Red, White and Blueshirts


Ales Is More: Rangers Sign Kotalik (UPDATED)

The Rangers have come to terms with UFA right wing Ales Kotalik. Terms of the deal are not yet known.

Kotalik, the 6-2, 227 lb. , 30 year old winger from the Czech Republic has scored 20 or more goals four times in his 7 seasons in the NHL and posted 20 goals and 23 assists in 75 games while sharing time with the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers last season. He has also played 21 games for the Czech National team during his career.

Props to Brian Monzo of SNYRangers Blog  for breaking this story…..More details to follow…

UPDATED (6:45 PM)- The terms of the contract are reported to be 3 years 9 million dollars (3.0 per). Here is the official release from the team. This signing would seem to signal the end for Nikolai Zherdev on Broadway as it looks more and more like the Rangers will walk away from the arbitration award.



Carolina In My Mind

Most of the news surrounding the Rangers search for a defenseman has centered on Sergei Zubov and Derek Morris but we want to add another possibility to the list. According to reports on ESPN, Carolina Hurricanes RFA Anton Babchuk is at a stalemate with the Canes over his contract and the team’s GM Jim Rutherford has told him “if he finds another team that wants him, they will attempt to trade him”. Enter the Rangers. Babchuck is the type of big bodied (6-5, 214) defenseman the Rangers desperately need but he is not just a big frame as he also has some offensive tools (16 goals and 19 assists and +13 rating last season) as well. More important than either of those things however, is the fact that Babchuk is still young (25) and looks to be coming into the prime of his career while Zubov (who missed all but 10 games last season with injury at age 39) and Morris (who has seen his point totals drop every year for the last 5 years) might be on the backside of their careeers. Babchuk would also give the Rangers another option for next season as both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be restricted free agents and one of both could possibly recieve offer sheets leaving Glen Sather to make a very tough decision cap wise. Like Patrick Sharp, who we discussed in this blog yesterday, Babchuk could probably be had for a package of a prospect and a pick and would not fall into that old Rangers tradition of trading prospects for “over the hill ” “Name” players. If the Rangers could get Zubov to come on a one year deal for a discount and hope he’s healthy enough to quarterback the power play and be a mentor to some of our younger D men , i’m all for it but if he wants long term or big coin to come then I think a trade for an up and comer like Babchuk is the smarter move all around.

In other Rangers news,  the two year deal signed by Brian Boyle yesterday was worth 525,000 per.  Pierre LeBrun at ESPN has updates on Zubov and the Babchuk-Hurricanes stalemate here. Steve Zipay speculates the Rangers may be looking west for a trade partner here and SNY Rangers blog has an article on the  reported interest of some KHL teams in Rangers forward Lauri Korpikoski here. (The Korpikoski story seemed like a longshot yesterday but after Detroit forward Jiri Hudler signed a deal with a team in the KHL yesterday afternoon, this may not be just the leverage ploy by Korpikoski’s agent most believed it to be at first…stay tuned)

As always if anything breaks, we’ll have it here.



Free Agency Rumblings (UPDATED)

There are some rumblings on the free agency front this morning concerning the Rangers. The most surprising news comes from The Fourth Period where Derek Morris’ agent says that he has spoken several times with the Rangers and that they are still interested in bringing Morris back to Broadway. The agent also says that length of contract isn’t as important to Morris as feeling comfortable where he plays. Morris seemed to have nothing but good things to say during his brief tenure here last season so this situation may bear watching if Morris would be willing to accept a one or two year deal for probably less than the 3.25 million he made last year.

Derek Morris

Derek Morris

Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg is close to re-signing with the team for a reported 3 years at around 9 million dollars. This will almost surely (along with the Marian Hossa and Cam Barker signings) force the Hawks to make a trade and move some money as they still have to sign a backup goaltender to Cristobal Huet and are right against the cap for next season. The prevailing thought is that forward Patrick Sharp could be made available. If this happens, the Rangers should put in a call to GM Dale Tallon to see what it would take to bring him to NY. Sharp is a talented and young (27) winger who excels in front of the net on the power play (something the Rangers lack in their current forward group) and makes a reasonable  (by current standards) 3.9 million per season. He could probably be had for a prospect and a pick considering the Hawks current cap situation.

