Five high profile UFA’s the Rangers must avoid this summer
Most websites will spend the offseason identifying players the Rangers should go after this summer and why. I’ve decided to flip this a bit and pick out 5 players the Rangers should avoid even though they may seem attractive, particularly by some fans.
We will do this in reverse order, ranking them based on least likely to most likely and least attractive to most attractive combined. Let’s begin:
#5 Tyler Bozak
For the last few years, Tyler Bozak has been linked to the Rangers as a possible trade target. The 32 year old center is not flashy but very solid. He is coming off a nice season in Toronto where he scored, 43 points in 81 games.
Those are good numbers for a possible 3rd line center, but that is no longer what the Rangers need. Especially not with the plethora of young talented centers already on the team. Zibanejad and Hayes are likely the early favorites to center the first 2 lines next season. That leaves the Rangers with 3 possible centers going for the 3rd pivot spot in Namestnikov, Andersson, and Chytil. Add in Boo Nieves and Ryan Spooner to the mix and the need to add a bottom 6 center goes out the door.
Of course at the right price in a 4th line role, Bozak could make some sense. Bozak is coming off a contract with a 4.2M cap hit, and will likely get that and more on the market. The Rangers should just cross his name off the list now.
#4 James Neal
James Neal has been a major reason why the Las Vegas Knights inaugural season in the NHL has been a smashing success. The 30 year old has 25 goals and 44 points in 71 contests for Vegas this year. The winger has great size and uses it well at 6’2″ and 221 pounds. There is no doubt that wherever he lands this summer he will have a positive impact for his new team.
The biggest issue is what it would take to a get him here as he is coming off a contract that paid him $5M. That, plus the likelihood of wanting a 4-5 year deal makes Neal less attractive then say signing Michael Grabner back for less. The Rangers should keep him on their radar, but only at the right price.
#3 Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny is a veteran that would immediately slot in as the #2 center giving the Rangers even more flexibility and depth down the middle. He had 53 points this past season and is helping Winnipeg possibly get to the Western Conference Final with 11 points in 11 playoff games.
The big issue aside from his age, is what he would want in his next contract. His current cap hit is $7M, which he won’t be getting from anyone. Would he settle for a 2-3 year deal at 4.5? That might be reasonable if the Rangers really feel the need to have some more veteran experience up front.
Still, I wouldn’t give Stastny the time of day with a player like John Tavares out there too. The only way the Rangers would consider exploring this option is if they lose out on Tavares and want to use a Zibanejad, Hayes, or Namestnikov in a bigger deal.
#2 James Van Riemsdyk
JVR is a name some Rangers fans absolutely salivate over. Let’s start off with the fact this NJ native grew up a Blueshirts fan. Now add in his 36 goals this past season and his huge frame of 6’3″, 217 pounds. What is not to like here? A lot actually.
First off, JVR is going to get paid this summer. His current contract was earning him 4.2M and he should be breaking $6M and at least get 4 years if not 5 on his next deal. Now unless the Rangers are looking to move wingers like Mats Zuccarello or Chris Kreider this summer, Jeff Gorton should not be entering a bidding war for him.
Some would argue that the Rangers are looking at signing Ilya Kovalchuk who is 35 to a tune of maybe $6M a year. While I think he would sign with the Rangers for $5M, the deal at most would only be for 2 years. Plus, with the amount of Russians the Rangers have already here and coming, he may make their transition easier.
Don’t get me wrong, JVR would look great in a Rangers uniform, but adding him will take away playing time from players like Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil and Vlad Namestnikov. He may be worth the risk, but Gorton will have to make room to fit him in long term.
#1 Rick Nash
There is a large group of Rangers fans out there that desperately want Rick Nash back. They simply love Nasher and there are many good reasons why. He is a complete player that plays a solid 200′ game in the NHL. Add in his love for being a Ranger and the fact that he will likely sign for A LOT LESS than his current 7.8M salary, makes him really attractive to the fanbase in NY.
The truth of the matter is that Nash, who turns 34 in June, will have a few 2-3 year offers of 3.5 to 4M on the table from other teams this summer. And why will he get those offers? Because some GM’s will have in the recesses of their mind’s the Rick Nash of several seasons ago.
No, the Rangers need to avoid bringing him in because it would be a move backwards in this rebuild. In his last three years, Nash has not scored more than 23 goals (15,23,21) or posted more than 38 points (36,38,34). Let’s not even discuss his disappearing act in the playoffs. In the last 2 postseasons, Nash has played in 24 contests and registered only 10 points.
Let’s put feelings of nostalgia and fandom aside, if Rick Nash were to be signed this summer, which young kid is losing a job to him? Another concern is this, no matter who is coaching the team next season, he is bound to give into the urge of playing Nash on the top 2 lines because he’s Rick Nash. For all of this, I think the Rangers need to give any thoughts of bringing him back a hard pass.