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NEW YORK Rangers
LAST SEASON 42-30-10 (sixth in East); lost in second round to Buffalo
KEY ADDITIONS C Chris Drury, C Scott Gomez
Within 18 hours of the start of the free-agent signing period on July�1, the Rangers transformed themselves from an ordinary playoff team into a Stanley Cup contender, by signing $7 million-a-year centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. The 27-year-old Gomez is a superb playmaker who adapts expertly to the finishers around him; Drury, 31 and without flaws in his game, has a heavy shot and a seemingly unwavering intensity. Both have been vital contributors on Cup winners.
Big stars on Broadway! Does that sound familiar? "Only one thing scares me," captain Jaromir Jagr recently told The New York Times. "I don't want it to be like six years ago." Jagr was referring to the prelockout Rangers, who spent recklessly on free agents (see: left wing Valeri Kamensky at $17 million over four years) yet went years without having a cohesive--or playoff-worthy--team.
Things are different now. The salary cap has forced G.M. Glen Sather to do what he did best in Edmonton: assemble a strong core of under-the-radar and complementary players. Along with the big names (38-year-old right wing Brendan Shanahan is another one), New York has quietly capable defensemen in Marek Malik, Michal Rozsival and Fedor Tyutin; solid secondary forwards in ornery Sean Avery, soft-handed Petr Prucha and elusive Martin Starka; and 25-year-old goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the 205th overall pick in the 2000 draft, who has emerged as one of the NHL's least flappable netminders.
This time, in other words, the stars are well-aligned.
LAST SEASON 47-24-11 (fifth in East); lost in first round to Ottawa