Best and Worst New York Rangers Free Agent Signings

New York Rangers free agent signings

Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny GaudreauClaude GirouxJohn Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the New York Rangers free agent’s history.

New York Rangers Free Agents Signings

The Big Apple has one of the most iconic hockey teams in the world. Many legends such as Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, and Henrik Lundqvist have been immortalized within its rafters. The Great one, Wayne Gretzky played his final hockey career as a Blueshirt. As part of the original six established, there have been countless ups and downs since it all began in 1926. 35 coaches have been part of this history, Gerrard Gallant most recently. Chris Drury took the helm as General Manager and so far has steered the Rangers relatively well. However, in the past, the Rangers have made some bad choices. We look at the good and the bad of these New York Rangers free agent signings since 2005.

Best Signing: Marian Gaborik

The then 27-year-old signed a five-year, 37million deal with the Rangers in 2009 from his draft team the Minnesota Wild. Within the four years the Czech native played for the Rangers he achieved a career-high of 42goals, 44assists equalling to 86points. Gaborik’s continued to tally solid productive numbers despite injury. He made an impressive impact during the 2011-12 playoff run.  Achieving 11 points in 20 games, this included three overtime game winners in the second round against the Washington Capitals.

Gaborik came at a time when the Rangers needed speed and a strong offensive leader. He was most effective in producing in clinch games. The winger led the team in points in his first season with the Rangers and became the 2012 All-Star MVP

Despite this, Gaborik became another member of coach John Tortorella’s victimisation society when after major surgery was demoted to the fourth line and relocated to the wing. With no surprise, because of this Gaborik became a late trade at the deadline that saw him traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore.

However, ironically for the Rangers, Gaborik went on to lead the playoffs with 14goals, and eight assists equalling 22 points in 26 games with the Los Angeles Kings and winning the Stanley Cup Championship the next season.

Anton Stralman

Anton Stralman is also considered one of the best free agency signings for the New York Rangers. Picked up after an unsuccessful training camp with the New Jersey Devils for a one-year contract during the 2011-12 season. The then 25-year-old was brought in to provide depth on the blue line, as at the time the Rangers had injury concerns with Marc Staal and Michael Sauer. The Swedish native provided stability as a stay-at-home defenceman and during the three years at the garden averaging around 18 minutes. Stralman’s acute hockey intelligence and physicality made him a key player during the Ranger’s playoff runs between 2012-14. Add this to the chemistry with Ryan McDonagh and his value seemed secured and the Rangers would re-sign the reliable and versatile blueliner from the free agency again.

The move to the Tampa Bay Lightning caused quite a controversy at the time. However, it was later revealed that General Manager Glen Sather‘s communication was suspect, and the Swedish native had to quickly choose between Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. Despite the bitter ending, Stralman has continued to have a successful hockey career with the Lightning, Panthers, and the Arizona Coyotes. Stralman is currently a free agent.

Honorable Mention

Panarin goes on this list for now. The Russian native achieved one of the biggest trade rumors of the last few years. He reportedly turned down bigger offers to play at New York. However, the massive seven-year contract costing over $81.5 million (Averaging over 11 million a year) in total makes Panarin the second highest paid player in the league. Granted, over the last three seasons, the Bread Man had led the Rangers in points, totaling an impressive 249 points over those three seasons. The 30-year-old shows another level of skill and prestige to the Rangers and has been instrumental in the young team’s season and playoff success.

However, Panarin is placed on the honorable mention list as since the forward’s return from injury and leave of absence has blown hot and cold. In some key games, the Russian superstar became non-existent which left (thankfully) Chris Kreider to push the team forward last season. It remains to be seen whether long-term Panarin will continue to be an impact for the Rangers. It is hoped that despite the overblown budget Panarin will prove to be one of the best signings in New York hockey history.

Other Honourable mentions- Michael Grabner, Matt Cullen, Michal Rozsival.

Worst Signings

Although the Rangers organisation has made some solid free agency signing since the lockout. There has also been an alarming number of dreadful ones. Let’s look at the most obvious ones.

Wade Redden

Top of the list is Wade Redden, the Rangers signed the 31-year-old to a massive six-year, $39 million contract. The Blueliner had solid years with the Ottawa Senators, however, was on a career decline when this contract was drawn. In return for this high-paid contract, Redden produced a disappointing five goals, 35 assists for 40 points in 156 games with the Rangers.

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Redden was brought in to improve the Ranger’s lackluster powerplay, however, could not fulfill this role either. In the end, the Rangers shipped the Canadian native to their Affiliated team, the Hartford Wolfpack to absolve some of their salary caps and in turn, became notorious for being the highest-paid player in the AHL. This is also the reason why teams in the NHL can no longer do the same thing to reduce the cost.

Scott Gomez

Another example of poor signing decisions is Scott Gomez. Gomez signed with the Rangers with a seven-year contract totaling 51.5million in July 2007. Signed at the peak of his career and was considered the top marquee player in the NHL at the time. But the to-way-forward became a prime example of inflated expectations. Despite at times producing well, more offensively than at former team New Jersey Devils. The first-round forward played two seasons with the Rangers and tallied 70 and 58 points respectively. In 2009 Gomez was traded with Michael Busto and Tom Pyatt to the Montreal Canadiens for Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, and Pavel Valentenko. The Rangers got the superior deal.

Dishonorable Mention

Chris Drury

Worth noting that while Chris Drury has made some good decisions as the Rangers General Manager, the Connecticut native split opinion on his own free agency signing.  Drury signed with the Rangers on a five-year contract for over seven million a year. Despite four years as a Blueshirt and earning the “C” some may argue that Drury or “Captain Clutch” lost momentum and ended as an overrated too-way forward that most fans wanted to go.  In the last season with the Rangers that coincided with his eventual retirement the same year, the 34-year-old scored one goal and had four assists in 24 games. Frustrating for the second-highest player on the team. The Rangers ended up buying out the rest of Drury’s contract at a cost of over 3 million.

Brad Richards

The Canadian native career had a similar strain to Drury’s and has similar conflicting opinions. Rangers signed the two-way-forward to a nine-year, 60million overall contract. As a player, Richards was the top free agent in the summer of 2011. He had a solid production game and playmaking leadership achieving 56 goals, and 95 assists in 151 games. He assisted the rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014. However, Richard’s contract was too long and too expensive and it cost Rangers $13 million to buy the 33-year-old out after only three years.

Richards had small one-year contracts with the Chicago Blackhawks winning a Stanley Cup and the Detroit Red Wings before retiring in 2016.

Other Dishonourable mentions include- Aaron Ward, Tanner Glass and Donald Brashear

Conclusion

The New York Rangers free agent signings have had some good. However, the east coast team is notorious and making bad contracts. It is one of the reasons why the Rangers shy from selecting may at the trade deadline.