What To Pay The Rangers Free Agents
The 2014-15 New York Rangers will look slightly different when they start to defend their Eastern Conference Championship in October. How different remains to be seen.
When the Salary Cap for the 2014-15 season was announced this past weekend at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia, many were surprised that it came in at $69,000,000. Some were expecting it to be in the $71M price range. One of those that were surprised was Rangers GM Glen Sather. It takes a lot to surprise a GM of Sather’s stature but that didn’t deter him from trying to do what he can to make the Rangers a winner and fiscally responsible.
To that end, he traded forward Derek Dorsett and his salary to the Canucks for a third round pick which he used on Keegan Iverson from Portland of the WHL. That move gave the Rangers a little more relief as Dorsett’s cap hit would have been $1.633M.
With the Salary Cap now set at $69M, here’s where the Rangers stand with their current roster and the cap hit they will incur next season for each player (figures courtesy of capgeek.com):
F – Rick Nash – $7.8M
F – Martin St. Louis – 5.625M
F – Derek Stepan – $3.075M
F – Carl Hagelin – $2.25M
D – Dan Girardi – $5.5M
D – Ryan McDonagh – $4.7M
D – Marc Staal – $3.975M
D – Kevin Klein – $2.9M
G – Henrik Lundqvist – $8.5M
G – Cam Talbot – $562.5K
When you add it up the Rangers have already committed $44,887,500 to 10 players who are all but guaranteed to be on the roster next season (barring any trades). That’s 4 forwards, 4 defensemen & 2 goalies. So where does the rest of the team fit in with the remaining $24,112,500??? One can only wonder. So let me put on my GM & my salary cap geek hat and here’s how I see it shake out.
First off, say goodbye to the Rangers vaunted 4th line from last season. Dorsett is already gone, Brian Boyle wants a bigger role on the team and he isn’t going to get that here under head coach Alain Vigneault. While I would never begrudge anyone getting the most of what they can while they can still get it, Boyle fails to realize that under the current Rangers system, this is where he flourishes the most. So while he goes off in search of “Brandon Prust type money”, he is replaceable.
Same goes for Dominic Moore. While the Bill Masterton Trophy winner’s story tugged at the heart strings of everyone in hockey, you also have to think back and recall that he barely made the team out of camp last season. While his play did improve immensely over the season and through the playoffs, unfortunately for him, players of his ilk can be found rather easily.
As good as he was, this is a player who has bounced around the league for a majority of his career and there is a reason for it. To that end I would suggest the following as replacements – Sign Steve Ott as a free agent, re-sign Daniel Carcillo and pencil in Jasper Fast as the third man on the line. Ott would provide the grit & tenacity needed along with being a proven faceoff man. Carcillo would get steady playing time and would take over Dorsett’s role as enforcer full time. Fast would provide the much needed speed and scoring touch needed in AV’s system.
For the rest of the team up front, I would make every attempt to sign as many as possible within reason. Using Carl Hagelin’s contract as a guide for comparison would be the template for signing players such as Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider & Derick Brassard who are all restricted free agents.
Zuccarello is on record as saying he would take less to stay with the Rangers. Also as Sather stated on Friday night at the draft, “Zucc had a great year, did everything we wanted him to do and he sees the ice as well as anyone. He started out last season in the KHL and became the Rangers leading scorer while on a one year deal. He’s only had really one good year here so far.”
The same can be said about Kreider as well. Remember, here’s a kid who spent a short time in Hartford earlier this past season to get his head straight before bursting back onto the scene and becoming a major player for the Blueshirts.
Brassard has been enigmatic throughout his career but finally seemed to find his game last season. Is it a coincidence that it was in the last year of his deal?
JT Miller went through some tough growing pains last season and is being counted to provide major minutes and big contributions next season.
As far as Benoit Pouliot is concerned, making a similar offer to him for what he earned last season is not unreasonable or out of the question. Yes he did find his game and flourish playing with Brassard & Zuccarello but he still is prone to make the errant pass or worse yet, the bonehead penalty, and is that really someone who you want to make a major investment in?
On the back end, it’s a little easier. Anton Stralman was a warrior for the Rangers all last season. It’s very easy to say that he was probably their most consistent defenseman from start to finish. With that said though, it’s “So long, Anton.” The Rangers simply cannot afford to pay him what he will command on the open market. Unfortunate for them but fortunate for him as this will probably be the last – if not the only time – that he will be able to strike it big.
Stralman and Staal made a great combination and were a solid number 2 “D” pairing. Let’s face it though, he will be commanding number 1 “D” type money and while the Rangers can do that, fiscally it makes no sense.
Rumors have it that the interest in Dan Boyle is sincere on both ends. Boyle is 35 years old and on the downside of his career but can provide a boost to the power play, though not nearly as steady on defense as Stralman.
Another option I like is the recently bought out Christian Erhoff. Erhoff enjoyed his finest seasons in the NHL under Alain Vigneault while in Vancouver. Yes, his production has dipped a lot while as a member of the Buffalo Sabres but keep in mind, the Sabres have been horrible the last years and anyone who has played there has seen their production drop.
While John Moore continues to improve and show flashes of brilliance with his skating ability, I’m not so certain his contributions warrant a pay hike. Also keep in mind that if Boyle, Erhoff or Moore don’t sign with the Rangers, NY can still look at Raphael Diaz as a free agent and Conor Allen & Dylan McIlrath from Hartford.
Here is what I feel would be a fair and equitable offer to each of these players for the 2014-15 season:
F – Chris Kreider – $2.5M
F – Mats Zuccarello – $3.0M
C – Derick Brassard – $4.0M
F – Daniel Carcillo – $900K
F – Benoit Pouliot – $1.8M
D – John Moore – $1.5M
D – Dan Boyle – $3M
D – Christian Erhoff – $4.5M
JT Miller is already signed for next season at $894,167 as is Jasper Fast at $805K.
If the Rangers use these figures that puts them pretty close to the Cap with some maneuverability. Also, these figures are just my projections for next season and don’t reflect multi year deals.
Obviously, if Sather pulls off a deal for a Jason Spezza or Joe Thornton, these figures would be thrown completely out of whack. Can these contract deals get done? Yes they can. If there is one thing that all these players should realize though is, that when it comes to contracts, Glen Sather doesn’t pussyfoot around. He has no problem letting you go if you over price yourself or make unreasonable demands.
They can look no further than their former Captain Ryan Callahan for proof of that. Remember, this is a man who has traded Wayne Gretzky & Mark Messier; he won’t lose any sleep trading (or letting them hold out) any of them who he feels is grossly overestimating their value not only to themselves but to the Rangers organization.
Sather’s focus is always on winning. Always has been; always will be. In the days when there was no cap, it was winning at whatever cost. That proved to be unsuccessful for him during his tenure as Rangers GM. Nowadays with a cap in place, it’s winning at a cost that is sound for the future of the team and it’s hard to argue with the success the Rangers organization has had over the last several seasons.