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Sunday, July 1, 2012
Rangers add toughness with Asham, Bickel and Haley

By Katie Strang

The Rangers may have parted ways with Brandon Prust, but they won't be lacking for toughness.

In the opening hours of free agency, the team signed gritty forwards Arron Asham and Michael Haley and re-signed rugged defenseman Stu Bickel.

Asham, the biggest name of the bunch, agreed on a two-year deal worth $2 million, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

Asham's signing effectively signaled the end to Prust's tenure with the Rangers and sure enough, the 28-year-old winger inked a four-year deal worth a reported $10 million with Montreal. The Rangers were interested in bringing Prust back, but reached an impasse with the physical forward, who was seeking a significant pay raise from the $800,000 he made in 2011-12.

By joining the Rangers, Asham became a member of his fifth Atlantic Division team. He has formerly played for the Islanders, Flyers, Devils, and most recently, the Penguins. He finished with five goals, 11 assists and 76 penalty minutes in 64 games with Pittsburgh last season.

The Rangers began the first day of free agency with the signing of Bickel, who signed a two-year deal with the Rangers worth $1.5 million, several sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

The rugged 6-foot-4 blue-liner appeared in 51 regular-season and 18 games for the Rangers this past season and recorded nine assists and 124 penalty minutes.

The Rangers also signed former Islanders enforcer Haley to a two-year deal that, multiple sources confirmed, is a two-way contract in the first year and one-way contract in the second. Haley led the Islanders minor-league affiliate in Bridgeport with 125 penalty minutes last season.

Two of his most memorable fights of the past season was actually against Bickel, who now becomes his teammate.