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COACH John Tortorella (4th season)
LAST SEASON 44-33-5 (8th in East); lost in first round to Capitals
KEY ADDITIONS C Brad Richards, C Mike Rupp
KEY LOSSES C Chris Drury, D Bryan McCabe, LW Vinny Prospal
MARQUEE FREE AGENTS are drawn to the bright lights of Manhattan. Sometimes it works (see: Messier, Mark); other times, not so much (see: Redden, Wade). So what makes center Brad Richards, who signed a nine-year, $60 million contract in July, believe he'll avoid the latter distinction? For starters, there's the familiar face in the dressing room: coach John Tortorella, with whom Richards won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.
"[It's important] to be comfortable with someone and know where you stand," Richards says. "I've changed teams [before]. It's not that easy. Coaches don't understand you. You don't understand coaches sometimes."
Richards will be playing alongside Marian Gaborik, a 2009 free-agent pickup. A lefthanded shot playing the right wing, Gaborik is just the kind of linemate with whom Richards has thrived in the past (most notably Martin St. Louis in Tampa). A consistent top line would relieve goalie Henrik Lundqvist from having to carry the team. The Rangers' biggest concern, though, is their defense, which is extremely young (none of the defensemen are older than 27) and untested. Having more scoring options is great, but if New York cannot find a way out of its own zone, the path to the postseason will be tough.