No Arbitration For Rangers As Brassard Signs 5-Year Deal

I woke up this morning and decided to put on my Brassard t-shirt. Not sure why as I honestly didn’t expect any news on him until tomorrow morning but for some reason I thought it would be fitting to wear today. Guess I was right as around 3:30 pm Eastern Time, this was announced:

I have mixed emotions on this contract.

By itself, I do think it’s a lot for Brassard but considering what he was making and that he will be the Rangers second line center next year, I did expect it to be around $5 million per year. And while next year it will seem like a lot, it will probably be a steal later in the contract. (It won’t matter what he does. Guys similar to him will get more than that two or three years down the road.)

UPDATE: Just saw the actual numbers for Brassard which are as follows:

Not sure if that includes signing bonuses but either way, that is a ridiculous amount to pay Brassard next year. Sorry, he hasn’t earned close to that. He also apparently received a limited no-trade clause. Basically, the Rangers were desperate and caved which isn’t a good sign. Now we have to hope it doesn’t screw them too much down the road. (It will. See next two paragraphs.)

But then I put it in the Rangers system. First of all, he is the second line center. I know there are people who say he was the best center on the team last year. At times, he may have been. But the team never thought of him as anything more than a second line center. There was one guy always above him, no matter how he was playing. His name is Derek Stepan. And he will be paid less this year because he was forced to settle for a contract that was probably less than he deserved at the time.

The good news for Stepan is that contract is up next summer. Which means the Minnesota native is going to get paid. I assumed he would seeing some of the numbers similar players were getting but now the Rangers have no choice. They can’t offer him less than they just gave Brassard. For some reason, I’m worried about how Sather plans to handle this. Hopefully I’m worrying for no reason.

For now, we can lock Brassard in at $5 million (cap hit) for next year which really doesn’t leave the team a lot of breathing room. Depending on where you look, people will say the team has between $4 and $5 million left of space. That doesn’t include John Moore or any spare players the team plans to keep during the season. Basically it’s going to be tight.

But the team knew this and obviously has a plan in place. We just have to wait and see what it is. In the meantime, it looks like the 2014-15 Rangers are almost ready to go. Only 53 days till training camp starts!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Smashfest A Hit For Dominic Moore + His Charities

People say that NHL players are the nicest and most down to earth athletes. They are also known as some of the most caring, always taking part in charity events to help causes either special to them or to the sport. Dominic Moore is able to do both.

Moore is a part of two charities:

The Steve Moore Foundation, which focuses on concussions and head injuries, was started by Dominic’s brother after the horrible concussion he suffered over ten years ago that ended his career. (Almost all hockey fans have heard people refer to the Bertuzzi-Moore incident. This charity was named after that Moore.)

The Katie Moore Foundation, which focuses on helping with research for rare cancers, was started by Dominic in honor of his late wife.

While I’m sure he would rather not have either of these foundations due to the reasons for their existence, he is more than happy to use his name to get the word out there about these causes. And he does that most during his annual ping pong tournament, Smashfest, held in Toronto.

Last night, the third annual tournament was held and was once again a smash (pun intended) as more and more people are following Dominic’s story with his return to the NHL which led to him receiving the Masterton trophy. It’s no surprise that this years’ was the most successful as 650 people attended the event and helped to raise $140,000 for those charities. (The first two years had raised a combined $130k.)

“We had an amazing time at Smashfest again this year,” said Dominic Moore, New York Rangers forward and Smashfest host. “The support we received was impressive on all fronts, from the players and guests in attendance, to the NHLPA and all of our partners. I’m proud that $140,000 was raised to further help with research into concussions and rare cancers.”

I have run into Dominic Moore at a couple of events and I don’t think I have ever met a nicer or more caring person than he is. To see him be able to get out of bed and try to lead a normal life after what he’s been through is an inspiration and it warms my heart to see him have the success he’s had both on and off the ice.

If you want to learn more about or donate to either of his foundations, you can do so here and here.

 

(Photo: NHLPA official twitter account)

Kreider + Rangers Settle At Deadline

This morning was supposed to mark the first time the Rangers entered a boardroom in Toronto to hammer out a contract with one of their restricted free agents. And it looked like they might actually make it there when right at the buzzer, this was announced:

Why they needed to wait until right before they walked into the room to come up with that is beyond me but at least they avoided the actual hearing. The deal gives him a cap hit of $2.475 which is right around where everyone expected it to be.

