Some Blueshirts May Find New Homes Next Year
By Joe McDonald
GREENBURGH, NY - It was a melancholy day. On Monday, the New York Rangers packed their bags and reflected on a season gone right and a playoff series that went wrong. But for a team that exceeded expectations of almost everyone, it was a time to look back and possibly glimpse into the future.
"It has been tremendous," assessed head coach Tom Renney. "As long as you have an open mind and be willing to learn from mistakes, then it will work into building it into more wins last year and hopefully more playoff success."
To a man, the Blueshirts seemed happy with the way the season went, but thought they were just a little short when the playoffs came around.
Darius Kasparaitis seemed pleased with the way most of the season went. "It was a good start," he said. "You have to be optimistic and as long as you bring in the right guys here, we can be successful."
First and foremost, the Rangers will have to make decisions on their unrestricted free agents this offseason. Steve Rucchin and Tom Poti are probably gone. Rucchin, although serviceable, seemed to be out of place on the Blueshirts. The Rangers have to and will upgrade the second scoring line to take pressure off Jaromir Jagr.
Poti has been a disappointment since he arrived in New York during the 2001-02 season. After a solid season twith 11 goals and 37 assists, Poti then struggled and was a frequent target of the Garden boo-birds. He finished up this year with only three goals and 20 assists, but had a +/- rating of +16.Renney thought if he came back, the defenseman will have a bigger offensive role next season. That's if the Rangers want him back. The 29 year-old has never fit in after acquired for Mike York. He was benched early in the season and was never lived up to his potential. The Rangers are better off served letting him go.
Also probably visiting Greenburgh for the last time is Martin Rucinsky. Though he had a good season [16 goals and 39 assists in 55 games], the Rangers don't need him with the emergence of Petr Prucha, who will move up to one of the top lines. Glen Sather can use that money to go after a big time second line center or a scoring defenseman. But, the general manager should go hard after resigning both Petr Sykora and Martin Straka. Both Czech players want to play here and their options are fit in well with Renney's system.
As an added bonus, Sykora can help recruit former teammate and Devils' star Patrik Elias. An unrestricted free agent, he may be able to be convinced to come across the river for the right price, especially if Lou Lamoriello decided to nickel and dime him in negotiations. The Rangers may also look at Ottawa free agent defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden, but may not have the total cap room to sign every player they want.
One other change is to be expected next year. Renney will probably make Jagr the captain next season. No matter what happens, it does add up for an interesting summer for the Rangers.