Garden Party or Garden Distraction?

There are a lot of great reasons for the Rangers to sign Brendan Shanahan to a one-year deal (login info.). It’s not an insane amount of time or money. Shanahan is a big forward who’s not afraid to get physical. He scored 40 goals last season after spending the lockout doing nothing but negotiating.
So there’s up-side to him. And still. I can’t help but think the Rangers were instructed to make a big signing, complete with a welcome preview sign on Seventh Avenue. And why do I think this? Because Jim Dolan, who runs/owns the Rangers and the Knicks has been absolutely savaged in the press the past few weeks for the Knicks’ mishandling of coach Larry Brown. The Knicks issue ended with GM Isiah Thomas taking over the coaching duties and being told he has a year to turn around the struggling franchise. This story gets mentioned in all of the papers just about every day. The beat reporters are even watching the NBA summer league games in Vegas to report on everything that happens there.
So there’s a lot of heat on Dolan right now, and I’m wondering if he thought ordering a big (or relatively big) signing might make people forget about the Knicks for a little bit. It’s not that Shanahan is an awful choice, or someone outside of the realm of plausible signings. It’s just that the Rangers have spent an awful lot of time trying to develop young players from within the organization. And they’ve traditionally gravitated toward finesse players. Obviously, the Rangers need more physical forwards, but this past season, they sure went out of their season not to sign any. So I’m wondering if Shanahan represents the Rangers recognizing something that’s missing or if it’s something else.
But what do I know, right? Shanahan took a lower salary to play with the Rangers, so maybe the team was impressed by that. I just think it’s an atypical signing for the team.
Speaking of the NBA, Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News has a column suggesting the Sabres should learn to embrace long-term contracts as a part of the new NHL. He cites defenseman Jay McKee, who the Sabres didn’t lock-up when they had the chance. McKee ended up in St. Louis.
There are definite dangers to not locking up a player, but anyone who watches the NBA knows, there are also a lot of dangers to entering in to a multi-year contract. While you can always sign someone, even if they’re not as good as what you had, once you’re into an expensive, long-term contract with a player who’s no longer productive, you run out of options very quickly. The cap punishes those who spend too much on too little. Just ask the Islanders and about Alexei Yashin. Caution can be a good thing when you’re dealing with a finite amount of salary. Jaroslav Spacek isn’t McKee, but at least Buffalo can afford him. Obviously, contract negotiation is a complicated issue, but I don’t think the answer is to throw around five-year contracts so no one ever leaves your team.
Speaking of the Isles, Tom Poti to the Islanders? Poti was predicted to be the next Brian Leetch, but he’s always shaken out to be more of an offensive defenseman with limited offensive skills. And with an awful defensive game. And the Islanders, who are in the very same city as the Rangers, from where Poti came, should know that. Maybe the Isles like that Poti is almost like Potvin.