New York Rangers Sleeper UFA Targets
The summer is usually a time for resting. Summer vacations, no school, relaxing days at the beach and so on. For GM Jeff Gorton this summer will be far from relaxing.
According to Bob McKenzie on NBCSN last Wednesday Gorton will get to work as soon as he can.
“As soon as this season is over Jeff Gorton is going to be back open for business doing the same sort of sell-off that he did at the deadline. But keep this in mind: Even though they’re rebuilding, they’re not tearing it down and there is an opportunity where if they can sign Ilya Kovalchuk this summer on a short-term deal or Rick Nash comes back or Grabner – if they’re willing to take short-term deals – they will look at plugging a lot of holes with veteran guys.”
Kovalchuk is a heavily talked about player since this past offseason. He is known and so is a Rick Nash return. It isn’t just about “who do the Rangers sign?” it’s about who can get the most out of their signing. Who could be the ‘Grabner’ of this offseason?
Note: This is opinion based, any and all players I mention will serve a specific purpose. I’m taking the Herb Brooks approach “Not looking for the best players, looking for the right ones”
Setting the stage
First I am going under the assumption (yes I know what happens when you assume), that the roster today is foundation for October. Meaning, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, etc. are still with the team.; also the teams RFA’s all return. Playing the full ‘what if game’ will be much more fun in June and later.
Potential Roster before signings:
Going to name defensemen and the reader can assemble accordingly:
Neal Pionk-Brady Skjei-Marc Staal-Kevin Shattenkirk-John Gilmour-Anthony DeAngelo-Rob O’Gara-Steve Kampfer-Brendan Smith
Looking at this roster, O’Gara is a seventh defenseman, same goes for Smith and Kampfer. The first sleeper will be a defenseman. As stated above, for the sake of sanity, Marc Staal IS still a New York Ranger. Therefore, Kampfer, O’Gara and Smith all will be vying for a spot on the NHL roster. The first UFA sleeper will be another veteran defenseman.
Yes, Jason Garrison is a smart veteran defenseman that will be cheap. At 33 years of age and spending the majority of the season in the AHL, Garrison won’t be looking for term or amount. A one year deal for $1.75 million is likely a contract that can bring Garrison in.
Why this makes sense:
John Gilmour while being an exciting player, does show his inexperience at times. The game ending overtime goal against by Brayden Schenn is an example. Gilmour needs a player like Garrison that is a stay at home player that allows Gilmour to use his speed. Pionk has benefitted from being paired with Staal and vice versa; the same can happen for Gilmour here with Garrison.
For the second consecutive year Vanek was traded at the deadline to boost a contender. Vanek is a player that is an attractive addition to teams every year. This year I believe that Vanek could be a nice fit for the Rangers next season for many reasons. Most importantly, he again come at a one year deal, for around $2.5 million.
Why this makes sense:
Vanek is still a skilled winger. At 34 years old the winger has 48 points in 71 games (split between Vancouver and Columbus). The third line listed above, granted subject to change, could see literally any or all three player benefit from Vanek being on the line. Chytil for instance will be able to use his playmaking skills. He has a right handed shot, which the team ALWAYS needs, and can help on the second unit power play. There’s the added bonus should the team be in a similar position at next year’s deadline that he can again be flipped.
Filppula is another veteran that can help the two centers (Chytil and Andersson) enhance their game. Filppula is a 200 foot player and averages about 51% on face-offs. Filppula could seek a “steep” contract as he tries to take advantage of his bounce back season. If they can get him for 1-2 years for $2.75-3 Million, it could pay dividends.
Why this makes sense:
David Desharnais, while merely brought in for depth has seen several spots where he was left out to dry (i.e playing on the first line). Even so he has 31 points as someone that was supposed to be a fourth line center and penalty killer. Filppula is a more skilled player and on top of that the of 51 will need a replacement. Short of having Fast take face-offs Filppula could be a good player to be the second unit penalty kill center.
These players are NOT going to excite fans. Nobody would run out and get a Garrison or Vanek Rangers jersey. Garrison would probably be ridiculed because he isn’t a burner. Vanek will frustrate fans because while he still is a talented winger, he will show his age.
What these players do is facilitate some holes in the roster. While helping the young talent mature and also get the most out of their skill set. Not to mention that all of these players will not receive term and have leader ship qualities. They could not just help the Rangers on the ice, but also at the deadline. They are diamonds in the rough.