Now that they’ve re-signed Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky
and Steve Eminger, the Rangers are likely finished making transactions this
summer. But while training camp is still
over a month away, it’s never too early to think ahead.
After this season the salaries of Steve Eminger, Wojtek
Wolski, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, Ruslan Fedotenko and Marty Biron will be
wiped from the books and the team will only have to worry about re-signing
Brandon Prust, Michael Del Zotto and possibly Mats Zuccarello.
The Blueshirts could have around $10 million in free cap
space heading into next summer to add a backup goalie and some forwards,
meaning New York could once again be a player in free agency.
The Rangers should be relatively set on defense and don’t
appear likely to need to make any significant UFA additions along the blue line, but once
again they could be seeking some supporting offense. It’s likely that some
youngsters will fill the vacated forward spots and the Blueshirts might be wise
to remember that Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer
will be in need of new deals two summers from now, but the Rangers could still
be in position to sign a significant free agent.
Many of these players will re-sign with their current teams
or no longer be viable options by July 1, 2012, but here’s an early look at potential
UFA forwards of interest a year from now:
Zach Parise, LW – The Devils have already begin clearing
salary in anticipation of making a huge offer to Parise, but the 27-year-old
would be wise to test the open market. If
he becomes available, all 30 teams will look into signing him and although the
Rangers would surely be outbid, they have a strong affinity for young
Brad Boyes, RW – The Sabres acquired the 29-year-old from
St. Louis prior to this year’s trade deadline and he ended up quietly tallying 55
points in 2010-2011. Boyes hasn’t come
close to matching the 43 goals he racked up in 2007-2008, but he’s a versatile
offensive talent and is willing to play in the dirty areas. His current cap hit is $4 million, but his
future salary will be contingent upon his performance this year.
Alex Semin, RW – There’s still speculation that Alex
Ovechkin’s Russian sidekick might be traded prior to the start of the season,
but he seems like a good bet to hit the open market next July. Semin has demonstrated that he can score with
the best of them, but he’s another enigmatic winger that can often leave teams underwhelmed. If Semin stays healthy and has a big year, he
might be able to match his current $6.7 million salary, but if not, he may end
up chasing money back home to Russia.
Chris Kunitz, LW – The 31-year-old came over from Anaheim in 2009 as just one of many attempts by Pittsburgh management to
find competent wingers to play with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Kunitz is coming off the best statistical
season of his career, but he has failed to put up the big numbers many expected
he would after being paired with the best player in the world. Kunitz’s current salary is just north of $3.7
million and as a 32-year-old free agent, this is probably his last shot at a big
Mikael Samuelsson, RW – The 34-year-old ex-Ranger continues
to quietly post decent seasons in Vancouver, but he’s really getting up there
in age. Teams may be nervous about
offering Samuelsson a multi-year contract because his cushy situation in
Vancouver could be a big reason for his success, but he has playoff experience
and in a supporting role he can still chip in decent offensive numbers.
Mikhail Grabovski, C – After missing out on Brad Richards,
the Maple Leafs will likely do whatever it takes to retain their emerging
probably won’t be outbid for Grabovski, but the 27-year-old could be interested
in escaping the pressures of Toronto. The Blueshirts are stacked at center, but
Grabovski could be the jewel of the UFA class next year and if Derek Stepan is
moved to left wing, Grabovski could become an extremely attractive option. Grabovski’s asking price will probably make
him an unrealistic option.
Jiri Hudler, RW – The 27-year-old was a huge disappointment
in his return to North America last year, but before his hiatus back to Russia,
Hudler was an emerging star. He’s now
two years removed from a 57-point season and his performance this season will dictate
his value next summer.
Ales Hemsky, RW – Though Hemsky’s skill is undeniable, the
Rangers already have two elite players with injury concerns. Nevertheless, if the 27-year-old is available
at the trade deadline and/or next summer, he’ll have a host of suitors and the
Blueshirts could be among them. When
healthy Hemsky has proven that he can put up between 60 and 70 points with ease
and that type of talent is rare in the NHL.
Chris Kelly, C – Kelly is no more than a very good
third-line center, but his play in the postseason for Boston is indicative of his value to a
team. The Rangers are set down the
middle, but a high character player like Kelly that plays on both ends of the
ice is always intriguing.
Rich Peverley, C – The 29-year-old arrived in Boston as a trade deadline
reinforcement, and like Kelly, he was a major factor during the Bruins Stanley
Cup run. Peverley is a mid-tier center
right now, but a big season could inflate his value tremendously.
Kristian Huselius, LW – Huselius could miss a good chunk of
the season with a torn pectoral muscle, but in a weak left wing market, he
could still cash in next July. The
32-year-old has enjoyed a long run of success in the NHL and is still a good
bet to hit 60 points when he’s healthy for a full year.
R.J. Umberger, LW – The Rangers briefly owned Umberger’s
rights seven years ago after acquiring him for Martin Rucinsky, but they were
unable to reach a deal. The team might
be kicking itself for that because Umberger has emerged as a versatile two-way
left wing capable of easily chipping in 50 points. If there are no hard feelings between the two
sides, the 29-year-old could be a very attractive UFA.
Dustin Penner, LW – The hulking 28-year-old did little to impress
after being traded to Los Angeles,
but players with his size and skill level are far and few between. Like many of the players on this list, a big
season could propel his value upward, but right now he’s a high-risk,
Jarret Stoll, C – Stoll, 29, has quietly had a nice career
although he’s never come close to matching the 68 points he posted back in
2005-2006. A face-off wizard, Stoll will
be in high demand, but the center-rich Rangers probably won’t come calling.
Shane Doan, RW – The 34-year-old has remained undyingly
loyal to Phoenix, but with a still uncertain ownership situation and just a few
years left, he’ll probably be ready to move on. For a team on the cusp of taking the next step like New York, Doan will be an extremely
attractive piece. He’s still producing
at a high level and there are few with more character, so Doan should attract
plenty of attention if he reaches the open market.
Ray Whitney, LW – The 39-year-old continues to put up big
numbers, but you have to wonder how much longer he’ll keep playing. There really aren’t too many better offensive
left wingers in the league than Whitney, but the Rangers are committed to a
youth movement and though they need veterans, adding a guy who will be 40 next summer
Lee Stempniak, RW – Another supporting offensive player,
Stempniak has shown flashes of big-time ability but has been unable to put it
all together. He’s certainly capable of
potting 20 goals a year, but Stempniak is one of those guys that can disappear
David Jones, RW – The Avalanche is scraping against the cap
floor and should have no trouble locking up its emerging 27-year-old, but if
Jones has another big year he could be in for a big raise. The Blueshirts are always looking to bolster
their young core and an established young scorer like Jones could be a wise
Others of note: Daymond Langkow, Niklas Hagman, David Moss,
Marco Sturm, Jochen Hecht, Mike Knuble, Jason Chimera, Blair Betts, Jaromir
Jagr, Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Ryan Smyth, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jason
Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Blake, Saku Koivu, Tuomo Ruutu, Milan
Hejduk, Cody Mcleod, Brandon Yip
Click here for our full Summer 2011 Archive >
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