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Flyers Put Pressure on Rangers; New York's Surprise Draft Choice

On Thursday June 23rd, the Philadelphia Flyers shook up the hockey world when they signed Ilya Bryzgalov and made two blockbuster trades an hour apart.  The trades sent Jeff Carter and Mike Richards west, in exchange for picks and young players.  More importantly, they have forced the Rangers to redouble their efforts to sign unrestricted free agent, Brad Richards.

The cap space that moving the mega contracts of Carter and Richards has freed up makes the Flyers players in the Brad Richards (pictured) sweepstakes, and if they are able to add him, it will be all but impossible for the Rangers to finish ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

It is time to learn just how close Brad Richards and Rangers head coach John Tortorella are.  If they truly have this great friendship, then it would be nothing short of a betrayal if Richards were to sign with our hated rival Philadelphia Flyers.  As long as the offers from both teams are close, that is.

If the Rangers try to lowball Richards, the most significant, game changing free agent on the market, then shame on them.  But if they come in with an offer that is close to what he is asking for, eight years worth $50 to $55 million, then the shame would be on Brad for not returning to the coach whom he credits for making him the star player that he is today.

Prior to Thursday’s Philadelphia facelift, I would have been happy to see the Rangers let Richards take his high price tag, long term, and questionable health to some other team.  Now however, the Rangers have to react in order to compete.

The Flyers are not a better team today than they were before the deals.  They have basically swapped one problem for another.  Brad Richards will solve their new problem, though.  The Rangers cannot allow him to.

For the second year in a row, the New York Rangers have defied conventional wisdom and selected a player many would not have with the fifteenth pick in the first round of Friday’s draft.  I loved the selection of Dylan McIlrath last year, as he filled an organizational need for a tough, crease-clearing defenseman with an improving offensive game.  This year’s selection of JT Miller did not please me.

At the time of the selection, many of the players that I hoped the Rangers would have a shot at were still available, so when Miller’s name was called, I was angry.  I have since done the research, and I have to say I am coming around on the selection.

The American born Miller led Team USA in scoring in this year’s Under-18 World Championship, helping the team capture the gold medal.  His style of play has been compared to Brandon Dubinsky and Mike Richards.  The Rangers think so highly of him, that they were unwilling to risk trading down and acquiring a pick in Round Two when they saw that he still available.

The Rangers have made qualifying offers to all of their restricted free agents, save one.  Defenseman Matt Gilroy has opted to test free agent waters over accepting a $2.1 million qualifying offer.  Seriously?  Gilroy has not been that impressive in his two year tenure with New York.  There are plenty of teams willing to overpay for his services in order to reach the salary cap floor.  I hope it works out for him.

In related news, highly touted top prospect Evgeny Grachev asked to be traded, and was.  The Rangers dealt the disgruntled forward to St. Louis for the 72nd pick in the draft.  Grachev was unhappy with his progress in the Rangers system after three years of not making the big club.  Good luck to him as well.

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