For the full Morris article on The Fourth Period click here. For some theories on what the Rangers might do to fill up the remaining spots on their blueline, Dan Akeson brings up  Marc Andre Bergeron, Mathieu Schneider and some other UFA options here.

Remember if any news breaks, we’ll bring it to you right here.

UPDATE (2:10 PM)- The Rangers have come to terms with restricted free agent Brian Boyle , whom they acquired from the Kings on Draft Day. Specifics of the contract were not disclosed. In other news, Saku Koivu has signed a one year 3.25 million dollar deal with the Anaheim Ducks.



Update on Zherdev (Updated)

As we reported on this site yesterday, Nik Zherdev’s decision to take the Rangers to arbitration may spell the end of his time in a blueshirt. Reports surfacing that Zherdev and his agent will ask for a salary of 4.5 million dollars for next season have caused many following the team to speculate today that if he is awarded that number that the Rangers will almost surely walk away from the decision, making him an unrestricted free agent and freeing up 3.25 million in cap space for the upcoming season. Personally, I have felt from the beginning that the Rangers should have offered this money to Nik Antropov (who signed a 4 year 16 million dollar deal with the Thrashers last week) in an attempt to re-sign the big winger rather than qualify Zherdev, who disappeared last season in the playoffs and at times looked disinterested while playing under head coach John Tortorella. If Zherdev loses his case, having him for one year in which he must prove his worth with a pending unrestricted free agency in his sights, may pay divideneds and finally motivate the enigmatic winger. If he wins and the team decides to part ways, there are a few different avenues the team might take in looking to replace Zherdev’s offensive production. The least expensive and possibly most exciting to Rangers fans might be to give Evgeny Grachev a shot to continue his offensive growth at the NHL level. If the team feels Grachev is not yet ready for prime time or is looking for a more proven commodity, they could look to veteran wingers Petr Sykora (who had 25 goals in 76 games last season with the Penguins and put up 16 goals and 31 points in 40 games in his other stint with the team in 2005-06) or Miroslav Satan (who had 17 goals last season with the Penguins) who could probably be had for one year deals at a very cap friendly price. The team could even go way outside the box and convince former All-Star Mark Parrish (who finished last season in Dallas and has scored 20+ goals six times in his career) to sign with the team on a two way deal for the minimum hoping to maybe pull a diamond from the scrap heap. Another possible move should Zherdev leave is to revisit the Dany Heatley trade situation (highly unlikely still because of the Rangers reluctance to part with any of their prized prospects and Senators GM Bryan Murray’s absurd asking price, which even with his lack of leverage, seems to grow steeper each day) but some money would have to be moved in order to fit his contract in cap wise.

There has been no other news on the Rangers possible pursuit of Saku Koivu and Sergei Zubov or of any movement on rumored possible trades involving Dallas’ Brad Richards or San Jose’s Patrick Marleau. If any word on these moves or others come down, we’ll have all the details for you right here.

For more on the Zherdev situation check out Larry Brooks in the NY Post here or here.

UPDATE (4:35 PM)- Although he was never a Ranger, Joe Sakic signed an offer sheet  with the Rangers that if it wasn’t ultimately matched by Colorado would have changed the history of the franchise. Reports out of Colorado say that Sakic will announce his retirement from the NHL at a press conference on Thursday. We will have more on this news after his announcement. Congratulations on a classy Hall of Fame career Mr. Sakic.



Prospect Spotlight: Evgeny Grachev

This is the first in a weekly series of profiles on the youngsters currently in the Rangers organization who will be counted on to contribute in the future.

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Evgeny Grachev, Center/Winger

6-3, 212 lbs.

Date of Birth: 2-21-1990

Drafted in 3rd Round of 2008 NHL Draft.

Evegeny Grachev is currently considered by many to be the Rangers top prospect in the minor leagues.  After scoring 40 goals and 40 assists for 80 points in 60 games and sporting a +48 rating for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, Grachev was announced as the winner of the OHL Rookie of the Year award. He was invited to the Rangers Prospect Development camp last week and by all accounts was the strongest skater to participate. Known for his strength and creativity with the puck, Grachev will need to improve on his play away from the puck to impress the Rangers brass both during the upcoming Traverse City Tournament and in training camp later this summer. Grachev will be given every opportunity to win a spot with the big club in camp (especially if forward Nik Zherdev leaves the team) and will be counted on to contribute immediately should he be given the chance. If he does not make the team in camp, Grachev will be expected to continue improving his game (most likely with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack) and will probably be the team’s first call up in case of an injury or in response to a slow start at the NHL level.

