Review In Blue: A Look Back at the NYR UFA Signings
Now that a few weeks have passed and the dust has settled, I think we can now look at what’s transpired for the New York Rangers in a more objective light this off season.
In the days since Free Agency opened on July 1st, the most notable departures for the Rangers have been forwards Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Dorsett (via trade) and Brad Richards (Compliance Buyout). On defense the Rangers lost Anton Stralman, which cannot be understated as he became one of the Rangers most consistent and reliable defenseman on the Rangers’ roster.
Both Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman signed contracts with the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Boyle getting 3 years, $6 million, and Stralman getting 5 years, $22.5 million. They are joining former Rangers’ captain, Ryan Callahan down in the Sunshine State where there is no local income tax. Neither of those contracts are very surprising, and well deserved for each player.
Ryan Callahan recruited Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman to Tampa (AP)
Benoit Pouliot seemed to be the biggest head scratcher for most Rangers fans. Although Pouliot was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers during the ’13-’14 campaign playing alongside Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, he was not thought to be worth $20 million over 5 years. Unless of course you asked the Edmonton Oilers who felt his 15 goals were. Would it have been nice to have Pouliot back with the Rangers next season? Sure, but not for that kind of money. Leave that for the Oilers.
Additionally, with Brad Richards being bought out and signing with the Blackhawks, there was just another void in the scoring department from the previous year that needed to be taken into consideration. So with all of those departures, Glen Sather had some holes to fill. And he’s essentially done just that with three worthwhile additions.
The first of those 3 is of course veteran defenseman Dan Boyle. Boyle, who entered the NHL in 1998 as a Florida Panther, has made a name for himself as a more offensive minded defenseman, something the Rangers have been lacking in recent years. But now with the emergence of Ryan McDonagh and his flashes of offensive talent under Vigneault’s new system, the Rangers just now may have a hint of offensive depth to their defense.
Boyle, now 38 years old, has reached the 20 goal mark just once in his career, but has exceeded 50 points in six different seasons, and had a career high 63 points in ’06-’07. Just to put that in perspective, 63 points would’ve led the Rangers in points last season.
With offensive abilities like that, it could give Alain Vigneault and the Rangers some options on the power play. It would seem that Boyle would be the obvious choice to “quarterback” the man advantage, but if McDonagh can build off of his 2013-2014 season, he could be a “1A” of sorts for that position.
While age is certainly a bit of a concern with Boyle, the Rangers did only sign him for 2 years, and $9 million. If the deal were a day over 2 years, I would’ve been a bit leery, but given the short length of the deal for a player of his caliber, I think the Rangers will make out just fine. Stralman was a tough loss no doubt, but I think Dan Boyle will fill that slot quite well.
The second somewhat notable free agent signing for the Rangers was left winger Tanner Glass. With Derek Dorsett traded and Brian Boyle signing with the Lightning, the Rangers needed to add some grit, and the solution was Glass.
Glass, 30, has not exactly been known for his flash and offensive talent. In 377 NHL games, Glass has tallied up just 54 points, and while by no means was Brian Boyle a dangerous offensive threat, he did score 21 goals in 2010-2011.
Offensively, the Glass signing may have been a step down from Boyle, but Glass does bring a bit of an edge to New York. In 67 games last season with Pittsburgh, Glass had 90 penalty minutes, raking him 44th in the league, and he can fight. Between Glass and Carcillo (if the NYR can retain), the Rangers should have extra some snarl and edge to them next season.
Glen Sather did try and address some of Brian Boyle’s other qualities by signing Matthew Lombardi out of the Swiss League. The former NHLer has shown an ability to skate, pass and score in the past. His NHL was cut short due to concussions, but he seems to have resurrected it playing abroad.
Then came Lee Stempniak…
While Tanner Glass was signed to a 3 year, $4.35 million deal despite having a career high of 5 goals, Lee Stempniak, who scored 27 goals in St. Louis in ’06-’07, and 19 goals for the Coyotes in ’10-’11, was signed by Glen Sather to a 1 year, $900,000 deal.
With Benoit Pouliot leaving and signing with the Oilers, the Rangers needed someone to fill the scoring void left by Pouliot, and Stempniak was there for the taking.
Both Stempniak and Pouliot have similar career averages with regards to points, with Stempniak holding a slight edge in average points per game over Pouliot. Given that, if it were between Pouliot for 5 years, $20 million or Stempniak for 1 year, $900,000, it’s a no brainer.
Signing Lee Stempniak may have been the smartest thing Glen Sather’s done since he traded Scott Gomez and wound up landing Ryan McDonagh. I may be exaggerating just a bit, but make no mistake, Stempniak as a replacement for Pouliot, on paper, is nothing short of brilliant. If that isn’t the equivalent of stealing ice cream from a baby, I don’t know what is.
While none of the UFA’s signed by the Rangers will jump out and you and make you say “wow, this team is exponentially better than last year,” they also won’t make your eyes bulge out in horror.
Given the situation the Rangers found themselves in with a number of pending RFA’s as well, Glen Sather made out just fine. They filled the Pouliot scoring void with Stempniak and saved money in the process. They added grit with a lesser version of Brian Boyle in a combo of Tanner Glass and Matthew Lombardi. But they also found themselves an offensive defenseman who could help the Rangers power play become an actual advantage.
With a goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist, all the Rangers need is to not take a step backwards. Up to this point in the offseason, I’d say that has been accomplished.