- Craig Custance
When Rangers GM Glen Sather started shipping away first-rounders, he upped the ante in New York. It’s about winning Stanley Cups now in that organization, so falling short of a return to the finals is a disappointment. That’s the reality that comes with high expectations.
The Rangers season is over but that doesn’t mean the roster needs wholesale changes for next season, or even much done at all. Sather has work to do this summer but it’s more housekeeping than it is reconstruction. Here’s a look at the priorities:
1. Long-term deal for Derek Stepan
The last time Derek Stepan needed a contract, it led to a training camp holdout that wasn’t resolved until Day 16 when he signed a two-year deal worth $6.15 million. He has a little more leverage this time around and may get more than that total on an annual basis in his next deal. He’s established himself as a center who is good for about 60 points per season and these are the type of players teams don’t let get anywhere near unrestricted free agency. He’s earned a long-term contract although he may prefer to keep it in the five or six year range in order to cash in again a second time when it expires. The Rangers also have to make a decision on Martin St. Louis, whose contract is expiring. He’s at the point in his career where the Rangers should try to take advantage of a bonus-laden one-year contract and worry about the cap consequences later.
2. Explore a Cam Talbot trade
The challenge of being in full Stanley Cup contention mode is that a GM can wake up in a few years and have no young players pushing to make the NHL. The Rangers don’t have a first-rounder this year, they have Tampa’s second – at the bottom of the second. Their next first-rounder doesn’t come until 2017, assuming they make the playoffs (according to generalfanager.com) next season. The Rangers should take a page out of Stan Bowman’s playbook and manage their assets in a way that young talent is always coming. A start would be looking at a Cam Talbot trade. Henrik Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere. They also have Mackenzie Skapski signed. Talbot has earned a chance to start in the NHL and is a UFA after next season where it’s likely he’ll chase that opportunity. Better to get some of the draft picks back before that happens.
3. Promote assistant Jeff Gorton
More teams are going to a model where hockey operations are run by a team president and general manager. Glen Sather currently holds both of those roles and perhaps it’s time he hands off the GM portion to Gorton before the talented executive is finally lured away by another team. Sather is fiercely protective of those in his organization and told the New York Post that he wouldn’t grant anyone permission to talk to Gorton until after the playoffs, and perhaps not even then. Sather is right to want to keep Gorton around and it’s time to reward his loyalty, hard work and success.