What the Scouts are saying:

Grachev is a top prospect with size, a physical presence and good hands. An above average skater with a pro shot and the ability to protect the puck, Grachev has transitioned from being a center to being a winger. Expected to be a power forward at the next level, Grachev will need to work on giving the team a consistent effort throughout the game, but there is no question that he has all the skills to be a top-six forward in the NHL. – Hockey’s Future

Everything we’ve heard or seen about Grachev has been positive so far and it seems this young man could be the one to fill the void of an offensive juggernaut in the Rangers organization after the tragic passing of the talented Alexei Cherapanov last season. Here is a video of Grachev during his award winning season with the Brampton Battalion:

Next Week: Derek Stepan



Blue Monday (Updated)

While rumors continue to swirl about whether the Rangers are interested in pursuing Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev or Sergei Zubov, nothing seems to be imminent on that front. The most interesting news out of Rangers camp is that forwards Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan have both elected to take the team to salary arbitration for the upcoming season. I believe the Rangers would like to get Callahan under contract long term and will probably be able to do so and avoid a hearing with a deal that is both cap friendly and will make Callahan feel appreciated. The bigger story is Zherdev’s status. There have been reports of Zherdev having interest in returning to Russia to play in the KHL and of possible concerns within the Rangers organization over whether Zherdev can perform and co-exist with head coach John Tortorella in his new up tempo system. There are even indications that the team may walk away from the winger (making him and unrestricted free agent) should he be awarded a contract that does not fit into the team’s salary plans for next season. There is still a chance that the team comes to terms with the enigmatic yet talented winger before arbitration but it seems unlikely and this situation may turn ugly before a resolution is ultimately reached.

Nikolai Zherdev

Nikolai Zherdev

In other more positive news, Zherdev and prospect Artem Anisimov were invited to participate in the upcoming 2010 Russian Olympic Orientation camp. The invitation is a another sign that Anisimov (who registered 37 goals and 44 assists with Hartford of the AHL last season) may be well on his way to making an impact with the big club this upcoming season. Former Rangers Dmitri Kalinin and Alexei Kovalev were invited as well.

If any news breaks, we will be here to report it today and tomorrow will be the first of our Prospect Spotlight series which will feature NYR youngsters that the team is counting on to make an impact in the organization’s future.

For an explanation of the salary arbitration process and which facts teams and players are allowed and forbidden to use to make their cases, check out Blue Notes here. For more on possible Rangers target UFA Alexei Kovalev and his somewhat contentious departure from the Canadiens, check out TSN here.

UPDATE (2:30 PM) TSN.ca is reporting Christopher Higgins has come to terms with the New York Rangers on a new contract. Higgins, acquired from Montreal for Scott Gomez, was a restricted free agent. ESPN is reporting it is a one year deal worth $2.25 million.

UPDATE (4:25 PM) Apparently, Alexei Kovalev will not be making a return to Broadway as he has signed a 2 year 10 million dollar deal with the Ottawa Senators. For more details click here.



LAZY SUNDAY

There’s not much happening in Ranger Land today as Glen Sather and Co. seem to have taken the holiday weekend off to regroup after this busy past week. If any news breaks, I’ll bring it to you immediately. If you are having withdrawals, there are some interesting reads around the ‘net today.

Hockey’s Future has an in-depth review of last week’s Prospect Orientation Camp here. It seems Mike Del Zotto was not nearly as impressive in their eyes as he was in the eyes of most of the beat writers who had been reporting back from the camp all week. Larry Brooks writes about the controversial Donald Brashear signing and it’s possible locker room effects here and NHL.com has comments from an “excited” Christopher Higgins about joining the Rangers.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and i’ll be back with more tomorrow.

UPDATE (11:45 PM)- Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan have elected to go to salary arbitration for the upcoming season. More details on this story tomorrow.