New York Rangers
2008/09: 43-30-9 – 95 pts (4th in Atlantic, 7th in East)
Arrived: Marian Gaborik (MIN), Ales Kotalik (EDM), Chris Higgins (MTL) Donald Brashear (WAS), Enver Lisin (PHX), Tyler Arnason (COL)
Departed: Scott Gomez (MTL), Markus Naslund (Retired), Nikolai Zherdev (UFA), Fredrik Sjostrom (CGY), Colton Orr (TOR), Lauri Korpikoski (PHX), Paul Mara (MTL), Nik Antropov (ATL), Derek Morris (BOS)
It has been a turbulent past twelve months for the Rangers. They got off to a start in 2008 before stumbling and firing head coach Tom Renney. He was replaced by John Torterella, who during his time with TSN was vocal in his criticism of Sean Avery. The Rangers of course then brought Avery on board for his second tour of duty with the team. The team finished 7th before bowing out to Washington in the first round. The off-season was just as busy as the team traded Gomez to Montreal, refused to accept leading scorer Zherdev’s arbitration award which made him a free agent, and also lost several key players to free agency. There will be a huge hole in the back end thanks to the loss of Mara and Morris, and Sather did not bringing in anyone to replace them. However, it was not all player departures. They added Marian Gaborik through free agency, who if healthy will be the dynamic scorer the Rangers need. They also brought in Kotalik to provide some secondary scoring and Brashear to provide some toughness. They are of course still in the running for Dany Heatley, and might be able to acquire him if they are willing to part with Brandon Dubinsky. It will be a difficult season for the Rangers in the tough Atlantic division but they should make the playoffs, and will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist can carry them.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Marian Gaborikk (RW) – Over the past seven seasons, Gaborik has averaged .47 goals per game and .93 points per game, which normally would make him a fantasy stud. The problem is he has only averaged 62 games over those seven years. For fantasy owners who are not afraid to take risks, Gaborik is your guy. He could easily put up 85 points. For those of you who are more timid, he should not even be on your draft board.
Brandon Dubinsky (C) – At only 23 years of age and with two full seasons under his belt, Dubinsky is poised for a breakout year. He should be paired up with Gaborik on the Rangers top line and see plenty of powerplay time, giving him 65-70 point potential. He will also approach the century mark in penalties, a contribution that cannot be ignored.
Vaclav Prospal (LW) – As scary as it may be too imagine, Prospal could be the Rangers top left winger. He has shown in the past that he can be a fantasy asset, and 55 points is in the realm of possibility.
Keep an eye on: Chris Higgins, Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Michal Rozsival – I had to include at least one defenceman, so Rozsival gets the nod. He should be good for a point every two or three games and is an acceptable injury replacement.
Matt Gilroy – Gilroy is a huge unknown for fantasy owners. He will be a rookie this year, but is a very matue 24 years old thanks to a full career at the college level. Last year he scored a very impressive 28 points in 34 games, and won the Hobey Baker award as the top college hockey player. He will be given every opportunity to lead the Rangers defence, and some are predicting a 40 point season and a Calder Trophy. I am not that quick to annoint anyone, but he should definitely be on your player to watch list.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Henrik Lundqvist – King Henrik is by far the most valuable player on the Rangers, both in real life and fantasy. While his shutouts were down last year, you can still depend on him for 35-40 wins and he is at the top of the second tier of fantasy goaltenders.
Bonus: New addition Tyler Arnason has 245 points in 487 games played. In his career, he has played 33 games against the Oilers, scoring 14 goals and 13 assists. Thank god he is in the East now.