After missing the postseason in the 2009-10 season the Rangers returned as the eight seed in the 2010-11 season only to fall to the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in a fifth game in Washington.
After Game 5 coach John Tortorella acknowledged the fact that the Rangers are still rebuilding around their young core of players.
Part of that core are restricted free agents Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Michael Sauer, and Matt Gilroy. It is estimated that those players will cost around $12 million to bring those players back. That would leave New York with around $5 million left to spend with only a few roster spots remaining although another option for New York to gain cap space would be buyouts. Those options include captain Chris Drury, late season acquisition Wojtek Wolski, and well-known enforcer Sean Avery.
It is likely that Drury will return, but, if the Rangers use the buyout option on both Wolski and Avery, it would double their cap space to $10 million. That would be used to sign four players including a reliable backup for goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers currently have 14 players under contract with $17 million cap space. If $12 million is used for six RFA’s they will need around two more players for $5 million. Their major need is an elite center, and the only one available this summer will be Brad Richards, who would cost around $5-6 million per year. So it is critical that they buyout Wolski.
In terms of UFA’s Ruslan Fedotenko is the only one GM Glen Sather will possibly re-sign. Alex Frolov, who was injured early in the season, and Vinny Prospal aren’t likely to return to New York.
The Rangers need some key offseason acquisitions and it is unlikely Sather will disappoint considering his track record of making big deals whether in the trade market or in free agency.