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Back and Blue & Black and Blue: Rangers Sign Brad Richards and Mike Rupp

Back and Blue

Brad Richards’ decision to don the Blueshirt reunites the star player with his former coach, John Tortorella.  I wrote that if their friendship was truly everything it has been reported to be, then Richards should choose New York and his friend and mentor over any other team, if the offers were close.  Well, Brad went even further than that.  Not only did he give the Rangers the final chance to match any offer he was presented, but he also left money on the table in choosing to reunite with Torts over other bigger money deals.  That speaks volumes about the kind of guy the Rangers have just added to the locker room.

Brad Richards is an elite talent.  His addition gives the Rangers two of the elements that they have been missing for some time.  He is a top tier number one center and a reliable powerplay quarterback.  Gaborik will flourish on his right side, and if healthy, a fifty goal campaign is not beyond reason for him.  The Rangers no longer have to worry about bringing in a high priced defenseman to run the powerplay either.  Richards can run the first unit, feeding Gabby quality passes with the likes of Callahan and Dubinsky causing mayhem in front of the net and winning battles in the corners to get the puck back to Richards at the point.  Youngsters like Derek Stepan and Mike Del Zotto can learn from a master, and be ready to assume the role when the time comes.  New York Rangers fans will be in for a real treat this season.

Richards has been the number one target of the Rangers for some time.  New York Rangers legend, Mark Messier was in Dallas watching him closely since last October.  Richards is the biggest star center that the Rangers have had since Messier retired in 2005.  After a bunch of unsuccessful post seasons, Sather said he feels Richards is the player that they needed to take them to the next step.  He thinks he will bring much-needed confidence to the locker room.

Black and Blue

The Rangers also added ruffian Mike Rupp to the roster.  Rupp is quite good at his role as a “disRuppter” of other teams’ top forwards and in front of opposing creases, and he is not afraid to drop the mitts with the top heavyweights in the league.  He will be a nice option on the powerplay as well, planting himself in front of the net and daring the opposition to move him.  Rupp was extremely happy to join the Rangers, choosing to sign with the Blueshirts after a bidding war broke out for his services on July 1st.  He said he cannot wait to pull on the Rangers sweater, and is really excited to play for the fans after years of riling them up.  He will be fun to watch.

Roster Fun – It’s In The Game

Speaking of fun, whenever the Rangers add or lose a player, hockey fans love to tinker with the lineup.  Speculating on possible line combinations can lead to great debate and intrigue, and it brings us back to our EA Sports NHL 94 glory days.  Sather has stated that his next priority is to get the restricted free agents signed.  Matt Gilroy has already left, signing a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Ruslan Fedotenko has signed on for another year at $1.4 million in New York.  That leaves Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, and Michael Sauer without deals.  With about $15.9 million in cap space available, I’m fairly confident Sather can come to terms with all five players, and give each a nice raise from their previous contracts.  Sather has also stated that he would like to add a veteran defenseman via free agency or trade.  If he can move Wojtek Wolski’s $3.8 million or Sean Avery’s $1.9 million from the ledger in return for a quality defenseman, that would be a bonus.

I will address the defense next time, since it isn’t complete yet.  Below are my suggested forward lines with comments on each.  These lines do not include any potential rookie players who may make the team.  I will address those players as their progress in camp develops.  I would love to hear your lineup suggestions.  Send them to me at dantepv9@gmail.com and I will post the most popular combinations.

Lw- Wolski/Christensen           C-Richards                   RW-Gaborik

LW-Dubinsky                              C-Anisimov                  Rw-Callahan

LW- Rupp                                    C- Stepan                     Rw-Zuccarello

Lw-Fedotenko                            C- Boyle                        RW-Prust

Line One- Not sure about left wing, but both of the guys listed have the potential to do well there.  I would love to see promising prospects Chris Kreider or Carl Hagelin make the team and steal this slot.

Line Two-The Three Man Wolf Pack.  I love this line as is, and hope Sather gets all three deals done quickly.

Line Three-Zuccarello needs to find some consistency in his game to remain with the big club, Stepan will continue to grow after an up and down rookie campaign, and Rupp will provide the grit and protection for them to do so.

Line Four-I loved this line last year.  It is really interchangeable with the third line.  All three of these guys are important penalty killers as well.

Send me yours.

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