The New York Rangers – A Team in Transition

Jeff Angus

2009-09-09

Gaborik

 

The Rangers handed out a massive five-year contract to injury-prone star Marian Gaborik this off-season. The fact that they paid a pretty penny for a top free agent is nothing new to Ranger fans. In 2006 they made a huge splash signing Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, and in 2007 they threw a ton of money at Wade Redden. Going back a few more seasons, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the likes of Eric Lindros, Bobby Holik, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr, and Theo Fleury. To date, the Rangers have zilch to show for their free-spending ways.

 

Gaborik is a huge risk to take, as he has battled groin injuries for the past half-decade. He is definitely worth the $7.5-million per season if he can remain healthy, and many think that he will, after undergoing two successful hip procedures last season to correct a muscle imbalance. After Alex Ovechkin, there isn't another player as electrifying in the entire league as Gaborik. In addition to adding the game breaking Gaborik, the Rangers also revamped most of their secondary scoring. They were a team that struggled for offense all of last season – will the moves that they made this summer change that?

 

The biggest and most important change the Rangers made is the man behind the bench. John Tortorella believes in implementing a high-octane, aggressive, offensive system (and it did help him win a Stanley Cup). Tom Renney believed in a meticulous, patient defensive game. The Rangers consistently ranked near the top of the league in goals-against under Renney, but they could never find enough goals to win in the playoffs. You can add about five points to every player right off the bat because of the change in team playing style. In addition to the change in style, Tortorella gets his favorites and plays them a ton. In Tampa, this was the big four (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis, and Dan Boyle). After Gaborik (and goalie Henrik Lundqvist), the Rangers lack high-end talent. However, they do have ample depth at forward, as well as four proven NHL defensemen.

 

On the back end, expect Redden to have a rebound season in 2009-10 (although it won't be hard – even if he scores four or five goals it will be an improvement on the disaster that was 2008-09). Redden's play improved markedly Tortorella took over, so expect him to get every opportunity to become "the man" on the back end for the Rangers. Up front, the Rangers ditched Nikolai Zherdev, traded Gomez, and signed Vaclav Prospal and Ales Kotalik. Prospal is the key to watch – he is a great playmaker and should click wit