What next Ryan Lindgren contract could look like for Rangers

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The New York Rangers concluded exit day interviews on Tuesday following an Eastern Conference Final exit Saturday. It was a distinct shift into offseason mode for the Blueshirts, who must make many important decisions this summer.

One of those involves the future of Ryan Lindgren, who becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights July 1.

The 26-year-old defenseman, who has spent almost all of his Rangers tenure on the top pairing alongside Adam Fox, will likely be looking for some long-term security and a jump up in average-annual-value from his previous mark of $3 million.

Lindgren, a popular heart-and-soul player, sounds the part of someone who wants to remain with the Rangers long term.

“I love it here,” he said during Tuesday’s media scrum. “It’s the best. I love the guys here. I love this city, how loyal the fans are, how much they care about us. I love being here and this definitely where I want to be.”

Lindgren sported a gnarly cut under his left eye during the exit-day interviews. That’s not an unfamiliar sight. The gritty defenseman has developed a reputation for being able to play through pain and injuries.

But that wasn’t all. Lindgren explained he spent the entirety of the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers playing with a cracked rib, an injury sustained in Game 6 of the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes.

His ice time dipped some in the conference final — he played just 13:41 in Game 5 — but Lindgren played in each of New York’s 16 postseason games, picking up three assists, including one on Alex Wennberg’s overtime winner against the Panthers in Game 3.

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It was not the strongest season for Lindgren, who missed six games as he battled various injuries throughout the regular season, most notably a four-game stretch after sustaining a lower-body injury in March.

Lindgren led the Rangers with a plus-22 mark, right in front of Fox, who was plus-21, but the underlying metrics suggest it was his worst defensive season in a Rangers uniform.

Lindgren’s individual defensive ranking, per Evolving Hockey, was in the 10th percentile, by far the lowest of his six-year career. He had been 87th or higher in the previous three seasons and had never dipped below the 50-percent mark in his entire career.

Lindgren and Fox’s expected-goals-for percentage was 46.5 percent, the worst of any Rangers D-pair with at least 250 minutes of ice time (per MoneyPuck). It marks the first time that Lindgren and Fox did not lead the defensive core in xGF%, a stretch that dated back to Fox’s rookie season in 2019-20.

There are clear concerns about wear and tear with Lindgren, given both his extensive injury history and his style of play. This season marked just the second time that he played more than 75 games in a single season.

Still, he’s been a staple of the Rangers defensive corps with a track record of being one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL up until this season, and he’s someone that Fox, the 2021 Norris Trophy winner, is very comfortable playing with.

With all that on the table, what could a potential Ryan Lindgren long-term extension look like?

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Figuring out what Ryan Lindgren’s next Rangers contract could look like

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After diving through some comps from the last few years, here’s what general manager Chris Drury and the front office could be looking at with Lindgren’s next contract.

The first name that jumped to mind was Erik Cernak, a right-shot defenseman on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Cernak was floated out as a comparable prior to Lindgren’s first extension, signing a very similar 3-year, $2.95 million AAV extension as an RFA just five months prior to Lindgren’s 3-year, $3 million AAV deal, that’s ending this season.

Cernak was 25, just one year younger than Lindgren, when he agreed to an eight-year, $5.2 million AAV long-term extension as an RFA on July 13, 2022.

Adam Pelech was 26 when he signed an eight-year, $5.75 million AAV extension with the New York Islanders after becoming an RFA in the offseason of 2021.

Pelech’s a bit stronger offensively than Cernak and Lindgren, but all three are defensive-minded blueliners with relatively low offensive ceilings. Pelech is likely a better comp to Lindgren in terms of team role, playing top-pair defensive minutes in the seasons leading up to that deal. Cernak is a better match in terms of his physical, hard-nosed playing style.

Lindgren could likely command a higher salary, particularly with the NHL salary cap projected to increase by $4.2 million this offseason and keep moving upward thereafter.

An eight-year deal for Lindgren would come as a shock and risk given his injury history, but that is the precedent set by similar defensemen in his age range.

Lindgren’s AAV ceiling could be in the mid to high $6 million range, not unlike what Pelech’s defense partner Ryan Pulock got in his eight-year, $6.2 million UFA deal as a 27-year-old defenseman.

If the Rangers balk at committing to eight years, we could see Lindgren’s contract end up looking similar to Gustav Forsling of the Florida Panthers, who was signed to a five-year, $5.75 million AAV contract this March.

Given Lindgren’s love for New York and the success that he’s found with the Rangers after they acquired him from the Boston Bruins, it’s not crazy to muse about him taking a team-friendly deal.

Lindgren could certainly command the $5-6 million AAV of the previously listed contracts, given his track record despite some tougher numbers this year. However, that would certainly be tough to swallow for the Rangers, who have $12.13 million in projected cap space per PuckPedia and have plenty to address beyond Lindgren, notably a massive contract extension for star goalie Igor Shesterkin.

In the case of a team-friendly deal, we might see something akin to what Jonas Siegenthaler and Ryan Graves got in the past two years.

Siegenthaler signed a five-year, $3.4 million AAV extension with the New Jersey Devils as an RFA in the summer of 2022. Meanwhile, Graves left the Devils the next summer to join the Pittsburgh Penguins on a six-year, $4.5 million AAV deal. Siegenthaler was 26 and Graves was 28.

Lindgren would assumedly want to see a jump in his current $3 million AAV, so a team-friendly deal would likely put him in the mid $4 million range. You’d have to believe he wants more than that, especially if he doesn’t get the length he wants on a new deal.

Contract length will likely be a question mark in all of this as it’s hard to find a perfect comp for Lindgren’s complicated injury history. It would make sense for Lindgren to search for long-term security, particularly given how his style of play puts him in harm’s way. That’s exactly the reason, however, why the Rangers and other potential suitors might shy away from an eight-year deal.

Trading Lindgren is not out of the question, though highly unlikely. So, this difficult contract negotiation with Lindgren could take up much of the summer for Drury.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

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