Should The Rangers Ink Brassard Long-Term?
To sign him, or not to sign him long-term? That is the question surrounding Rangers’ slick playmaking center Derick Brassard.
There appears to be two separate and distinct schools of thought regarding Brassard, a restricted free agent this summer, who rumor has it is looking for a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $5 to $5.5 million per year. While he more than proved his worth both in the regular season with 18 goals and 27 assists while skating between Mats Zuccarello and the now departed Benoit Pouliot, it was in the playoffs where he came up big time and time again in the Blueshirts’ march to the Stanley Cup final. Still, is he worth that type of money long-term?
Just where does the 26-year-old Brassard fit in the Rangers’ future plans? Right now, he is the Blueshirts’ second center, not the third-line center that many have suggested, heading into training camp. Only Derek Stepan is ahead of Brassard on the depth chart down the middle, so while $5.5 million a year may sound a bit high in a long-term deal for a center who hasn’t yet proven himself consistently over a number of seasons in the NHL, the only other real option would be to consider packaging him in a trade in order to bring back a first-line center with size. The only trouble with that theory, however, is what team has a big, talented first-line center (that is still young like Brassard) that they would be willing to part with and would also fit under the Rangers’ fragile salary cap structure?
Another key question to consider is whether or not the Rangers are willing to go to battle each night with Stepan and Brassard as their top two centers. While speed and skill are obviously not an issue at all with the pair, their size and grit to match up to bigger, more physical teams over an 82 game regular season and then again in the postseason does have to be considered.
Remember, the Blueshirts lost 6’7” Brian Boyle, an aggressive 6’3”, 200-pound winger in Pouliot, and gritty winger Derek Dorsett this offseason, so the call for a more abrasive forward has definitely gone up on Broadway, especially at the center position. That is not to say that Brassard is “soft” by any means. We saw his competitive fire many times during last season, especially in the playoffs.
Brassard has filed for arbitration with his hearing scheduled for July 28. No one is ever really sure how these things are going to play out if they reach the actual date of the hearing, and Glen Sather has been known to play hard ball at times with his players. For my money (and it’s not, our course), Brassard is simply too young, too gifted, and too competitive to let slip away at age 26. That’s why I fully expect that Sather, the Rangers and Brassard will wind up in a long and happy marriage sooner rather than later.
And that would be the best solution for both sides moving forward.