There seem to be 4 big questions about the Rangers offense come October.
Will Sean Avery re-sign? Will Jaromir Jagr? Brendan Shanahan? Will they make a splash on July 1 during free agency?
My guesses: Yes, yes, no, minimally.
First off, who is under contract next year?
The middle looks solidified with Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, and Blair Betts coming back. Ryan Callahan, Ryan Hollweg, and Colton Orr are also under contract, making 7 out of 14 signed.
Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, and Freddy Sjostrom are restricted free agents (known as RFAs, the Rangers have first rights to them before they can hit the open market... if another team offers them a contract, the Rangers can either match it or let the other team sign them and receive draft picks as compensation).
Regarding those signed to contracts and the RFAs, I would see most of them playing in blue next year, except two of them, especially Sjostrom. He really seemed to take to NY and the fans really took to him in his two months with the team.
I believe a team might offer Petr Prucha an offer sheet with the Rangers letting him go for 2 draft picks, or whatever the compensation for him would be based on the contract. He was wasted the past two years, mainly last year, and is no longer a big part of the team like he was in 2005-06. Plus, the team isn't going to be Czech-centric any longer, as it's moving towards a Swedish/North American unit. Keep in mind I love Prucha, and would like to see him given a chance somewhere else.
I think Hollweg might be moved in the off-season, maybe even as a draft-day package to move up. Think about it. If you're Glen Sather, who would you rather have on your ice, Lauri Korpikoski (goal in his first playoff game) or Hollweg (season-killing boarding penalty in playoffs). Hollweg was once a big energy player, but that was 2 seasons ago, and now he is more of a liability then anything else.
I also can see Colton Orr being moved on deadline day, but that's a while away. He has proved to be a real good enforcer with better skills then when the Rangers picked him off waivers from Boston, and a team lacking in toughness (hi, Dallas, hello, San Jose) would need him for a deep run.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Right off the bat, I don't think Shanahan will return. He was obviously hurting in the playoffs, but regardless, he has lost a step since his concussion in February of 2006. He is a legend with 3 Stanley Cups. Would he return to be a 3rd or 4th line player? Plus, the Rangers already owe money against the cap for his 07-08 season.
I do think Sean Avery will return, regardless of what Swedish Tomas Holmstrom wannabe's they acquired today. A multi-year, $3.3M deal sounds good. The Rangers obviously need him, and he needs New York as well.
I also think Jagr will come back, in a one-year, $4M contract, maybe with bonus incentives. He wants the Cup. However, this is his first year of free agency in his lifetime, and he might want to test the waters. Atleast people are saying that. I think for him, it's either NY or Russia or Czech. After the lockout, he said he wasn't going to return to America if he wasn't a Ranger. He doesn't want to be a Red Wing, or a Senator, or anything else.
Marty Straka hinges entirely on Jagr. If Jagr doesn't return, Marty isn't either. If Jagr does, Straka might do a one-year deal, around the $2.5M mark. I would venture to say this warrior still has gas in the tank. He has been a great Ranger since Day One, playing hurt (a not-reported torn bicep for the last few months of the regular season and into the playoffs in 2007; breaking his finger in 2 spots blocking 2 different shots on the same play in Boston this year).
Expect Korpikoski, P.A. Parenteau, Brodie Dupont, Artem Anisimov, Dane Byers, and Greg Moore to get looks in camp. Although I doubt Dupont and Byers will make the club, the rest will get a solid shot. If Anisimov can bulk up, he might surprise people. Remember, he should have been a first round draft pick but went 2nd round because teams were scared he would never transfer from Russia.
Korpikoski is next season's Dubinsky, I believe. Using one game as a focal point isn't fair to anyone, but when the Rangers season was dim, he scored a key goal while Shanahan, Gomez, Drury, and Jagr sat on the bench doing nothing.
Moore might be next season's Dawes - a player who goes up and down to the minors and breaks in when someone gets injured.
Parenteau is the player I'm looking forward to (as well as Anisimov) the most. He did very well in the AHL the past few years, and once scored 118 points in a season in the Q.
Oh, don't forget to keep in mind Hugh Jessiman. Oh, and here's an expression I don't use often - LOL! The Rangers will keep him in preseason games, pretend they're looking seriously at him, then send him to Hartford again. They just don't want to admit that they should have drafted Zach Parisa, Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Brown, Brent Burns, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Patrick O'Sullivan, or Dan Carcillo instead of him.
Expect the forwards to be something like this...
CENTERS: Drury, Gomez, Dubinsky, Betts
WINGERS: Dawes, Callahan, Orr, Sjostrom
UFAs: Jagr, Avery, Shanahan or Straka (can't see Sather bringing both veterans back)
That leaves one spot, either a free agent signee or a prospect.
The free agent pool isn't terribly deep. Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison are sexy picks. Oh, no, this isn't 2003.
Marian Hossa will be grossly overpaid, and since Drury and Gomez were grossly overpaid (and Michal Rozsival might be), they can't afford another Hossa mistake. Brian Rolston is older now, but still solid. However, the Wild want him back so bad they can taste it. Ladislav Nagy gets a bad rap but is really a good player. However, I just don't see him being signed.
The only free agent wingers I can see the Blueshirts getting are Radim Vrbata (had a very good season in the desert), Michael Ryder (had a very bad season in Montreal), Matt Cooke, and maybe Pascal Dupuis, who left NY and became very dependable and quite dangerous. Of course, I would blow a load on my keyboard if I log onto TSN on July 1 and see "RANGERS SIGN RYAN MALONE TO MULTI-YEAR DEAL."
I'm sorry I'm long-winded. The defensive preview will be shorter.