Rangers Finalist For Vesey?

Back in the spring when then Predators draft pick Jimmy Vesey said he would not be signing with Nashville, everyone assumed he would be headed to Boston or Toronto on August 15th. As a Boston native, Vesey grew up rooting for the Bruins so obviously would love a chance to play for the team. As for Toronto, his dad works for the organization.

Then in June a third team was added as Vesey’s rights were traded to the Buffalo Sabres, where his long time friend Jack Eichel currently plays. A field of three. Sure other teams could pitch to him, but most assumed he would end up on one of those three teams.

Which is why, in the week before he is scheduled to officially become a free agent, it isn’t surprising to hear he is down to three teams. What is surprising is those teams are rumored to be the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.

Okay then.

The Blackhawks are easy. Everyone wants to play for that team. And if they are as interested as many believe they are, this “competition” is probably over. If the Blackhawks want a player outside of their organization, they usually get him. As for the Devils, apparently Vesey has a connection to their assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald. I guess anything is possible but I would be surprised if he picked the Devils out of all the teams that have interest in him. (Remember, the contract is standard so it just depends on what organization he wants to play for.)

That brings us to the Rangers. While a lot of people believe the Rangers are on the wrong side of the contender status, it is still an organization many players want to play for. The Rangers have been rumored to be interested from the start but I never believed they had a chance. According to Joe Haggerty of CSN New England in his post yesterday:

The Rangers have a couple of local guys on their roster — Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes — whom Vesey is familiar with, and there’s a good working relationship between Vesey’s agents and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.

The Boston connection was obvious. The second part is interesting.

Personally, I still don’t believe the Rangers have a chance in this. They can’t guarantee the 23-year old Harvard captain and Hobey Baker winner a top six spot and in fact might not even be able to guarantee any roster spot. (Yes, he will probably earn one. But if that spot is on the fourth line, he’s probably better off in the AHL.) And if they are competing against the Blackhawks, who will probably ask him if he would like to fill their empty slot on the wing alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, it might not even be worth giving him a pitch.

But I’m sure the Rangers will try. We’ll find out early next week where he ends up.

Kevin Hayes Latest Ranger To Avoid Arbitration

Did I say Hayes’ signing would come right after I posted about Kreider? Well I was close. It came less than five hours later.

According to Aaron Ward, who again had the details first, the deal is a 2-year, $5.2 million bridge deal (something only the Rangers seem to still like). I’ll admit $2.6 million per year is a little more than I expected Kevin Hayes to get but I guess it’s fair if they plan to play him in the top six, which I think the Rangers do. Honestly, I think the Rangers want him to be a top six player. He just hasn’t taken the opportunity being given to him yet. Now he has two years to prove he can.

And with that deal complete, the Rangers again avoid arbitration. Just as I said they would the day all four players elected it. It’s done to give the sides a deadline, because they can’t complete these deals without one. Per the CBA, the Rangers will now have a 48-hour buyout window next week (which they once again won’t use).

The deal also leaves the Rangers with $3.1 million in cap space, assuming they start the season with the expected current roster:


I listed 14 forwards because Oscar Lindberg will be starting on IR due to the hip surgery he had earlier in the summer. And because they still have space, there will be no reason to place him on LTIR.

Is the roster perfect? No. And I honestly guessed on the lines but they are probably off too, especially on defense. But as Gorton said after the Brassard-Zibanejad trade, overhauling the entire roster in one offseason just wasn’t realistic. If this is the roster the Rangers enter the season with, I will be okay with that. That said, I’m still expecting one or two more moves…


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Kreider Re-Signs For Four Years At Buzzer

I really don’t know why people were worried. We’ve all been through this before. The only difference this time? Chris Kreider had planned to be in Toronto last night anyway for Dominic Moore’s Smashfest. Once we knew that, we should have realized this was going down to the wire.

Anyway, at 9:30 am EST this morning, this was tweeted:

I honestly was starting to think the hearing was in the afternoon with how quiet it was before that. There was no way, especially with how close the numbers were, that this was going to arbitration.

As for the specifics:

That modified NTC is nothing. It makes the player feel like he has some control and the Rangers can easily still move him if necessary. Would I have preferred five years instead of four? Sure. At that price, buy out as many UFA years as possible. But they bought out two and we don’t have to worry about this until after the next lockout. (Actually, I’m surprised Kreider apparently wanted a contract that expires the summer of the next lockout.)

Basically this is a win for everyone. And now we have four more years of Kreider’s crazy speed, playoff prowless, dry humor…and watching him run into walls trying to avoid colliding with goaltenders. (Watch him closely. He actually throws himself into the back boards to make sure he avoids collisions with opposing net minders. I’m convinced at some point he will learn to “hockey stop”, as he puts it.)


