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Scoring Winger Main Target for Rangers’ Offseason

Alex Silverberg
June 6, 2012

With the Rangers mustering just 16 goals in their six-game Conference Final loss to the New Jersey Devils, a big offensive player remains the biggest need for the Broadway Blueshirts. The defense, albeit worn out, stood strong and Lundqvist played like a Vezina winner but when the Rangers needed that big goal, it just didn’t come. There are a few options out there, via free agency or trade, which could help add more offensive punch to this defense-first team.

Alexander Radulov

Since the Nashville Predators announced that they will not be bringing him back, RFA Alexander Radulov has been linked to trade rumors with the Rangers.
The 6’1” Russian winger brings a good shot and above-average playmaking ability to the ice with three goals and four assists in just nine regular season games after coming over from the KHL. It’d be easy to see him finishing on a rebound on a hard Marian Gaborik wrister or taking a pass to the crease from Brad Richards.

While Radulov’s offensive talent is undeniable, his work ethic is. In those same nine games, he was only a plus-three despite having seven points.  In the playoffs, where NBC Sports Network announcer Keith Jones eviscerated the Russian for his lack of defensive responsibility, he was only a plus two after posting one goal and five assists.

The hallmark of any John Tortorella team is defense. If you don’t block shots, if you don’t cover your man or if you don’t skate hard on every shift, you will sit. I can see Radulov riding the pine a lot in Tortorella’s system. The KHL team CSKA Moscow is offering him $8 Million to perform his gliding act in his homeland so I don’t see this one working out. Besides, the draft picks it would take to get him are not worth another Nikolay Zherdev or Ales Kotalik.

Zach Parise

The biggest offensive free agent of this upcoming offseason, Zach Parise is exactly what the Rangers are looking for. Tough, skilled and relentless on the forecheck, Parise gutted his way to 31 goals and 38 assists for the New Jersey Devils. As of this writing, Parise’s Devils are down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals but not for the captain’s lack of effort – he has 14 points in 21 playoff games.

I expect the Rangers to throw a boatload of money at Parise but it remains to be seen if he will defect. If the Devils get bounced in four games, does that put a seed of doubt into Parise’s mind about the ability of the New Jersey team to get it done when it counts? Do his father’s comments about Zach liking John Tortorella and his coaching style bode well for the Rangers? Could the winger leave New Jersey for New York like Scott Gomez before him? All these questions are being asked day-after-day by Ranger fans.

Judging from his interviews, Parise is a man of great character and I don’t think he could leave for a bitter rival. Expect him back with the Devils or to defect to the Red Wings.

Rick Nash

The belle of the trade deadline ball, Rick Nash had a solid season of 30 goals and 29 assists but not something you would trade Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Brandon Dubinsky and Chris Kreider for. That’s what Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson was asking for.

The final offer from Rangers GM Glen Sather to Howson at the deadline was Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, JT Miller, Christian Thomas and a first round pick. Howson rejected that but I guarantee if you offer him that again at the draft, he’ll take it in a minute. Fortunately for the Blueshirts, Howson has backed himself into the corner with his ridiculous deadline demands and he has to accept less for a great talent. Nash is as good as gone and if the Rangers can make the right deal, he’s theirs.

It’ll take big players to get it done but I’m reluctant to pull the trigger on any deal including McDonagh or Kreider. These will be top players on the Rangers for years to come. Look for the Rangers to make a solid yet reasonable offer.

Other Options

Another big target available for trade should the Rangers fail to acquire Nash or Parise is Bobby Ryan. At just 25 years old, Ryan is a perennial 30-plus goalscorer with 396 career hits. He’s rough and rugged enough to fit into Tortorella’s system but skilled enough to take the offense to another level. However, expect Anaheim GM Bryan Murray to want a Nash-like package for Ryan. If I had to choose between Nash and Ryan, I’d take Ryan. The Rangers would have a complete team whose youth would make them cup contenders for years to come.

The Rangers can also sign an offensive veteran like Ray Whitney. Ray Whitney had an excellent season, posting 24 goals, 53 assists and a defensively-minded plus-26. Whitney could fill the role Vinny Prospal once had helping young players find their game while potting in a goal here or there. Whitney’s game is not flashy but he gets the job done.

The Future is Bright

No matter whom the Rangers sign or trade for in the coming months this past year has proved that this team is going to be very good for a very long time. Let’s not forget that this group was two wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup. With an added piece or two, you could see them getting those two wins and more this time next year.

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