It’s time, according to Rangers coach John Tortorella.
“I think we’re in a situation with our club right now, where in the last couple years we kept our assets, we developed our assets, and stayed with it,” Tortorella said yesterday on the eve of free agency. “There’s a point in time where you say, okay, they’re growing, we’ve got a good solid foundation, now you start looking at other areas to add---maybe on both sides, free agency or a trade, whatever. I think we’re there. We’re at a different stage in the process.”
The Rangers need a No. 1 center and a power play quarterback, and free agent target Brad Richards, who won the Cup with Tortorella in Tampa in 2004, fits the bill. If Richards decides to go elsewhere, the Rangers must find a way to fill those holes, plus add an experienced defenseman and perhaps, the right-fit forward before they begin the season in Stockholm on Oct. 7.
“I don’t believe in talking people into something. If they don’t want to be here, we don’t want them,” Tortorella said during prospect camp yesterday. “There may be a situation where you know what, that didn’t work; let’s not just add for the sake of adding, stay with it. That’s a key come July 1, because it turns into such a frenzy, you get a little crazy. If it isn’t what we need, and if it isn’t the right piece for us right now, then we have to stand pat and continue to grow.
Should the 31-year-old Richards, who had 72 points in 77 games with the Dallas Stars last season, spurn what is expected to be a multi-year, front-loaded contract worth between $40 million and $50 million that will produce a cap hit of $7 million annually, there might have to be a trade, because the high-end, free-agent forward market is thin this year.
Pat Morris, Richards’ agent, has been telling the media that his client wants to play in “a hockey market with an opportunity to win” another Cup. The club must have “good younger players coming in” and be in a place “where hockey matters every game, game in, game out, and there’s a full building.” Several cities meet that criteria, including New York, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In order to negotiate a trade for a top center, the Rangers would have to surrender some of the assets Tortorella mentioned, plus a prospect and presumably a top draft pick. Colorado’s Paul Stastny is a center who could be available.
Both GM Glen Sather and Tortorella have agreed that an experienced defenseman or two are needed to round out the young blueline. One possibility: Steve Eminger, who played with the Rangers last season, could be re-signed, Tortorella said.
But that type of player can be signed in August or later. There’s one main target today: Brad Richards. The path for the rest of the offseason rest hinges on Richards’ decision.
AMONG THE REST
Second tier centers: Oft-injured Tim Connolly. Top wings: Eric Cole, Simon Gagne, Mike Rupp. Defensemen: Anton Babchuk. Chart in Newsday.
Two more exhibition games have been announced: The Rangers will visit the Devils on Sept. 23 and will face EV Zug, in Zug, Switzerland, on Oct. 3.
Final prospect scrimmage of camp Friday morning at 9 a.m. Will be there and then reporting on free agency....Stay tuned here and @stevezipay on twitter for breaking news today and throughout the summer...