I've been getting a lot of complaints about my long hiatus. I must say, it's pretty flattering! Anyway, by now everyone has heard the growing speculation that the Rangers may be on the verge of signing Michael Peca. According to John Dellapina, the hold up is that Slats & Co. are still deciding whether to go with Peca or one of the teams youngsters(Dubinsky or Anisimov). Here's my open letter to Slats advocating the signing of Peca. But first, a few ground rules:
1. The contract must be for only 1 year;
2. The salary must be $1.5m or less;
3. The contract must not contain any form of "no trade" or "no movement" clauses; and
4. Peca must pass his medical exams.
Assuming that those four points are met, here goes:
As a lifelong Ranger fan I feel compelled to thank you and your staff for turning things around on Broadway. Enough with the pleasantries! SIGN MICHAEL PECA! We're making a serious run for the Cup this season. In order to do that, we need a legitimate third line centerman.
The current roster does not have a player that can adequately fill that role: (1) Martin Straka is not a natural centerman. After last seasons playoff defeat it was plain for all to see that Straka was a weak link at center. That's certainly not a knock against Marty, it simply is what it is. The guy is an offensive minded (albeit defensively responsible) winger. Additionally, he is certainly not a third line center (a role that is ideally filled by a defensive minded "energy" player). (2) Sean Avery is not an option either. Avery thrived with the ice time and responsibility afforded to a top six forward. Putting him on the third line will hinder his play. Management is responsible for getting the most out of its assets (i.e., players), putting Avery on the third line runs counter to that responsibility. (3) Dubinsky and Anisimov look like excellent prospects. Are either of them ready for the responsibility of anchoring the third line? Playing in New York is tough. Playing in New York when expectations are sky high is even tougher. Does it make sense to throw either player into the fire when so much is at stake? Will the development of either player be stunted by sending them to Hartford for another season? If not, the risk reward ratio seems like a no brainer. Besides, Peca will probably not play a full season which means either Dubinsky or Anisimov will get some playing time with the big club next season anyway.
Let's not forget Prucha and Callahan. Both players are heading into important seasons. Prucha must regain his rookie form and prove that his weak play for much of last season was an aberration. Callahan, on the other hand, must prove that his strong play down the stretch last season was not an aberration. In all likelihood, Prucha and/or Callahan will be playing on the third line this season. Is it fair to either of them to play with a rookie centerman at this critical juncture in their respective careers? Both guys can and should play vital roles for our club for years to come. Wouldn't it be wise to give them the greatest chance at succeeding by playing them with an experienced player like Peca?
Peca will also add tremendous value as a penalty killer. With the losses of Cullen and Ortmeyer, the team's penalty killing unit has taken a hit. Sure Drury can kill penalties. However, he's also going to be getting a lot of even strength ice time as well as power play ice time. Why saddle him with primary PK responsibilities as well?
Peca is a great face-off man as well. Winning face-offs means greater puck possession. For a team like New York with its questionable blue line, winning face offs is essential. Loosing a defensive zone draw can cost us a game. Lundqvist's weak puck control skills only exacerbates the problem. Having a reliable face off man will take tremendous pressure off of our defense, don't underestimate this point. Sure, Drury can take face-offs, but again, how much ice time can Drury be expected to handle? If we have to use Drury for all of our defensive zone draws, will he be available for the offensive zone draws? Will we be forced to disrupt our line changes in order to get Drury on the ice for every important draw (offensive and defensive?).
Finally, some people are saying that the money that the team would spend on Peca should be spent on a defenseman instead. Granted, the blue line needs help. However, where are you going to find a defenseman who can have the same potential impact as Michael Peca for $1.5m or less? Adding another marginal d-man will not help this club and we don't have the cap space to add anything more than a marginal d-man. Therefore, we are much better off spending a small sum for Peca (a guy who can add a lot to the team) as opposed to adding a marginal defenseman.
Glen, for whatever it's worth, I say go out and sign Peca!