Why Rangers want to avoid Ryan Lindgren salary arbitration hearing

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
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Just because Ryan Lindgren filed for salary arbitration with the New York Rangers on Friday doesn’t mean a hearing will actually take place later this summer. And it definitely doesn’t mean either party necessarily wants the hearing to take place.

What the filing does is provide a deadline for the Rangers and the 26-year-old defenseman to work out a contract. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, Lindgren simply used this tool to move contract negotiations along. Though a date hasn’t been scheduled yet, it will be held sometime between July 20 and August 4, per the NHLPA. Fourteen players filed for salary arbitration this year.

So, the two sides have between now and the hearing date to agree on a one-year contract or multi-year deal. If they fail to come to an agreement, each side presents a contract number to an independent arbitrator and then makes its case in a hearing. The arbitrator then decides the contract number based on the arguments heard.

Teams and players rarely enjoy the arbitration process, which can be contentious. Much more often than not, the sides come together on a contract agreement and never go through with the hearing. Again, in most cases, the hearing creates an urgency to work out a new contract because there’s a deadline involved.

Lindgren is coming off a three-year contract that paid him $3 million annually. The Rangers qualified him at $3.6 million earlier in the offseason. So, there’s your starting point for negotiations.

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Why Rangers prefer not to have salary arbitration hearing with Ryan Lindgren

NHL: New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets
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Lindgren surely would prefer to avoid the hearing and having to listen to the Rangers list all the reasons why he’s not worth the contract he’s seeking. But it’s the Rangers who would really prefer not to have the process play out in arbitration.

An arbitrator can hand out a one-year or two-year contract to a player in NHL salary arbitration. However, that doesn’t hold true in this case because Lindgren can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. So, if it’s up to the arbitrator, Lindgren can only receive a one-year contract, which walks him directly to unrestricted free agency.

That would mean the Rangers would face the prospect of losing a top-pair defenseman on the open market at a time when franchise goalie Igor Shesterkin could also be a UFA, and young studs Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller can become restricted free agents with arbitration rights.

That’s a lot of heavy lifting in one offseason for the Blueshirts and general manager Chris Drury.

Now the Rangers could very well extend Shesterkin at any point this summer or even into next season. Ditto for Miller and Lafreniere. But it would be a huge help if the Rangers signed Lindgren to a multi-year contract this summer because that would provide both cost certainty and an understanding of term with length of his contract, so that Drury could then focus on how to budget for Shesterkin, Lafreniere and Miller.

A one-year contract for Lindgren satisfies the Rangers for next season, but raises questions about his future in New York past that. A multi-year contract now likely would be less expensive than one agreed to with July 1, 2025 on the near horizon for Lindgren. And if Lindgren leaves as a UFA next summer, then the Rangers need to sign or trade for a top-four defenseman to replace him. Even if Miller replaced Lindgren next to Adam Fox on the top pair, and was paid accordingly to do so, the Rangers would still need a second-pair defenseman on the left side.

But this arbitration hearing hangs heavily over the heads of the Rangers and Lindgren because working out a multi-year contract is no easy task. The Rangers want to keep the AAV on such a deal as manageable as possible and also are concerned by its length. Even though Lindgren is 26, the fear is that he will age quickly due to his play style and will wear down from the myriad of injuries he plays through and is sidelined by each season.

Do the Rangers want to exceed, say, four years on Lindgren’s next contract? Probably not.

But the flip side is that this is Lindgren’s best shot at security. He’s in his prime as a top-pair defenseman and one of the best penalty killers in the NHL. He’s a leader and widely respected for what he brings to the team, though his metrics did drop this past season despite his team-best plus-22 rating.

So, why wouldn’t Lindgren seek a significant raise and, perhaps the bigger issue for the Rangers, more than four years in term?

So, yeah, this is not an easy negotiation. though it’d appear each side is committed to the other.

And now there is a deadline in front of them, one that will be even more set when Lindgren’s hearing date is announced soon.

The clock is ticking.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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