FAN-FARE with ADAM GAVRIEL

OUT WITH THE OLD – IN WITH THE NEW

New York RangersBY: Adam Gavriel

After re-signing RFA Brandon Dubinsky and UFA Steve Eminger this past week, the New York Rangers have seemingly one major move left to make, re-signing RFA and future captain Ryan Callahan. With $4,977,166 left in available cap space to re-up Callahan, not including the $6.4 million extra they can extend the payroll on the summer cap, finding the money to get the job done is not an issue for Glen Sather.

As a side note, the only team that appears to be taking advantage of the summer cap float seems to be the Buffalo Sabres who are now operating at nearly $3.6 million over the $64.3 million cap.

Callahan will be resigned either with a new long term contract or via accepting the arbitration settlement, that hearing date is set for this Thursday (7/28), the Rangers should then have what will appear to be their set roster to head into the season. Trades are always a possibility and Sather will most certainly keep the door open and be listening to trade offers. Who knows, with the glut of young defensive talent and the need for a top line left winger, Sather might even be out there searching for one or two of own.

It’s too premature to predict any opening night lineups, but it’s not premature to take note of just how much the Rangers have improved this off-season.

New faces: Brad Richards, Mike Rupp
Out the door: Alex Frolov, Chris Drury, Brian McCabe, Vinny Prospal

In our “Fan-Fare” piece posted earlier this month, the Rangers have severely limited their turnover rate; a big problem for the franchise in recent off-seasons. The benefit being that this group of players will know each other and what each can contribute and what they need to do to improve. Put another way, the team didn’t get a full face lift, just a little Botox to tighten things up a bit.

The new “face” of the team includes, based upon last year’s numbers a net gain of plus-44 points. The Rangers add 94 points via Brad Richards, 77 and 17 from Mike Rupp while Frolov, Drury, McCabe and Prospal contributed a total of 50.

While it’s impossible (although a ton of fun) to start penciling in anyone to any spot in the lineup, it’s not hard to look at the depth chart and see for ourselves.

Centers: Brad Richards, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Eric Christensen
Right Wing: Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Mats Zuccarello, Brandon Prust
Left Wing: Brandon Dubinsky, Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery, Mike Rupp, Ruslan Fedotenko
Defense: Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, Steve Eminger, Michael Del Zotto
Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Biron
Up and Comers: Tim Erixon, Pavel Valentenko, Mikhail Pashnin, Tomas Kundratek, Dale Weise, Carl Hagelin, Christian Thomas

As the days go by it’s becoming exceedingly difficult to argue against the fact that the Rangers as they are constituted right now are a better team than the group who started the season last October in Buffalo, NY.

Where Christensen was once seen as, at least a candidate for the top center position, now a bona fide elite player in Brad Richards has that job. The addition of Rupp takes a huge load off of Brandon Prust whose shoulder issues were compounded last year when the feisty winger became the Rangers’ main enforcer. Rupp will also add much needed protection for Lundqvist who was run over and into far more than he should have been by the opposition.

It’s hard not to be optimistic at a time like this (flashback to July 2007) but those were different days, and these are different Rangers. On the other hand when the first set of power rankings come out before the season starts expect the Rangers to be in the top 10.

Two potentially elite forwards, a top shutdown pair that’s growing better every year, one of the best goalies in the game, and a core of players that gets better from game to game and year to year and you have a formula for success for this upcoming season.

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