Thursday, July 3, 2008

S.S. Ranger changes course as the Sun sets on Day 3

It was a wacky day 3 to free agency. 
Lets get the small stuff out of the way first. The Coyotes signed defenseman David Hale to a 2 year contract. Maloney stays the course (<----word of the day kids) and signs another depth defenseman to fill the void. Hale joins Kurt Sauer as the Coyotes "Big Name" free agent acquisitions. Maloney is hoping Hale will earn some penalty kill time and develop into a very serviceable NHL defenseman. I hope so too. With that signing, it would seem that the Coyotes will be done with free agency, unless Donny has something up his sleeve. On the other hand, there are no sleeves in Phoenix this time of year.
On to the big boys of free agency. When I read that there was going to be a conference call at 4:30 eastern standard time I couldn't imagine what it could be. Would it announce Jagr had indeed signed? Was there another trade about to go down? Had Glen Sather found Jesus? Well not quite Jesus. But he had found someone that ultimately ushers out Jaromir Jagr and moves the Ranger ship (going nautical) in a new direction. Markus Naslund signed a 2 year $8 million deal this afternoon and helps to solidify the scoring more for the Rangers. He has had some off years on an offensively lackluster Vancouver Canucks in the last few years but still managed 25 goals and 30 assists this past season. In his conference call (which can be heard on Rangers website) Naslund said he was going to come more prepared than ever he was so excited. He wanted to be a Ranger more than anything and he certainly got here. His price is great and the contract length will help the Rangers cap wise and spans long enough to not be a burden but also to bridge between now and when the younger guys are more prepared to take on more responsibilities. Nazzy will be looked to improve on his offensive totals and with speedy setup men like Dubinsky and Gomez on this team, he will certainly have a chance to do so. Hopefully he will also be able to help Nikolai Zherdev find his place here in NY. They may be from different countries but they play a very similar style. Naslund has been the offensive carrier for a team before and will be able to help Zherdev understand how to do that and what it takes. I'm happy to have Naslund as a Ranger and really hope he can revive his career and lead this team places.
The other guy the Rangers got was defenseman Dmitri Kalinin. With Tyutin and Backman leaving yesterday, the Rangers were going to have to get some at least one defenseman to replace them. Kalinin, who has played for Buffalo his whole career, will set his course (I keep on going with this nautical nonsense) for the Big Apple. Despite being plagued with injuries the last few years, Kalinin is a very good defenseman who can eat minutes and really provide the Rangers with a big guy who may not lay bone crushing hits but uses his body effectively (unlike someone else who left). He only had 1 goal last year but getting healthy again will let him get back on the ice and provide the Rangers with a relatively cheap, reliable defenseman. 
With the signing of Naslund, Jaromir Jagr is a signature away from leaving the Rangers. Whether that will be for the Edmonton Oilers or back to Europe to play for Avangard Omsk, Jagr's time as a Ranger was huge. As much as I yelled and screamed at him for doing something stupid or not doing something, he was important to this team. He brought us out of the lockout and made the Rangers contenders while also having the greatest single season a Ranger had ever had breaking the goal and point scoring records (54 goals, 123 points). He took over the captaincy when it was thought no one could replace THE Captain, even though he was reluctant to do so. Yes he did refuse to take shootouts but he made the Rangers what they are today. It will certainly be weird not seeing number 68 on the near side of the ice going down the wing but it was inevitable. So thanks for the memories Jags and knowing when to sail off into the sunset (just keeps on coming). I'll miss losing my voice to you and looking for Jagr bombs. 
So what is next? Well there isn't much cap space left for the Rangers, about $3.4 million. Paul Mara has been offered a new contract while Glen Sather has also said Shanahan may also be coming back. Obviously both will need pay cuts to make it back, but with those two, it will also round out the roster. A minor trade could also happen considering the logjam in the bottom six. Ryan Hollweg could be waived/traded. And knowing Glen Sather and his unpredictability, could Sundin be on his way some how? Probably not but to somehow fit under the cap with Sundin in the mix would truly be a miracle. 
Ranger land is certainly looking much different after 3 days. Through all the turmoil, anguish, surprise, and relief these 3 days have brought, it was definitely worth it. 
I am going to stop doing continuous updates on free agents but wherever Jagr and Sundin land, I will have updates on both of them. 
As I said yesterday, this blog broke the 200 unique reader mark, undoubtedly because of keeping this site up to date on signings and opinions but more importantly because of the readers who have come here and read my things. Without you guys I have no reason to write this blog and I thank you so much for reading and spreading the word. I started this blog on June 22nd and 11 days and 47 posts later I am at 227 unique readers. So thank you for reading and keep on spreading the word. The more readers, the merrier. Also, bring on the COMMENTS. Alot has happened all around the NHL these past few days. Comment on anything you want. It does not necessarily have to be about the Coyotes and Rangers. If you want my thoughts on something else around the NHL, don't hesitate to put a comment and I will comment back. BUT THANK YOU FOR READING AND KEEP ON SPREADING THE WORD! 

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