The Big Four
Michal Rozsival, a great free-agent signing two summers ago, is the leader of the Rangers' defense. He had 10 goals and 30 assists last season, while going plus-10 and averaging 23:46 of ice time. He had five goals and 25 assists in 2005-06 while going plus-35. Marek Malik led the Rangers with a plus-32 rating and had two goals and 19 assists. Paul Mara, who came in a Feb. 27 trade with Boston for Aaron Ward, helped the power play, while Fedor Tyutin, entering his third full NHL season, had two goals and 12 assists and should produce more offense as he matures.
Get the point
Rozsival had seven goals and 13 assists on the power play and will likely be the Rangers' first-unit quarterback. Karel Rachunek was second among defensemen in power-play scoring, so his departure to New Jersey as a free agent should open time for Mara, a former No. 1 draft pick now with his fourth club. Mara came to the Rangers late last season in a deal for Aaron Ward; if he can harness his speed and puckhandling skills and improve his defensive play, the Rangers could be the big winners in the deal. Thomas Pock was an outstanding college scorer at UMass, but has struggled to keep a job in the NHL, limiting his offensive opportunities.
In the Wings
Dan Girardi -- In seven years of organized hockey, Girardi has had only one negative plus-minus season — he was minus-1 in his second season in juniors. A reliable point producer in juniors, Girardi went undrafted and the Rangers made a terrific signing. He had two solid seasons with Hartford and looked good in 34 games last season, moving the puck, delivering big hits and blocking shots. Girardi should get more ice time this season — that could give him more opportunity to display his offensive skills.
Marc Staal -- Staal was the Rangers' first pick (12th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft. Since then, he has won gold twice at the World Juniors and been named the MVP of last season's OHL playoffs. Staal played 12 playoff games with Hartford in 2006. The Rangers hope he’s ready, but may feel he needs some time in the AHL.
Ivan Baranka -- He has been a hard-hitting defender for two years for Hartford. He's the kind of player who can outmuscle oncoming forwards, and the Rangers don't have a lot of that on their blue line.
Marc Staal -- He will try to live up to the family tradition. His older brothers, Eric with Carolina and Jordan with Pittsburgh, have enjoyed considerable NHL success at a young age. Marc plays a tougher position to learn in the NHL and may need more time. Then again, he could come on like a Staal and give the Rangers a new dimension.