“It’s the right time for him to be here with us,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
On the opposite side of the continent, the Vancouver Canucks can’t wait to resume the franchise’s quest for its first Cup when the lockout-delayed season starts Saturday night at home against Anaheim.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are also feeling a sense of urgency to win it all again.
And advancing one round in the playoffs isn’t enough anymore for the Nashville Predators, who raised the stakes by matching a 14-year, $110-million contract to keep star defenseman Shea Weber.
Even though the Predators don’t have the best defensive pair in the league anymore with Ryan Suter joining fellow free agent Zach Parise in Minnesota, Nashville expects to try for more than just a third straight trip to the Western Conference semifinals.
“Without a doubt, the ultimate goal is the Stanley Cup,” said Weber, who was wooed by the Philadelphia Flyers with a long and lucrative offer sheet as a restricted free agent last summer.
“And to do that, you have to make the postseason. Anything can happen as we all witnessed with Los Angeles last year.”
The Kings, seeded eighth, started by knocking off the top-seeded Canucks in the West and finished with a 6-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the finals.
That’s why Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who is hoping to help the franchise extend its postseason streak, said it’s not realistic for there to be a lot of pressure on any one team to win it all.
“The Cup contenders will be the 16 teams that make the playoffs,” Holland said while watching his team prepare on the ice earlier this week for a 48-game regular season.
“The eighth seed won the Stanley Cup against the sixth from the East. The days in the 1990s and early 2000s when the top teams had easier runs in the early rounds are over.
“It’s wide open, and that’s the beauty of the league.”
It won’t be pretty, though, in some cities if the results are anything short of a championship.
The Rangers made a long run in the postseason, six games into the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey.