Raphael Diaz was a New York Ranger for only four months, but his brief tenure with the club in the spring of 2014 was enough for him to know that one day he wanted to return to Broadway and help the Blueshirts with some unfinished business: winning a Stanley Cup championship.
So when his agent called on July 1 to inform him of all the teams interested in his services for the coming season, Diaz was thrilled to hear that the Rangers were on the list. The 29year-old defenseman had one message for his agent.
"Let's get it done right away."
With a contract quickly finalized, Diaz is thrilled to be returning to New York for the 2015-16 season.
"I had really good memories of New York, we reached the Stanley Cup Final and it's just such a great organization, and a great bunch of guys with great chemistry," Diaz told BlueshirtsUnited.com earlier this week. "So I am just really excited to be coming back to New York."
Diaz only appeared in 11 regular season games with the Rangers in 2013-14, and another four in the playoffs, including the decisive Game Six victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final and Game One of the Stanley Cup Final in Los Angeles. He was acquired from Vancouver on March 5 of that season after beginning the season with the Canadiens.
"I still remember every single game, every single moment from the Stanley Cup Final, of course, and it hurts still to come that close and every game was so close," Diaz explained. "We want to go back there as a team. I think it's important to have a real goal in mind, and for us that's what the goal is."
Last year Diaz signed with the Calgary Flames following a successful training camp invite and thoroughly enjoyed helping a young team with low expectations at the start to return to the post-season. It was quite a different situation than the one he and his Ranger teammates will be facing here in New York.
"I don't see it as extra pressure, I see it that you want to work more harder because you have this great opportunity because you play for such a good team," offered Diaz, who brings 201 games of NHL experience to the Rangers along with parts of nine years of having played in Europe.
"I am more motivated to play for a team like the Rangers where we can be at the top. It's a great challenge and just makes me work harder and harder every day."
Diaz is well aware that the Rangers' top six defensemen--Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein--form one of the NHL's best units, and that rookies Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath could be knocking on the door for a chance to play, as well. However Diaz is a true professional, and right now is more concerned with being a solid teammate and being 100 percent ready when training camp opens to yet again prove himself to head coach Alain Vigneault and the staff.
"This is a team sport and the team comes first," the Baar, Switzerland-native explained. "This is not about being an individual in any way. I want to help my teammates in any way that I can. And I've got a fire inside me. I am really excited to battle for the New York Rangers."