For Dominic Moore, the decision was simple — come back to the place where his NHL career began.
“I think there’s no doubt coming back to New York was my first choice,” Moore said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “For a variety of reasons I’ve been drawn back here [and I’m glad it] came to fruition.
“[The Rangers] have the making for a great team,” Moore said. “[Head coach Alain Vigneault’s style of hockey fits] really well with the kind of team we have. [There are a] lot of things to look forward to.”
Moore signed a one-year, $1 million deal on the first day of free agency. This will be his second stint with the Rangers as he was on the 2005-06 team that included a rookie by the name of Henrik Lundqvist. He has 67 goals and 185 points in a career that has seen him also play for the Penguins, Wild, Maple Leafs, Sabres, Panthers, Canadiens, Lightning and Sharks.
“[We] bonded pretty good,” Moore said of his relationship with Lundqvist. “Stayed pretty close.”
Moore sat out the lockout-shortened 2013 season to take care of his wife, Katie, who had been diagnosed with liver cancer. She passed away in January at the age of 32.
“It’s a battle the whole family is in,” Moore said, before adding he learned “not to get ahead of myself,” while caring for his wife. “Living one day at a time and not worrying [what could happen] down the road.
“[I have] never had that kind of an absence. It’ll be pretty quick getting in the swing of things.”
The Rangers’ signings of Moore, defenseman Aaron Johnson (one-year, $600,000 deal) and left wing Benoit Pouliot (one-year, $1.3 million contract) represent a deviation from the norm for a franchise that is traditionally active in the unrestricted free agent market.
Instead, general manager Glen Sather has locked up three of his five restricted free agents this week in Ryan McDonagh (six years, $28.2 million), Justin Falk (one year, $975,000) and Carl Hagelin (two years, $4.5 million).
Currently, the Rangers have $3.3 million in cap room and still need to sign restricted free agents Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers will have 15 forwards on the roster once Stepan and Zuccarello sign their deals, but the team will be over the salary-cap ceiling.
Zuccarello opted for salary arbitration Wednesday along with 20 other restricted free agents, including the Islanders’ Josh Bailey. Players have until 5 p.m. Thursday to decide to go to arbitration. The hearings will be held in Toronto between July 22 and Aug. 6.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, teams can be up to 10 percent over the salary cap during the summer, but have to be at or under the cap ceiling by the start of next season. So the possibility exists that Sather could make a trade or demote veterans to AHL Connecticut to free up cap room.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.