Rangers sign insurance policies

NEW YORK – Rangers general manager Glen Sather signed two
key players Thursday afternoon as free agency opened. One is an insurance
policy against other players running into goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the
other an insurance clause protecting the goaltender from overuse.

Sather finalized multi-year deals with veteran goaltender
Martin Biron, 32, and 6’8” 276-pound enforcer Derek Boogaard shortly after
re-signing emerging center Erik Christensen, 26.

Boogaard, 28, got a four-year deal worth $6.6 million, while
Biron reportedly got a two-year contract worth $1.75 million. Prospal, 35, got
a one-year incentive-laden deal initially worth $1.1 million while Christensen
got two years at just under $2 million.

“[Boogaard] is the biggest and the toughest, and we
needed that presence here,” Sather said in an early-evening conference call. “There
were too many times last year when we saw guys scraping snow in Henrik’s face
in front of the net, and I didn’t like it. I don’t think we’ll be seeing that
happen any longer here.”

“I’m going to play a rough style of hockey. I think for
my size I can skate really well, I can keep up with the play and get in on the fore-check
to create room for the scorers,” said Boogaard, who hasn’t scored a goal since
2006, a span of 222 games. “I love doing what I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for
the world. I get to do it on the big stage now, that’s for sure.”

Minutes before Boogaard’s signing was announced, news
broke that Jody Shelley, 34, had signed with Philadelphia for $3.3 million over
three years. Shelley finished last season on Broadway.

“I got the indication speaking to Shelley’s agent a couple
of days ago when I made him the offer that we were only interested in doing a
two-year deal because of his age, and I knew at that time there was going to be
a problem, he was looking for a three-year deal, and I really didn’t want to
give him a three-year deal.”

New York also re-signed Vinny Prospal to a one-year
incentive-laden deal initially worth $1.1 million.

“I don’t think that we’re totally done. We’re still looking.
What we’re looking for now is a little different,” Sather said. “We’re trying
to stay within the philosophy of trying to build this team from within. I’m not
sure how much you guys have been watching our rookies here, we’re pretty close
to having some of these kids make this hockey club right now, and we want to
leave some space for these kids to get in here.”

One of those kids might be Derek Stepan, who played for
the Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA) and the United States World Juniors team last
year. Sather signed Stepan away from college after only his sophomore year
early Thursday afternoon.

“We certainly spent a lot of time watching him play this
year, in every level of competition,” Sather said, adding he remains very
confident he can get restricted free agents Marc Staal and Dan Girardi signed. “He’s
come into [prospects] camp (being held this week), he’s 190 pounds, he’s
physically mature, he’s been moving very well, he’s a smart player, he just
looks like he’s ready to make the move. We want to give him the opportunity.”

After suffering through a season during which starting
goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was forced to play a career-high 73 NHL games in
the regular season, an off-season priority was finding a backup goaltender.
Thirty-one minutes after the opening of free agency, the Rangers officially had
their man in Martin Biron, who they hope will play at least 15-20 games.

“We targeted him right from the beginning. Benoit
Allaire, our goaltending coach, knows him well, likes his style and likes his
personality,” Sather said. He’ll fit right in here with us.”

“Right now I think I can play any role the team wants me
to be,” Biron said. “My role with the Rangers organization is definitely going
to be a secondary role, an insurance clause.”



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