Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Free Agents Aren't Always Free

Money talks, fans are bitten.

As free agency approaches, there are inside deals happening as we breathe and this July 1 we will see a number of prominent free agents moving to teams for big payola . Money will be spent and money will be wasted, but picking the right free agents can lead to championship games, so The Dark Ranger offers his take on some of the more prominent free agents jumping ship.
So where do we begin?

Scott Gomez
, forward - NJ Devils, current salary: $5,000,000 a year

Due to a NJ system that does not rely on individual superstars, Gomez is more the team player rather than a stand-alone force on his own; he would be a welcome addition to the NY Ranger's first Jagr line or even the second Shanahan line. No one really knows his full potential as a player, perhaps due to the system he is accustomed to. Could be an overpriced disaster. Teams rumored to be heavily bidding on Gomez are all going after Chris Drury of Buffalo first -- the New York Rangers, The Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto, Montreal and St. Louis.

Prediction: I predict the Philadelphia Flyers have Gomez locked and loaded. King Lou of New Jersey will attempt to keep him. There is only a 50% chance Gomez will jump. NJ is his team throughout his career, but if Louie feels that his system is greater than the individual players (as evident in their draft picks and team development) then Gomez will quickly jump for more monies. The vitriol between my RANGERS and NJ is too great and he couldn't handle being boo'ed by his fans, so the Rangers don't have a chance.
$: 18 milion for three years contract coming with the worst-team-in-the-league. Adrian!!!!

Chris Drury, Center, Buffalo Sabres, current salary: $3,100,000 per season

Once considered an underrated player, he has risen to the top of the free agent pool as the overall play maker for any team - great speed, shares the puck, huge goal scorer, underpaid and ready to leave Buffalo. Buffalo wants him to stay, the City of Buffalo wants him to stay - but given their salary cap, a deal with Drury will chase away Daniel Briere. The good news for Rangers fans is that he owns a home in NYC and it has always been his dream to play for the Blueshirts, but apparently his wife wants a West Coast offer -- probably San Jose' or Los Angeles. NY Rangers and Toronto are heavily courting him.

Prediction: The Dark Ranger now predicts Captain Buffalo will sign a four-year contract for $28 million with the San Jose' Sharks. There isn't a shot in hell the Buffalo management can prevent this move.
DRURY'S BETTER HALF SAYS: Daniel Briere stays with Buffalo and commands a 4-year contract for $20 million.

Ryan Smyth, LW - NY Islanders, current one-year salary $3,500,000

Leaving Canada might have been the worst decision of his career. This astonishing puck & goal handler is one of the best on the market, and has made a horrible end-of-season trade from his beloved Edmonton Oilers to that Long, long Island. Prone to injury, he is a sharp-shooter and never made a difference on the trade, but the Dark Ranger suspects that Teddy and the Wang-Gang have to pay him whatever is necessary to keep him there - as the Ranger-hated Jason Blake will definitely be leaving to make a real hockey career elsewhere (hint....60% to the NY Rangers/40% to Minnesota......keep your enemies closer). This time last year, when the Islanders owners were making whacky-packy multiple-year contracts with players (DiPietro) and season tickets were a hearty 25% full, the Islanders were an utter joke - but embarrassment brought them a respectable season, and the enhancement of 'Edmonton's Best' transferring to Long Island looked good on paper. No so.

Prediction: Ryan Smyth is wanted by ANY Canadian team and will command a 5-year contract for $26 million. If Toronto lands this guy, it will be one of the best moves for the 'Maybe Leafs' in decades - he might even provide some leadership for the failing Canadian Air Canada sellout-organization. If he stays on the Island, it will cost more, say 3-years for $18 million.

Jason Blake, LW - NY Islanders current salary: $1,550,000 per season

This little fuc%er was a Ranger Nemesis this past season, unexpected team player that played the net and a surprising wrist-shot. He was consistent, confident and a solid player who always took advantage of the Blueshirts defensive weakness every match. A sixth sense. Hate him. Hate him. Hate him. Jason Blake may become a Ranger in a couple of days, and this one would be tough to swallow. If you met him in a bar, he has - what my wife refers to as - 'push-face', meaning you just look at him and want to do exactly that, but....the consequences would be great. Other than that, he is a damn good hockey player.

Prediction: Jason Blake will command $5 million a year for a 3-year contract in either NY or Minnesota. The Islanders cannot keep him because he wants to be recognized as a world-class hockey player. No chance for that playing for a secondary NY hockey franchise. Sorry Ted.

AND FINALLY......THE PLAYERS THAT AREN'T GOING ANYWHERE.... (The Dark Ranger predicts they are staying)

Michael Nylander, C - New York Rangers, current salary $2.4 million
Will NOT leave Jamomir Jagr and Tom Renney won't allow it. We will sign him for 3-years for $14 million.

Sheldon Souray, D - Montreal Canadiens current salary $2,400,000
Will stay with Montreal and resign for 3-years for $14,000,000

Brian Rafalski, D - NJ Devils current salary $4,200,000
Will stay with NJ Devils and resign for 3-years for $15,500,000

Teemu Selanne, RW - Anaheim Ducks, current salary $1,000,000
Will NOT retire (great tricky agent, eh?) and resign for 2-years in Anaheim for $10 million.

This is a sample that I care about -- others might care about another Anson Carter trade, but here in Ranger Land we are a happy bunch coming off a good entry NHL first-round pick and a damn-good season -- which will be attractive to some of those hockey players looking for a world-class hockey organization, a world-class metropolitan and the best damn venue anyone could dream of playing for.

Rangers! The King Will Return. Potvin sucks! Amen.


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