Stephen Valiquette isn't re-signed for next season, and I would personally keep it that way . They have Matt Zaba and Miika Wiikman in the minors, who are both solid. I would bring one of them up for backing up Henrik Lundqvist. They could clearly learn from him, and goalie coach Benoit Allaire is arguably the best in the business. He turned Lundqvist into the goalie he is right now, and working with Valiquette during the lockout, got him back into the NHL. Bringing up a young gun wouldn't hurt. Lundqvist doesn't like to sit too often, and Valiquette deserves to be a starter somewhere else. He could be a number one goalie somewhere, so I would let him go. As good as he's been for them, I would rather go the cheaper route and use a young guy like Zaba or Wiikman there
Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan MUST be re-signed immediately .They're probably going to wait because Glenn Sather will want to test the free agent market first and see who's interested in the Rangers. If he can't afford a free agent AND re-signing everyone they want, it might come down to choosing between Dubinsky and Callahan, in which case I will be very disappointed. They should re-sign both of them right now. They showed the most heart on the team all year, and arguably were their best in the playoffs outside of Lundqvist. Keep the young guys on this team around. They'll get even better next season. That includes Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.
I also would just like to point out something that was very interesting. During the struggles this season, you could usually point out one line in a game or one player that was standing out and giving effort constantly, and the same went for the playoffs. I found, more often than not, the best line usually had Dubinsky somewhere on it, and most nights, even without scoring goals, hey was their best player (aside from Lundqvist). I think that's enough to re-sign him. I can never say enough about Brandon Dubinsky. His experience in his rookie season with Jaromir Jagr clearly had a positive impact on him. You can see that he somewhat emulates Jagr when he skates with the puck. I expect a breakout year from Dubinsky next year, and it would pain me to see him have it with anyone but the Rangers
I've discussed this with a few people, and it might seem like a horrible idea and out of left field, but hear me out. Trade Scott Gomez . Yes, you can argue that getting a goal scorer will, in turn, improve Gomez's game and pay enormous dividends. I understand that, and I agree with it entirely. I just think that trading him would pay off in the future. You free up $7 million for next year if you trade him and get either draft picks or a couple of cheaper forwards. I know everyone will chew my ear off for this one, but I still think it shouldn't be left off the table completely. People have started to wonder if he likes it in New York at all. When he was with the Devils, he was surrounded by great finishers, something the Rangers clearly lack. I just don't think Gomez will ever be the player that the fans and organization think they got, and if a trade opportunity presents itself, I say take it
Keep Blair Betts and Fredrik Sjostrom together no matter what. They were part of the best penalty killing team in the NHL, and were arguably the best pair of forwards on the PK in the entire league. Sure they provide very little outside of that, but if you push Sjostrom up to the 3rd line, or even the 2nd line, he could score 10-15 goals. He's being held back on the 4th line. I love Colton Orr, but he's not the best guy to have on a line if you want to score. I would only keep Colton Orr if they find it absolutely necessary to have an enforcer like him on the team. I feel like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are tough guys and can stand up to anyone. If they keep Orr, I won't object, but I still find it hard to believe that he has a spot on the team while Patrick Rissmiller was sent down to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack
Nikolai Zherdev ... Where to start with him? I really fell in love with his game, as most fans did early in the year. He was fantastic. He is, without question, the most talented player on the Rangers. He can be great if he's focused and putting pucks in the net. The only problem, which came up in Columbus, is discipline. You could see he lost his confidence completely at the end of the season, and being benched (several times) had no impact at all, and you could even argue it hurt his game even more. I would have said re-sign him immediately early in the year, but now I see his game and I doubt he will ever give the Rangers the offense he was capable of early in the year. John Tortorella is a very discipline-oriented coach. If Zherdev doesn't respond well to that, you could see a wasted contract on the Rangers (again), and more cap space being wasted. I say don't re-sign him. He's lost that magic touch he had early in the year, while on the 3rd line (best line for the Rangers at the time), with Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros
The vacant "A" , as insiginificant as it may seem, should be given to someone who will speak up in the dressing room and stand out on the ice. They need one of the captains to be that guy who gives the big quote at the end of the game, and better yet, lets his game speak for him from time to time. I have no problem with Chris Drury as captain. He was the best choice. Gomez certainly deserves the first "A". I just think it's time to pass the torch to a younger guy who will hold himself accountable and step up when the team needs him to. Ryan Callahan is the obvious choice, based on his relentless play. I would also say that Blair Betts is a decent choice. He deserves accolades for his performance on the PK. He leads the dregs on the 4th line, but is clearly a big part of the heart and soul of this team.
One final possibility (somewhat biased because he's my favorite Ranger) is Brandon Dubinsky. He probably won't get it, but I would be in dismay if I didn't throw his name out there for this. He has grit and determination, something the captains lacked frequently this season. He always knows what to say. He calls himself out frequently when he plays bad, and isn't afraid to call teammates out, even the captains, if they're not pulling their weight, and best of all, he stands up for his teammates no matter what. He would tackle Donald Brashear if he could get to him right now, to avenge the hit on Blair Betts.
All of that being said, it really doesn't matter who gets the "A", because it comes down to who steps up on the ice, and putting the "A" on your sweater won't give you the goals. You still have to work for it, so I won't be upset about one guy getting it over another. Just keep it away from Wade Redden and I'll be satisfied. He isn't horrendous, but I don't like giving letters to players who just joined the team recently. I objected to Markus Naslund getting the 2nd "A", and I would object if Redden got it. Give it to someone from inside the organization. Giving it to a younger player would show the emphasis they have on young talent. They're moving in the right direction with the young players, and recognizing one of them with the "A" would be a fitting reward