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 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.


Roster Reshaping Continues

In a surprising flurry of  activity after a quiet weekend, The Rangers continued their recent roster overhaul by re-signing one of their core youngsters and sending another one packing to the desert.

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Ryan Callahan Signs 2 Year 4.6 Miilion Dollar Contract

Earlier today, The Rangers agreed to terms with RFA F Ryan Callahan on a 2 year deal worth 4.6 miilion dollars. If you were to ask most Rangers fans what signing they were hoping to see sooner than later, it would be Callahan’s. The 24 year old right wing  enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09 scoring 22 goals and posting 40 points while becoming one of the team’s most physical forwards. The signing helps the team to avoid having to go to arbitration against one of it’s up and coming stars. It also may give the team a comparable starting point in negotiations with fellow RFA and young star C Brandon Dubinsky, whom the team is also interested in signing to a long term deal. The deal also leaves Nik Zherdev as the only remaining player headed for arbitration with the club.

Later in the day, The Rangers moved one of their youngsters to Phoenix in an exchange of  players with seemingly bright futures. Lauri Korpikoski, who enjoyed a fine first season with the Blueshirts (but was recently the subject of reports linking him to interest from teams in the KHL), posted 14 points in 68 games while excelling on the team’s highly ranked PK unit was sent to the Coyotes in exchange for Enver Lisin, a 23 year old 6-1, 190 lb. right wing who scored 13 goals in 48 games last season.

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

Enver Lisin, acquired from Phoenix for Lauri Korpikoski, brings his speed to the Blueshirts

As I watched this offseason play out and began formulating possible line combinations in my head, I often found myself wondering where Korpikoski would fit amongst the newly acquired forwards and most of the time I didn’t see a strong fit. It looks like the front office did not either. While Korpikoski was sound defensively, he did not give the Rangers much in terms of offensive upside (much like Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom, who have also been jettisoned this offseason). Lisin gives the Rangers another speedy winger with the potential to put pucks in the net either at the NHL or AHL level and another option to look at in camp (or another chip should the Heatley situation rear it’s head again) if Zherdev is not brought back next season. I think this was a good deal by Sather to get something promising for Korpikoski before his offensive shortcomings became fully realized by other GM’s around the league.

Here is a highlight video of Enver Lisin from Youtube:


I didn’t get the chance to catch up on much local news while in New Orleans over the weekend but there were some interesting reads on the web beginning with Larry Brooks’ artcle in the NY Post here and his interview with new Rangers sniper Marion Gaborik here. The Dallas Morning News puts in their two cents on both the Brad Richards and Sergei Zubov rumors here. The Rangers also re-signed RFA Dane Byers and G Chad Johnson over the last few days. The official releases are here and here.

I hope that gets everybody caught up. Tomorrow we will continue our Prospect Spotlight series. If anything else happens, we will have it for you right here.

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.

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.


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) 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.


While the Rangers were quiet on the second day of free agency, a few notable moves took place. The first being the departure of Rangers winger Nik Antropov, who was acquired at last season’s trade deadline, when he signed a 4 year 16 million dollar deal with the Atlanta Thrashers. The Rangers had some interest in getting Antropov to return to the team early on but after Sather spoke to his agent and was told Antropov was seeking more than 5 million annually, the team instead turned it’s attention to the other options available both already on the roster (qualifying Nikolai Zherdev for next season) and in free agency (Gaborik). Some question whether the Rangers would have been able to fit Antropov into their plans at the 4 million per year he eventually signed for if they had not given Donald Brashear such a ridiculous 2 year contract but I believe that both sides had already felt it was better to move on to newer pastures.

The Rangers also signed a trio of depth forwards that are almost certainly destined to begin the season with the team’s affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack. Tyler Arnason, a defensive forward and NHL veteran having spent time with the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalance was signed to a two way contract and could get a chance to make the fourth line of the big club during training camp. Chris Chappell, an undrafted free agent who scored 38 goals and added 38 assists for Owen Sound of the OHL last season and Corey Locke, who lead the AHL’s Houston Aeros in scoring last season were signed to minor league deals. The Rangers also re-signed P.A. Parentau who plated for the Wolfpack last season.

For the official releases on these signings, click here: Arnason, Locke, Chappell, Parentau.