Honestly of all the Rangers players who elected arbitration this summer, Kreider was the one I least expected to get there. When word about the numbers submitted came out on Monday, I really thought a deal would be done before they even got to Toronto. I don’t know what it is with these American players, but their agents need to stop making them look bad. (Look at the list of guys who’ve come close to arbitration or held out – Dubinsky, Callahan, Stepan, now Kreider. They all have one thing in common besides being forwards.)

As for the contract, let’s be honest – everyone knew he was getting a two year bridge deal. I would’ve loved to sign him for longer but he hasn’t earned that yet. Mix that with the knowledge that Sather always signs his RFA forwards to bridge deals plus the cap situation for next year and everyone knew this was coming. The good news is it’s done and Kreider will remain a Ranger for at least two more years. (It will be longer. They aren’t letting this kid go even if they did almost end up in arbitration with him.)

Next up comes Brassard, whose hearing is scheduled for Monday. I haven’t seen a lot other than the rumor he wants over $5 million per year but it’s still early. I’m sure in the next few days more will come out. Word of advice? Take it with a grain of salt. It’s all negotiating tactics. (I’m convinced the Rangers did that to Kreider yesterday when it was leaked by a “source” that it looked like they were headed to arbitration.)

In the meantime, welcome back Chris! You’ll be making nice money for your “sophomore” year.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Zuccarello Avoids Arbitration, Signs 1 Year Deal

While everyone expected news that Chris Kreider had signed today before his arbitration hearing tomorrow morning, another restricted free agent was the one making the headlines. Shortly after rumors began that Kreider would indeed be headed to arbitration, this came out:

Zuccarello was supposed to have his arbitration hearing on Friday morning. Guess he didn’t want to make the trip to Canada. I am a little concerned the deal is only one year but at that price, no one should be complaining. (There were rumors he was asking for a lot more than that.) Plus there’s this:

I fully expect them to come to a long term agreement long before next summer but as I said earlier this month, arbitration puts a deadline on things. They had a deadline for next year and settled before it. They have plenty of time to worry about the years after that. For now, Sather continues to work his magic and Zuccarello is back in the fold at a very reasonable number.

Which brings us back to Kreider. His hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning. I figured by now he would be signed. Sounds like the two sides are being stubborn:

Call me whatever you want but until I hear both sides have actually walked into the boardroom, I will not believe this won’t be settled without arbitrator. The two sides are close and they both know how bad it is to take that last step. Kreider might not sign until 8:59 am tomorrow morning but I’m still confident they will come to agreement without a third party coming up with the number.

If not, as much as I love the little Americans on the team, someone is going to have to smack these kids around a little bit. I understand they want (and deserve) their money, but they need to be team players like everyone else. First Stepan, now Kreider. This is not a good look for the red, white and blue. Especially when a little Norwegian is making them look really bad.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Sign Lee Stempniak

I apologize for the lateness in this post as I was away for the weekend and being that Black & Blueshirts is a one woman show, there was no one to post this news. (Hint, hint: If you want to contribute to the site, feel free to contact me.)

Anyway, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, the Rangers made another unexpected signing when they added winger Lee Stempniak for one year at what is believed to be $900k. (Editors Note: I love how contract are “believed to be” for certain amounts. These numbers didn’t come out of the blue. Why can’t they just say this is what the contract is? Sorry, the semantics are pet peeve of mine.) I’ll admit this one caught me off guard as much as the Lombardi one because you heard nothing about it beforehand. I’ve seen plently of names for forwards thrown out by everyone (writers, analysts, bloggers, fans) and no one mentioned either of these guys. That doesn’t mean I’m against it.

As with Lombardi, at $900k, this has the potential to be a steal. And if he’s horrible in training camp, he’s sent to Hartford and never heard from again. (I believe the max contract that can be sent to Hartford without any cap hit is still $925k.) The odd thing is these two recent signings actually know each other as they played together briefly in Phoenix. I have a vague recollection of them playing on a line together during that time but I’m not positive on that.