With this deal complete, the Rangers have a little under $7 million in cap space (depending on where you look and who is included) to sign one RFA – Kevin Hayes. I can promise you he won’t get anywhere close to all of that money so the Rangers somehow managed to give themselves a little breathing room this summer. As for Hayes, expect that contract to be signed as soon as I post this…or at 9 am next Wednesday morning.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Updates: Kreider, McIlrath, Jooris + More

The one contract everyone has been worried about since the season began is the one Chris Kreider will receive this summer. Him filing for arbitration, while expected, didn’t help in calming people down. You have probably seen people saying everything from “give him a long term deal” to “one year might be the best option” (thanks for that laugh Daily News!), from “he deserves to get paid” to “trade him, he’s not worth whatever he’s going to get”. The reality is somewhere in the middle of all of this.

So, with his arbitration hearing still scheduled for Friday, both sides were required to give their numbers to the arbitrator. As usual, they were on slightly opposite sides of the spectrum:

Okay, that’s not what I was expecting but we’ll still throw this out there: No, apparently Kreider does not expect $4.75 million per year. And no, the Rangers do not plan on paying Kreider only $3.2 million per year. This is how arbitration works. The player gives a really high number (or at least usually does), the team gives a really low number and the arbitrator picks a number somewhere in the middle. So assume, if this gets to arbitration, that Kreider will get a deal for around $4.25 million.

That said, I still do not think this will get to that point and instead he will get that amount on a long term deal. Honestly, have no idea why this isn’t done if that is all he is asking for. Could it go all the way to Friday morning? Absolutely. Ask Derek Stepan about that. But I will be absolutely shocked if they actually step foot in that court room. We’ll see if I’m right in the next 48 hours.


Now some news we need to catch up on from last week.

On Friday, the Rangers re-signed another of their RFAs as Dylan McIlrath agreed to a one year, $800k contract. I look at it as a similar show me contract to what Miller signed last summer. Let’s just hope he gets a chance to show what he can do. Vigneault might not have a choice as if he plays less than 42 games, he becomes a UFA next summer instead of a RFA. My guess? The next move the Rangers make will ensure there is a permanent spot for him in the lineup.

The Rangers also re-signed Hartford RFA Tommy Hughes to a one year deal as well as added ex-Flames forward Josh Jooris to the organization for one year at $600k. What do we know about Jooris? The 26-year old center scored two shorthanded goals last season so he is yet another penalty killer. (The Rangers saw a weakness and seem determined to fix it.) His other stats are nothing to talk about so I think it’s safe to assume this is Dominic Moore’s replacement, or at least his replacement until Oscar Lindberg is healthy.

And finally, not news but a note – I again attended the now annual Comm Ave Classic in Boston last week which pits alums from BC and BU against each other to raise money for ALS. While the game and evening itself were slightly disappointing, a good sign for the Rangers was the best player on the ice was probably Kevin Hayes. The BC alum led his team with five points (two goals, three assists) as the visitors took a 13-8 victory. But besides the points, it was honestly the best I have seen Hayes play. Yes this was a charity game where defense was basically non-existent but the Rangers center was moving his feet all night and genuinely looked ready for the season to begin. Now he just needs a contract…


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Send Brassard To Ottawa For Zibanejad

While everyone has been complaining that the Rangers haven’t done anything, I’ve repeatedly said to be patient because a move will be coming once the initial free agency stuff calms down. Well Rangers fans, you got what you wanted:

Oh, that’s not what you wanted was it? Well surprise, that’s what the Rangers did.

Let’s take this piece by piece.

Since the end of the playoffs, there have been rumors about Derek Stepan being traded. The Rangers never leak stuff to the press on actual moves so I immediately assumed (and admittedly hoped) this was a decoy. Apparently it was as this move was completed weeks ago but couldn’t be announced until after the Rangers paid Brassard the $2 million bonus he was due last Friday. Weeks ago. And no one knew. That’s how the Rangers work. One day people will remember this.

Now onto what they did. Oh Derick Brassard. I’ve never believed you were a number one center but you made a great 1A/1B pairing with Stepan. You two were like ying and yang. One knew what the defensive zone was, the other actually knew how to find the net. While I will miss the points and your celebrations, I will not miss your utter cluelessness in your own zone. We just now need someone to make funny faces on the bench, randomly steal opposing players sticks and take care of Mats Zuccarello.

Oh, and while his four points in his Rangers debut and hat trick vs Lightning in 2015 playoffs are definitely great memories, I’ll always remember his OT goal against Pittsburgh in 2014. That comeback doesn’t happen if he doesn’t score that goal to win game one:

I love how Brassard was the only one who knew his shot was in the net. Although I guess that play describes him perfectly as he stopped playing after that. Fortunately for his teammates, so did the Penguins.

So what did the Rangers get? A younger, cheaper version of Brassard in Mika Zibanejad.

In addition, Zibanejad has had two 20 goal seasons and is only starting to reach his prime while Brassard had his first 20 goal season last year. He is also a right handed shot, something the Rangers are in desperate need of. (There is only so many places Stepan can be at once.) And he penalty kills. (Notice a pattern in the moves the team has made this year?)

