MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NY – Sure, it’s a little strange that Glen Sather gets in a headline two days in row here, especially with the startling news out of Flushing that the *Mets scored a run! But, here we are into July – which means we are into NHL free agency. Unlike years past, our New York Rangers have nothing solved after the days of the market being open. The Blueshirts made a handful of signings on Canada Day on Wednesday, but none of them will figure in the opening day lineup for the Rangers. Meanwhile, Glen Sather, the Rangers GM for the past decade and a half or so, stepped aside from his GM duties but remained on as team president. A move that lets us know that this is still Sather’s team for the time being.
The best thing to happen for the Rangers, in terms of free agency, was Martin St. Louis retiring. But that was really the only good news for the Blueshirts. The Rangers haven’t signed any meaningful replacements for the players that were traded or are out of contract. Restricted free agent Carl Hagelin was traded to Anaheim for youngster Emerson Etem. Hagelin is a very good two-way player and I would love to have kept him around. But he is arbitration eligible and he’s due a contract worth in the neighborhood of $4 million per year. The Rangers just can’t afford that. So they shipped him for Etem, who is high on potential but hasn’t really shown what he is capable of. He was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs.
The Rangers also dealt backup goalie Cam Talbot to Edmonton for a bunch of non-first round draft picks. The Hagelin and Talbot trades were all about clearing cap room to sign players. Derek Stepan is due a big bump this year. With Derrick Brassard making $5 million a season, expect the Stepan deal to be worth north of $6 million per year. And with the money that is left over in the $71.4 million salary cap, the Rangers will need to sign JT Miller, Jesper Fast and a number of other players to fill out the roster. In other words, the Blueshirts will be somewhere between “rebuilding” and “in transition” next season.
While the Rangers were busy not signing players on Wednesday, news came down that Glen Cameron “Slats” Sather would be ending his decade and a half roller-coaster reign as Rangers General Manager. Former Sather lackey Jeff Gorton was appointed GM as Sather retained his position as team President. Grinding Ax hit it yesterday regarding Sather’s run in New York. Things weren’t always pretty but more often than not, Sather built a team that could compete.
The Rangers made a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 with a team that nobody would pick as world-beaters. They had an impressive run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 with a very average team. And this past season, the Rangers fell a couple of goals short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final again after Sather bet the farm (and the Rangers’ future) at the trade deadline. It was a move that had to be made. It just didn’t work out. Mats Zuccarello was the Blueshirts’ best playoff player in 2014. This year he missed most of the playoffs after taking a puck to the head in the first round. Who knows what could have been if Zuc was healthy.
Sather did a good job of signing the players he could and trading the ones he couldn’t over the past few seasons. In a hard salary cap sport, I think Sather did as well as he could. It was strange to me when Ryan Callahan signed in Tampa for less than what the Rangers were offering and far less than what he was asking for. But when you realize that there is no state income tax in Florida and Callahan could net the same amount by signing a smaller contract down there, you realize what Sather is up against. And I think he did a decent job the last few seasons.
Now Rangers fans will have a new GM to direct their ire towards as they try to rebuild over the next couple of seasons.
*It took a double by pitcher Jacob deGrom to ignite the Mutts. He scored the run.