protect each other. I’m not talking about hooking or holding: There’s too much time to line guys up.”