Red, White and Blueshirts


News Round-up: Zherdev Speaks, Zubov Leaves and Potter Signs

Not much hard news today but some interesting quotes from Nkolai Zherdev to magazine Sport-Express. Zherdev talks about the Rangers, his interest in the KHL and about where he’d like to play should he not return to New York next season. To me the most telling quote from the enigmatic winger comes when he is asked about why his numbers went down after John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney as head coach.

Q: After the new head coach of the Rangers, John Tortorella, has come in, your statistics became worse than they had been over the course of the season with Tom Renney. Did Tortorella trust you less?

A: That was probably one of the reasons. I admit, that I had slump — it’s impossible to play the entire season completely evenly. During that time, at times my game was off completely.

This answer concerns me if I’m the Rangers and I’m looking to bring Zherdev back and expect him to contribute. I don’t like the fact that he believes “it’s impossible to play the entire season completely evenly”. Would we ever hear this kind of quote from Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin or Iginla? Would you want to commit 4.5 million or more dollars of your cap to a player you had doubts about whether they would bring their “A+” effort every game. This is the reason the Blue Jackets were willing to part with Zherdev last season despite his obvious talent. I think the only way to go with Zherdev is to say goodbye to him now and give his spot to a kid who will fight every shift to make an impression at the NHL level.

To read the entire translated interview courtesy of  Beyond The Blueshirts click here.

In Free Agency news, Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov, who has been linked to the Rangers in various reports told ESPN.com earlier today that he will not be returning to the Stars next season. According to his agent, Zubov wants to continue his career “in a winning environment no matter where that might be”.

My take on the Zubov story is the same as it has been from the beginning. If he is willing to take a one year deal or a two year deal with incentives to come to New York and quarterback a power play that sorely needs his presence on the blueline, then I am all for it but if Zubov is looking for any more than 2 years or for big coin, the Rangers should pass. The team has built a stable of young defensive prospects all clamoring to show what they can do at the NHL level and blocking their path with Zubov (even if he is a future Hall of Famer) would be a huge mistake for the future of this organization. The better option as I stated last week would be to package one of our many D prospects with a pick to Carolina to acquire the younger Anton Babchuk to help our power play.

In the only roster move of the day, The Blueshirts have come to terms with D Corey Potter. Terms of the deal are not immediately known. Potter had one goal and one assist in five games with the Rangers last season. Rick Carpiniello of Rangers Report has the official release here.

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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.



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.



FREE AGENCY DAY 1: The Gift of GAB

After making only a tiny ripple during the first few hours with their signing of tough guy/cheap shot artist/scourge of Ranger fans Donald Brashear to a 2 year 2.8 million dollar pact, The Rangers made the big splash in the free agency pool that everyone had been waiting for later in the day when the team agreed to terms with superstar winger Marian Gaborik on a 5 year 37.5 million dollar deal to bring him to the Garden.

The Brashear signing was met with mostly anger and disbelief from the blueshirt faithful as this was the same player who ended Blair Betts season prematurely during last year’s playoffs with a cheap shot elbow that broke Betts’ orbital bone. Brashear has been a lightning rod for controversy in the past with his endless taunts and late hits of Rangers players such as Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and others. GM Glen Sather explained the signing of this seemingly past his prime, one dimensional enforcer as a necessity after losing fan favorite and character guy Colton Orr to the Maple Leafs (4 years @ 1 million per) earlier in the day.

The bigger and more welcomed news came as the frenzy of early signings seemed to be slowing down, The Rangers announced they had come to terms with the Minnesota Wild’s all time leading scorer, winger Marian Gaborik on a 5 year deal. Gaborik is one of the NHL’s fastest and most dynamic talents and is a threat to score every time he is on the ice(a component the Rangers haven’t had since the departure of Jagr). The only question mark concerning Gaborik is his history of hip and groin injuries which have kept the mercurial winger out for extended periods over the last few seasons. According to GM Sather, the team has been in touch with the surgeon who performed Gaborik’s hip surgery (the same doctor who performed A-Rod’s surgery) last season and also had their doctor’s look over the reports and everything came up clear before they decided to make the commitment. Gaborik is a world class talent who has scored 40 goals in a season once and reached the 30 goal plateau in 5 of his 8 professional seasons. If he can stay healthy, he brings to the Garden a dynamic one on one presence that will excite the fans and put pucks in the net on a consistent basis. He is a game changing forward. If the injuries persist and Gaborik can’t stay out of the trainer’s room, this will be a long season and the Rangers might be stuck with another albatross of a contract but all indications and hope from the front office point towards the opposite being the case.

Rangers Newest Forward Marian Gaborik

Rangers Newest Forward Marian Gaborik

To see the official releases of both signings, click the links here: Brashear and Gaborik