NEW YORK, N.Y. - Rangers general manager Glen Sather is still having a tough time dealing with his top-seeded club's elimination in the Eastern Conference finals.
Sather, the architect of the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty teams in the 1980s, is still looking to build a champion in New York. He saw the Rangers reach the NHL final four, but they were knocked out in six games by the New Jersey Devils ? their division and area rival.
"We just got knocked out a couple of days ago," said Wednesday at the NHL general managers meeting before the opener of the Stanley Cup finals. "It's tough enough to go to bed at night and get up the next morning. You've got to adjust. It's like having a death in the family."
Sather, who rarely speaks to reporters during the regular season, has another busy summer ahead of him. Rangers coach John Tortorella has already stated publicly that the club needs more scoring punch to go along with top-line forwards Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
Whether he can find it in the free-agent market, from which he landed Gaborik and Richards in recent years, after July 1, or in a trade ? perhaps for Columbus' Rick Nash ??? remains to be seen. The Rangers already are at the top of the salary cap, and next year's number still has to be negotiated by the NHL and the players' association.
"I would like to have a 60-goal scorer, I'd like to have a defenceman that could play 25 minutes and get 25 goals, I'd like to have a goaltender that could be under one goal-against per game," Sather said. "Those are wish lists that every team in this league would like to have. Realistically, there are some people that are going to be available, but they're not available until July 1."
The Rangers (51-24-7) overcame an extended road trip at the start of the season to post one of the best records in team history. They surged to the top of the conference and held off Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey in a tough division race to finish with the second-most points in the NHL.
New York won seven-game series against Ottawa and Washington before being knocked out by the Devils. New York did not play any higher than a No. 6 seed, though, and, all told, had to play 20 post-season games. By comparison sake, Los Angeles and New Jersey, the two Stanley Cup finalists, played just 14 and 18, respectively.
"There is a great committed atmosphere in that organization," Sather said. "These kids deserve all the credit, and Tortorella did an outstanding job keeping them focused and keeping them going in the right direction all year long. I thought it was a great year. It's just unfortunate that it ended a little bit early.
"I hate losing, so it takes me a long time to get over it."