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Numbers Game: Rangers Make Drastic Changes

Scott Cullen
7/4/2008 2:28:03 PM
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There's a new show playing on Broadway and it's going to rely more on an ensemble cast than the previous star-driven version.

Numbers Game takes a look at the Rangers' free agent additions.

The Rangers Get: D Wade Redden, LW Markus Naslund and D Dmitri Kalinin

Having turned the page from the Jaromir Jagr era, the New York Rangers spent their money on new stars to join last summer's marquee free agent signings, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

Redden, 31, is a risky signing at six years and $39-million.  While he's generally been durable, logging a lot of minutes and playing more than 76 games in eight of his 11 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Redden's game has tailed off the past two seasons.

While Redden goes a sturdy 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, he can still get overpowered down low, particularly when matched against players whose level of intensity surpasses his own.  Also, Redden's foot speed isn't ideal, leaving him vulnerable against speedy forwards.

So, how does he hold down a top pair spot on the blueline?  A lot of it is due to his cerebral approach.  Redden knows where to position himself, makes the right pass more often than not, and his work on the power play does provide value.

Based on his recent seasons, though, it's hard to expect much more than 40 points out of Redden now and who knows what he'll be able to provide in years five and six of this contract?

In the short-term, adding Redden should help the Rangers' power play, but this contract is in danger of becoming an albatross if his play doesn't improve substantially.

It's entirely understandable that the Senators didn't want to keep paying Redden at $6.5-million per season, but his absence will need to be addressed on what is becoming one of the short-staffed bluelines in the league.

Coming off a season in which his 55 points represented his lowest total in a decade, Markus Naslund is actually a better investment for the Rangers at two years and $8-million.

For one thing, Naslund played in a somewhat stifling system in Vancouver, where the Canucks ranked 24th in the league in shots on goal; a situation that should be resolved somewhat in New York, where the Rangers ranked third in the league in shots on goal.

Given a little more freedom, and perhaps set alongside a superior playmaker like Scott Gomez and a dynamic talent like Nikolai Zherdev, there's at least a fair chance that the 34-year-old Naslund is capable of surpassing last season's 55 points.

Vancouver is still trying to put together a capable group of scoring forwards and it probably makes sense for them to try with younger and cheaper options than Naslund but, barring a change of heart from Mats Sundin or a blockbuster trade, goals won't come easily.

Kalinin is a 27-year-old coming off the worst season of his seven-year NHL career, scoring just eight points and going minus-7 in 46 games with Buffalo.

On a one-year deal, Kalinin is a decent reclamation project, as he had been a combined plus-33 in the first two seasons after the lockout.  Buffalo has young defencemen that can take Kalinin's minutes and there are still free agents available that could fill the void if need be.

The Rangers have definitely changed the face of their team, and it's going to require a more balanced, team-oriented approach to succeed and these additions, combined with the acquisitions of Zherdev and Dan Fritsche in a trade with Columbus, should keep the Rangers competitive, even in the face of losing four of their top eight scorers via free agency.

Scott Cullen can be reached at scullen@tsn.ca




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