Rangers reverting to old ways?

Though I live in Chicago and have somewhat adopted the Blackhawks, there is always a part of me that will be a fan of the New York Rangers.

This was the team I grew up watching. So, it dismays be greatly when I see who they have their eye on when free agency begins next week.

The New York Post reported today that the Rangers are interested in longtime Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin - who will be 38 in February - to pair with Jaromir Jagr. Sundin and Jagr are represented by the same management company, and Sundin has made it clear that New York City is a prime destination.

It's not that Sundin is a bad player. It's that the Rangers are reverting to their old ways of getting players past their prime.

I started following them in the early 1970s, admittedly not knowing much. I was 10 in May 1976 when the Rangers acquired high-scoring Ken Hodge from the Boston Bruins for Rick Middleton in a trade considered the worst in franchise history.

Three years earlier, Hodge had 50 goals and tied a career high with 105 points for the Bruins. He was 31 and a 12-year-veteran when he joined the Blueshirts, but had 23 goals in 96 games over two seasons in New York before retiring with 328 total.

Middleton had a hat trick in his first game with the Bruins. He went on to score 402 of his 448 goals, reaching 40 five times, with Boston before calling it quits in 1988.

In 1987, New York added Marcel Dionne from the Los Angeles Kings. Dionne is considered one of the game's all-time greats - the 5-foot-8 speedster reached 50 goals five times from 1978-83, but totaled 42 in two-plus seasons with the Rangers before ending his career in 1989.

Guy Lafleur? The five-time 50-goal scorer came out of retirement to join the Rangers in 1988, but was eighth on the team with 18 goals behind such luminaries as Carey Wilson and Ulf Dahlen, but ahead of John Ogrodnick.

Here's what is good about Sundin. One, he's big - at 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, it's not easy to move him at all. Two, he's been good for a point per game in his career, totaling 1,305 in 1,321 games with the Quebec Nordiques and Maple Leafs, with whom he's long been the face of the franchise.

The bad? One, he will 38 this season. I don't care how big or how strong he is or how much he has left in the tank, 38 is 38. Two, he can be a drama queen - his refusal to waive his no-trade clause and allow the Maple Leafs to move forward - infuriated management and appeared to make him look bad as well.

According to the Toronto Star in February, Sundin - the franchise leader in both goals and points - sounded as if he'd rather retire a Maple Leaf than win a Cup with another team.

"I have carefully considered the team's request that I waive my no-trade clause," Sundin said in a statement released by his agent. "I have always believed I would finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf so the actual request was still a very difficult one for me to contemplate.

"I have spoken to and listened to my family and those closest to me about this issue. In the end, there is no right decision in a situation like this one.

"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL club at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."

The Maple Leafs failed to reach the playoffs for the third straight season - the first time that's happened in the franchise's 80-plus year history.

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