But more importantly, the Rangers turned a soon to be 29-year old center into a 23-year old center who puts up similar numbers. They also went from having roughly $8.5 million in cap space to now having over $10 million in cap space, which will come in handy as they try to sign Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider, both of which I expect to return. Oh and the Rangers get an extra second round pick in 2018 for when they inevitably trade their own.

And, to be honest, it shook up the room without completely blowing up the team. Brassard was very well-liked in the locker room so players will notice no one is untouchable if they don’t compete. This plus everything being said about the team should give us a room full of players with quite a chip on their shoulders. Well, those who are still there. While Jeff Gorton didn’t admit to anything else in the works, most of the beat writers walked away thinking he is far from done. As we said in May, it’s going to be a fun summer.


One quick side note. During his conference call with the media, Gorton was also asked if the team ever thought about buying out much maligned defenseman Dan Girardi to which he said, per Andrew Gross:

“I would say no,” Gorton said. “I know Dan Girardi has taken a beating in the media. He’s 32 and he had a significant injury (knee) but he’s had some real good production. He did, by all accounts, not have the season he wanted or we wanted. But we expect Dan to be better. A buyout just didn’t make sense. It’s something we never really considered.”

I’ve said from day one that a buyout didn’t make sense. It didn’t. We just have to hope he bounces back and has a respectable season next year. Expecting him to be an all-star is unrealistic. But expecting him to do what he did this year isn’t really fair either. The only thing we know is that he’ll be there in September.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Re-Sign Miller to Perfect Contract

At this time one year ago, the Rangers had three young player that they (and their fans) hoped would take the next step during the 2015-16 season. They were Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes. All three were due new contracts the following summer and needed to earn them. If you had asked anyone during the summer of 2015 who they thought might not be getting one, most wouldn’t have hesitated to say Miller. No one saw him being in the situation he is now.

Which brings me to today’s news. Late this afternoon, the Rangers randomly tweeted the following:

To say it was a surprise would be an understatement. I didn’t expect Miller to end up in arbitration but also didn’t expect him to be the first of the four re-signed. Then came the terms – two years, $2.75 million per year. To me, this is the perfect contract.


Well first of all, let’s all remember where we were last year with Miller. Many didn’t even expect him to still be on the team. The fact that he is now one of the ones everyone considered a “must sign” means he had a good season. One good season. He deserved a raise (and got a very nice one) but I wasn’t about to give him a long term one.

Second, with the deal being only two years, that means the Rangers get one more chance to re-sign him as a RFA. If they had added a third year, that would’ve brought him right to unrestricted free agency, something most teams do not like to do.

Third, simply put this is a bridge deal. I understand a lot of fans don’t like them anymore but they’re necessary. Because if you think the cap is bad now with 30 year olds overpaid, imagine what it would be like if every 20 year old got $6+ million per year for 6-7 years. I’d say we would be lucky if half of them actually earned that contract over the course of it.

Is there a chance in two years the Rangers will regret not signing Miller long term? Of course. There’s also a chance he’s gone by then or we’re thankful this deal was only two years. No one knows what the future holds. (For example, there was a chance Mats Zuccarello never stepped on the ice for the current deal he signed.) We all want Miller to be a permanent fixture in the top six but that’s still no guarantee yet. Do you want him making $3-4+ million as a third line winger? I don’t. But that’s why bridge contracts exist and need to exist. Not every young player deserves a long term deal just because their entry level contract is up. Plus, if we’re being honest, the Rangers could use the extra money right now to re-sign their other three RFAs.

And with that, I’ll say I’m thrilled with this deal. Yes the Rangers still need to do more this summer but this is a good start. Welcome back Millsy!


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Deadlines Set For Rangers

Last week we found out that four Rangers RFAs elected arbitration. Now we know when those players will be signed by have their case heard by an arbitrator:

As Andrew Gross mentioned, it doesn’t mean it will come to that. But it does mean those players will be signed no later than 48 hours after those dates.

The first thing I noticed? Chris Kreider has an early arbitration date. (Hearing are from July 20th to August 4th.) This is good for everyone involved as once Kreider’s money is sorted out, the team will know what they have for everyone else. And yes, I believe Kreider is staying. So does Larry Brooks and love him or hate him, he has connections so the Boston speedster isn’t going anywhere.

The fact that Dylan McIlrath is the day before tells me the young defenseman will be signed sooner rather than later. (I would be surprised if that isn’t completed this week.) I’m a little concerned the contract for J.T. Miller has a chance to linger but I still think it will get done. And recent rumors have said the Rangers aren’t shopping Kevin Hayes so that one might be completed right after McIlrath is.

I still stand by my belief that none of these players will step into a court room in Toronto and I would honestly be shocked if any even make the trip up north. These are the easy ones as it’s no secret the team wants to keep all four players. Now the Rangers no longer have an excuse. They have a deadline so they can’t say they need to wait for other shoes to fall; which is why these players elected arbitration in the first place. The players want their contracts done as much as the fans do. And now they know they will all be done no later than August 5th.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)