Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been, “2012 W.D. – Without Doan”. Regardless, it now looks like Greg Jamison is moving closer to securing the funding necessary to complete his proposed purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes. Subsequently, it appears more likely that as a result Shane Doan’s wish to remain with the only franchise he has ever known is closer to reality. Ranger fans, myself included, who thought Doan would have been a key contributor on a serious Cup contender, are now left to ponder what’s next.
Certainly there is no need to make another significant addition to the roster. The team could easily begin the 2012-2013 season with what they have and that would still be a pretty darn good squad. But as we saw during the 2012 playoffs, it’s almost impossible to have too much reliable depth on the roster. For that reason it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see the Rangers make another addition to the bottom-six of their forward ranks.
As it stands and assuming Gaborik does indeed miss the first couple of months of the season, the third and fourth lines in October will consist of; Boyle, Pyatt, Asham, Halpern and Rupp. There is one opening, probably on the third line, for a prospect or another veteran signee; at least until Gaborik returns and someone like Hagelin can slot down to the 3rd line. Now that Doan is likely no longer an option, who are some of the other free agents available that could garner interest from the Rangers. Here are some of the names I’ve seen linked to the team by others in the blogosphere with my thoughts on each.
Why: Arnott is a well-traveled veteran who can still produce some offense (17 goals in each of the last two seasons) and has the type of valuable postseason experience many tend to overvalue in veteran free agents. He also carries with him the reputation of being a good faceoff man though his success rates of 50.3%, 50.2% and 48.8% respectively over the last three years screams quite average to me. Arnott does boast a pretty good shot and the Rangers could find value in that for their mediocre PP where Arnott’s 4.93 PP pts/60 last year was a better rate than that posted by Brad Richards.
Why Not: He will be 38 very early in the season (or before should the season begin later than anticipated) and is clearly on the downside of a pretty solid career. He still has some gas in the tank but I’d prefer some fresher legs on the bottom-six. Also, his presence likely displaces Boyle as the 3rd line C meaning he would play wing. Considering Boyle won better than 52% of his draws does that make a lot of sense?
With the Rangers losing reliable penalty killing forwards Brandon Prust and Brandon Dubinsky, many have wondered who will take on the SH minutes lost. That wouldn’t be Arnott who hasn’t seen more than :06 of SHTOI/Gm in any of the last three seasons. It should also be noted that Arnott earned $2.875 million last year and it’s unknown how much of a pay cut, if any, he’d be willing to take.
Verdict: If he is amenable to a one-year deal worth under $2 million, I’d take Arnott. He is only average on faceoffs and doesn’t kill penalties but if he could match both his PP scoring rate of a year ago and the 17 goals scored he has posted each of the last two seasons, he could be a very useful role player.
Why: He’s always been a great skater which is something these Rangers value. His booming shot, his willingness to use it and his experience playing the point could be of value on the PP. Rolston also has experience at all three F positions offering tremendous versatility to his employer.
Rolston saw better than half a minute killing penalties per game last year and more than 1:30 per the season before. He could help eat up some of the SH minutes that Prust and Dubinsky did for the Rangers last year.
After a terrible start to the season with the Islanders (9 points in 49 games, -12 +/- rating), Rolston found new life after a deadline deal to Boston (15 points in 21 games). Considering his age and the fact his career was practically over before his small-sample rebirth with the Bruins, Rolston should happily take a one-year deal for low money from anyone willing to give him a shot. If he didn’t work out well early it wouldn’t be a problem to scratch him or demote him to the minors so it wouldn’t be a matter of him taking ice time away from a more-deserving player.
Why Not: Yeah, I thought his career was D-U-N, done too. I laughed when the Bruins traded for him. Chances are his “rebirth” as a Bruin was simply the last gasp of Rolston’s career. Prior to those 21 games in Boston, Rolston had scored less than 0.50 points-per-game while playing second-line minutes with the Devils and Islanders.
Verdict: I actually like this option better than I do signing Arnott. He’d obviously cost less than Arnott and is more versatile. Like Arnott, he also boasts a big shot but is a much better skater than the big center.
Why: Before battling the injury bug and missing ¾ of the Blue Jackets games over the last two seasons, Huselius was one of the better offensive players for Columbus. He posted 56 points during the 2008-2009 season playing more minutes with Nash than any other Jackets F. Coincidentally that was also the last year Nash potted 40 goals. He is a capable playmaking forward and could help out offensively.
Why Not: The Rangers aren’t really looking for any more top-six options since acquiring Nash. Doan would be an exception because how he plays the game fits in so well within the Rangers philosophy. Huselius doesn’t fit the mold the average Ranger forward does. Huselius doesn’t block shots (just 36 in 189 games over the last four seasons) and he doesn’t play the body (40 hits over the same time frame).
Of course the fact he has played just 41 games over the last two seasons is a red flag too. Now he did miss the last 55 games of last year due to a groin injury and we know first-hand that is not a career-killer. Still, why take the risk?
Verdict: Pass. We don’t need a one-dimensional scoring forward and his playing style isn’t suited to play Ranger hockey in a checking role.
Why: He is a gritty, hard-working center who kills penalties (nearly 1 minute of SHTOI/Gm last year) and is a willing shot-blocker. He had 50 blocks a year ago and that would have ranked him 4th among Ranger F. At one point Langkow netted 20 goals or more in seven straight campaigns and while not that prolific any longer he is still more than capable of chipping in double-figures.
Langkow also boasted a Relative Corsi rating of 5.8 last season which was the top mark of the players mentioned here. Relative Corsi is an advanced metric and really it’s just a fancy way of saying that Langkow was more helpful in driving puck possession for his club than the others were.
Why Not: For a center he is not a good faceoff guy finishing well below 50% in each of the last four seasons he’s taken a minimum of 50 draws. He also suffered a neck injury that nearly ended his career in 2011. He did rebound to make more than 70 appearances last year so he should have something left even at 36 (in September).
Verdict: Of the options listed he might be the best. He may not be able to help offensively as much as Arnott but he plays the game the way the Rangers want to play and he is still able to get a team 10 – 15 goals. Considering we’re talking about filling a spot on the third-line it’s not about scoring a bunch of points; it’s about filling in anywhere in the lineup and producing, killing penalties and playing the right way. Langkow does all of that. It’s doubtful Langkow either expects or will demand more than a one year commitment or big money so he should fit the Rangers budget.
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