Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rangers sign Biron, Stepan, Gonchar A Sen

As the clock struck noon kicking off today's Free Agent Frenzy, the Rangers addressed backup goalie by signing vet Martin Biron. The former Sabre/Flyer/Islander agrees to a multi-year deal worth less than a million-per-season according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. From TSN, the 32 year-old netminder is said to be earning $875,000 each year.

Not bad as he comes cheap. Hopefully, Biron bounces back from his one season spent on Long Island in which he struggled as Dwayne Roloson's backup, going 9-14-4 with a 3.27 GAA and .896 save percentage. The former Sabre No.1 pick who once took the Flyers to the Conference Finals in '04 has plenty of experience and should be capable of filling in when Henrik Lundqvist needs a night off. He can certainly get into 20-25 games, making Henrik's life a little easier.

Considering how John Tortorella coaches, he has to feel totally confident in the backup to play him. Hopefully, Biron will make the decision easier. It does fill a void and also allows Chad Johnson to get another year at Hartford in the 'A.'

Blueshirts sign Stepan: Also of interest to fans wanting to see the club commit to youth, the club came to terms with prospect Derek Stepan. The 20 year-old former Badger who the club drafted 51st overall in 2008, had a big year for Wisconsin tying for the NCAA lead in assists (42) while netting 54 points in 41 games to establish career highs across the board.

In between leading his school along with Nashville prospect Blake Geoffrion and Ranger property Ryan McDonagh to the Frozen Four before falling in the championship to Boston University, the Hastings, Minnesota native captained Team USA to a WJC gold medal- leading all scorers with 14 points (4-10-14) while being tabbed a tournament All-Star. Now, Stepan looks to make the giant leap from college to the pros. Tortorella has hinted that he wants to give serious looks at the playmaking pivot, Evgeny Grachev and Dale Weise. We'll have to wait and see.

For the Rangers, it's a promising start to the summer. Now, they should turn their attention to getting Marc Staal and Dan Girardi re-signed. If Jody Shelley who rejected a two-year deal worth a reported $825,000 average per Larry Brooks bolts, the NY Post Ranger beat writer speculates that they could go after tough guy Derek Boogard. While I'd like to have Shelley back, Boogard would certainly fill the bill on toughness. Plus fan favorite Brandon Prust was tendered. Another possibility could be Adam Burish, who aside from dropping the gloves, can contribute a little as he proved on the Cup champion Hawks. Chicago continues to lose players, dealing away Kris Versteeg last night to Toronto in a five-player deal that included Viktor Stalberg. Looks like the Blackhawks could have a very different look this Fall.

Christensen Re-ups: Just coming over the wire, center Erik Christensen re-signed with the Rangers for two years after turning down a similar deal the other day. It isn't known what he received. We'll update.

A solid move bringing back the surprise waiver pickup who performed adequately. In 49 games, he netted eight goals and 18 helpers totaling 26 points. The 26 year-old from Edmonton decided it was best to stay put with the club that gave him a second life. Nice to see.

Gonchar A Sen: In other news, the first big name to sign was Sergei Gonchar, leaving Pittsburgh for Ottawa- agreeing to a three-year deal worth $5.5 million-per-season. Pretty pricey for the 36 year-old Russian vet who's started to break down. However, in just 62 contests last year, the power play QB registered 11 goals and 39 helpers for 50 points with more than half (30) coming via the PP. He should give the Sens' 22nd ranked power play a boost, re-teaming with former Pen 'mate Alex Kovalev.

A couple of other quick hits:

-Cgy signs F Alex Tanguay for 1-yr, $1.7 million
-Phi acquires D Andrej Meszaros from TB for a 2nd Rd Pick
-Phi re-signs D Braydon Coburn for 2 yrs, $6.4 M

Nothing new on Ilya Kovalchuk but Paul Martin is said to have a drawn a significant offer from an unnamed team.

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