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Updated: July 3, 9:02 AM ET
Kasparaitis joins Holik as newest Rangers

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Two days into the free-agent signing period, the New York Rangers are suddenly a whole lot tougher.

Darius Kasparaitis

Darius Kasparaitis became the Rangers' second big acquisition this week when the hard-hitting defenseman agreed to a six-year deal Tuesday worth a reported $25.5 million.

On Monday, the first day teams could talk to unrestricted free agents other than their own, New York signed rugged center Bobby Holik from the New Jersey Devils for five years and $45 million.

"I think it's just team commitment, I think the Rangers are a good team," Kasparaitis said. "As a new member I'm trying to fit the team perfectly."

Kasparaitis left the Colorado Avalanche, taking the Rangers' offer over one presented by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"They paid more and they were more flexible on the structure," said Kasparaitis' agent, Mark Gandler.

A recruitment DVD the Rangers sent and calls from new coach Bryan Trottier also made a difference, Kasparaitis said. Trottier was an assistant coach for Kasparaitis in both Pittsburgh and Colorado.

The Avalanche never made much of an effort to keep Kasparaitis after they acquired him from Pittsburgh late last season. The offensive-minded Avalanche didn't suit Kasparaitis' style.

"I didn't like it in the beginning because it kind of kept me back," he said. "It was tough for me because I was one of the most liked players in Pittsburgh."

Kasparaitis was often a nemesis of the Rangers from his days with the rival New York Islanders and Penguins. He often drew the assignment of containing and getting under the skin of centers Mark Messier and Eric Lindros.

"I did some damage to Eric before, and now we're going to be teammates," Kasparaitis said. "He wants me to be on his team."

Last summer, Kasparaitis was awarded a two-year, $2.4-million contract in arbitration with the Penguins. He was paid a total of $1.15 million by the Penguins and Avalanche for the past season.

Holik became disenchanted with the Devils after he went to arbitration with them a year ago.

"Things have certainly worked very well," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "You know, we had a lot of irons in the fire, but this was the way we had things planned."

NHL players normally don't reach unrestricted free agency until they are 31, but Kasparaitis became eligible at 29 because he is a 10-year veteran who earned less than the league average of $1.5 million. That allowed him to void the second year of the arbitration award.

Only five players fit that category this year, and Kasparaitis was the most attractive defenseman available on the free-agent market. He had two goals and 12 assists last season, with 142 penalty minutes.

"I play a good defensive hockey game," Kasparaitis said.

New York allowed 258 goals last season, more than any team but Atlanta -- the NHL's worst club.

Now the Rangers will set their sights on finding a No. 1 goalie. Mike Richter has held that position for the better part of 12 seasons, but he is also an unrestricted free agent.

It became more likely on Tuesday that Richter would return to the Rangers, when Curtis Joseph left Toronto for Detroit, and former Dallas goalie Ed Belfour took his place with the Maple Leafs.

"I said all along that I'd like to sign Mike, and we're still going to proceed along with that plan," Sather said.

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