Rangers Roundup: Is Klein Retiring, Mika Arbitration and More
Klein Heading for Retirement?
A few weeks ago, Larry Brooks broke the news that Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein was leaning toward retirement. Klein went from being one of the more dependable Rangers defensemen to a nightmare in his own zone. He has been bugged by back issues that may have contributed to his decline and will be in the last year of his contract next season.
With Klein still undecided, the Rangers are in a bit of a pickle. They can wait and see what Klein does; but if he doesn’t decide for a while, the team could lose out on some much needed extra cap space for a free agent. If he decides to stay with the Blueshirts, the Rangers will have to decide if they want to keep or trade him. One thing seems clear though: Klein’s best days as an NHL defenseman are over.
Zibanejad Files for Arbitration
With the Rangers and RFA forward Mika Zibanejad unable to reach a deal before yesterday’s 5 PM deadline, Zibanejad filed for salary arbitration. The two sides can still avoid the hearing by making a deal beforehand. If the hearing does occur, it would be toward the end of July or the beginning of August.
A couple of things to think about. First is that Zibanejad cannot make less than last season’s salary. Second, a decision must be reached within 48 hours after the hearing. If the decision is “no”, Zibanejad would become a UFA.
With the recent signings, the Rangers currently have just over $5 million left in cap space. Jeff Gorton has done a good job of managing the cap, most notably being able to sign Kevin Shattenkirk to a team-friendly deal. With Mika Zibanejad the only remaining player needing a contract, the Rangers should enter the dog days of summer with roughly $2 million in cap room. If Klein retires, that number jumps back up to around $5 million, which would give the Rangers just a little bit more wiggle room to sign another free agent or trade for a center.
Speaking of Shattenkirk, the Rangers defense went from one with significant questions to one with signs of hope and promise. The Rangers top-four goes from McDonagh, Staal, Girardi, and Holden at the start of last season to McDonagh, Shattenkirk, Skjei, and Smith. The Rangers have four reliable 200-foot defensemen who can play in all situations. The question now is who does Alain Vigneault put in the bottom pair. Marc Staal isn’t going anywhere because of his $5.7 million contract and his no-move clause.
So who pairs with Staal? It seems to be a contest between his linemate from last year in Nick Holden and newcomer Anthony DeAngelo. Holden had a strong start in his first year on Broadway, but his play rapidly faded after the All-Star break. Unless he can keep his game at a consistently high level, he won’t be in the lineup long.
As for DeAngelo, he has shown some offensive talents down in Arizona, putting up 14 points in 39 games last year. DeAngelo is a right handed shot with some good skating ability as well. If he were to be the sixth defenseman with Staal, it would force the veteran to improve his skating to keep up with his partner. In addition, Staal wouldn’t have to try and create offensively with DeAngelo playing opposite him.
Seeing the way Vigneault has operated, it would appear that Holden is going to start out as the sixth man with DeAngelo being the “odd man out.” But one can only hope that he gives his players a shorter leash if they struggle on the back end.