In an explosion of love, Brad Richards is now a part of the New York Rangers. He has already come out and said that his history with coach John Tortorella was the biggest factor in suiting up for the Blueshirts next season. But, let's not make any mistake about it—the Rangers are not one signing away from a Stanley Cup, or even a long playoff run.
Here's a breakdown of what needs to happen next:
First, GM Glen Sather needs to lock down his young core. The Rangers would not have even been on Richards' option list if not for the heroics of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov. Even though the Rangers have been largely mired in mediocrity for the last few years, these three forwards have become exactly the type that can hold a team together.
Callahan could possibly be the next Broadway captain, and rightfully deserves a medal of valor for never giving up. Dubinsky doesn't care who you are, he will take you on and play against you with an edge that a great deal of more talented players lack. The only person you need to ask about that is Alex Ovechkin, who took on Dubinsky in a game of fisticuffs and lost. Anisimov is extremely talented and, before the Richards signing, there were whispers of developing him into a first-line center. Along with Henrik Lundquist and Marc Staal, these three are the heart and soul of your young core.
Secondly, Sather needs to find a willing trade partner to take the aforementioned Anisimov off his hands, before the trade deadline, for a solid veteran defenseman to settle the young defensive corps down. I know this seems like a hypocritical statement, but follow the logic.
Anisimov is only going to get better, however, the emergence of Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan have left Sather with a wealth at center. The best move here is to keep Stepan, who loves playing with blue-chip prospect Chris Kreider, and trade Anisimov. The hypothetical defenseman they could get in return will help to anchor a very young group of blueliners, and possibly develop a level of maturity that will help prevent defensive gaffes like those toward the end of last season, and in the five-game series loss to the Washington Capitals.
Thirdly, Sather needs to reaffirm his faith in the Rangers youth movement. In the few days since Richards became Broadway Brad, there have been mumblings about "the same old Rangers" and "just another Drury waiting to happen."
Here's where this signing differs. Brad Richards has a history of making every single player around him better. Chris Drury was a clutch guy, who was a brilliant penalty killer, and was a good locker room guy. Brad Richards is a top-flight, elite center. Drury was never that guy.
With that said, Sather and Coach Tortorella have put a lot of eggs in the youth basket. Sather needs to resist the urge to trade away valuable youth for big names, no matter how much owner James Dolan thinks names on a marquis are better than wins. Wins sell tickets in New York, not names. Stay the course you're on, Sather, it may bring glory.
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