Rangers' busy off-season still in full gear

Sather says his work in assembling 2010-11 roster hardly yet complete

Tuesday, 07.20.2010 / 11:41 AM / News
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Rangers\' busy off-season still in full gear

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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

Although Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather has been very busy this summer finding ways to improve his club for the 2010-11 season, he says he is far from finished with his work.

In fact, Sather plans to consider all options for improving the Rangers right up until the start of training camp, when he will give head coach John Tortorella the reigns to mold the club for the start of the regular season.

Glen Sather
Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather has been in constant contact with other teams this summer in his effort to position the Blueshirts for a strong 2010-11 season and beyond.
“Through training camp, and then once you get into the start of the season, you don’t want to fool around too much with the roster,” Sather said on Monday. “However, in the meantime, it’s a constant effort to make the team better and improve it. There’s a lot we go through during the summer. There’s a lot of work involved. And we are not done considering things.”

It has already been a busy summer for the Blueshirts. Sather filled the club’s need for a quality veteran back-up to Henrik Lundqvist in goal by signing the club’s number one target, unrestricted free agent Martin Biron. He also made the team tougher by signing hulking free agent forward Derek Boogaard and added to the depth of the defense corps by acquiring Steve Eminger in a trade with Anaheim. Additionally, highly touted prospects and University of Wisconsin stars Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan left school early to sign to their first professional contracts by the Rangers.

Sather also worked diligently to re-sign the club’s own free agents. Forwards Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen, and Brandon Prust have all returned to the fold, along with defenseman Dan Girardi. And Sather knows that, like the rest of his work this summer, his job is not complete in this area until he re-signs defenseman Marc Staal, who is a restricted free agent.

“Obviously we want to get Marc Staal signed,” said Sather. “If someone comes along and gives him an offer sheet, which is always possible, we’ll match it. But we are going to keep negotiating with him.”

With more than 30 years of experience as an NHL general manager, Sather understands that some negotiations are resolved quicker than others, as was the case this summer with Girardi, Prospal, Christensen, and Prust. He also understands that other summer negotiations can carry into training camp or beyond, although he doesn’t anticipate that being the case with Staal.

“We don’t want to see that happen,” said Sather. “I don’t think it serves the player any good to do something like that. As far as I’m concerned, it only puts him behind the eight-ball when he does come back and play.”

When the Rangers do get Staal’s name on a new contract they will have a deeper defense corps than a year ago. The additions of the veteran Eminger, a 26-year-old former first-round draft pick, and the 22-year-old rookie McDonagh, a 2007 first-round pick by Montreal, add both depth and quality to the Rangers’ blueline.

Eminger, a solid two-way defender who recorded four goals and 16 points with the Ducks a year ago, is a player the Rangers have long had interest in. They finally were able to acquire the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder in a trade for winger Aaron Voros earlier this month.

“We tried to sign Eminger (two years ago) before he went to Tampa Bay,” said Sather. “We think he’s going to fit in really well. He skates well, is fairly aggressive, has a good shot. Wherever he falls in the lineup -- third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh defenseman – that’ll be up to him.  He’ll be good for us. He makes us better and stronger.”

Marc Staal
Defenseman Marc Staal hasn't signed a new contract yet, but his NHL career is certain to continue in New York with an assurance from Glen Sather that the Rangers would match any offer made to the 23-year-old restricted free agent.
As for McDonagh, Sather is ecstatic that the talented youngster decided to skip his senior year at Wisconsin to turn pro along with his college teammate Stepan, who gave up his last two years of NCAA eligibility.  A first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, McDonagh projects to be a solid two-way defenseman, something that was quite evident several weeks ago at the club’s mini-camp for prospects.

“McDonagh came to our rookie camp the first week of July and looked terrific,” said Sather. “He’s a strong kid who skates well. We expect he’s going to play. I don’t know if he’ll make it right out of training camp, but he’s certainly got the opportunity to do that. It’s really up to him.”

Arguably the team’s most important new face is Biron. Although Lundqvist will remain the workhorse in net for the Blueshirts, the addition of Biron -- a longtime successful No. 1 himself in the NHL -- will provide Lundqvist more nights off and a better chance to remain fresh over the course of a long season, not to mention the playoffs come springtime.

When Biron was signed by the Rangers on July 1, Sather said the lack of a proven capable backup goaltender likely cost the team a playoff spot last season. The GM did not back off that position on Monday when talking about Biron, who has 208 career wins in the National Hockey League.

“Biron is an experienced guy who is really excited to work with (Rangers’ goaltending coach) Benoit Allaire and play for the New York Rangers,” Sather said. “He’s going to play a lot of games. Henrik will see less games then he saw last year, which is important because it’s tough to play as many games as he has the last few years. It’ll do (Henrik) a whale of good to have an experienced pro like Marty to work with.”

Many of the pieces for 2010-11 are in place for the Rangers, but Sather does not consider his work done just yet. The Sept. 15 start of training camp is getting closer by the day, and Sather wants to make sure that he hands Tortorella the best team possible when that day does arrive.

“There’s still some tinkering to do and we’re still fielding phone calls, talking to agents, talking with other teams. We’re still at it for a while yet.”