But the reason this is relevant? Everyone says coaches bring in guys they know. Apparently assistant coaches do too as both these guys played under Ulf Samuelsson during their time in the desert. So if this works out, we can thank Carolina and Pittsburgh for not stealing him from the Rangers.

I really don’t have any opinion one way or another on Stempniak. The 31-year old New Yorker has been an average player in the past but he bounced around last year so I have no idea what to expect. Does he become this years’ Pouliot? Possibly. Does he become the next Taylor Pyatt? That has just as much potential. We’ll just wait and see.

To me, though, these signing signify something bigger within the organization. Everyone expected the kids would get a chance to fill the empty spots. On July 1st, there were three spots. No one knew if they were ready but it looked like they were going to be thrown into the fire. These two signing bring the number of openings down to one. To me, that says the organization doesn’t think these kids are ready. And if that’s the case, don’t be surprised to see some of them move in the coming months. For instance, if he isn’t on the opening night roster, I wouldn’t be surprised to see J.T. Miller ask for a trade rather than sit in Hartford for another season.

Whatever it is, Sather has seemed to know what he’s doing before so I’m going to trust him now. Welcome to New York, Lee!

 

(Photo:Bridget Samuels/flickr)

A True Comparison: Who Would You Want On The Rangers?

Over the past two weeks, NHL fans have watched as teams scooped up free agents in hopes of making their team better next year. Some of these contracts sounded like great deals (wow, team A signed player Z for only $1 million!) and others made fans across the country shake their head (player Y got how much money? Team B, why did you do that?).

The one constant in these contracts? They were always compared to another contract signed by another team. Sometimes this was fitting but most times it was something along the lines of “my team signed a RFA for only X amount of money and your team signed that UFA for much more”.

I’m sure other fan bases did this but I saw Rangers fans do it a lot over the past few weeks and there was usually the same players involved – Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan were the most popular. The problem was the comparisons were never fair in the first place. For instance, I saw someone compare McDonagh’s contract to the one signed by Michael Cammaleri this summer. Because obviously a RFA defenseman should be compared to a UFA forward. Sure I would rather have McDonagh over Cammaleri but it would never come down to one or the other since they play two completely different roles.

Which got me thinking, what would happen if we compared contracts of similar players? And so I did. I took a contract that was signed by a player after his entry level contract expired (i.e. he was a RFA). I compared it to players of similar statue (playing the same position was a must) and the contracts they signed at that same point in their career.

A couple of notes before I get to the comparison:

  1. I tried to pick players who are currently compared to each other due to the style they play.
  2. As salary structure and the way teams are build have changed over the years, I tried to keep players who were around the same age. They may not have signed their second contract at the exact same ages but they had to play three years in the NHL and sign a long term deal after the entry level contract was over.
  3. As I mentioned, the players all had to play the same position. In this case, they are all defenseman who currently play top four minutes for their teams. (I can’t hide that fact when you see point totals so might as well put it out there.)
  4. And yes the player that was the base for this test is a New York Ranger. See if you can figure out which one without scrolling to the bottom.

Here we go. I started with how they did during their entry level contracts as that would be used to help decide their next contract:

Entry Level Stats

I think we can all agree these six players look similar on paper. The star indicate those players had one of their entry level years during the 2012-13 season, i.e. the shortened season, hence the lower totals for them. All players played three full seasons except Player A and Player D, who were called up mid-year during their rookie seasons. Player A also had limited minutes his rookie year and then jumped to roughly 21 minutes per night his second and third years which explains the low TOI total.

Before anyone asks, corsi and fenwick were not available for all players so I decided not to include it. I used plus/minus, which is a completely flawed stat, to give an idea how the team did when that player was on the ice. Please do not judge any of these players solely on plus/minus.

Initial reactions?

All these players did pretty good as defensemen during their first three seasons. Player B had the best point per game totals while playing the most minutes but they all ranged between 31-38% except player E who was slightly below that. Based on those numbers, which player would you most like to have?

Other than plus/minus, I would definitely want Player B. Next in line would probably be Player D, who is on the other side of the spectrum in regards to plus/minus. (Yes, I checked that stat a number of times to make sure it was correct.) Player C doesn’t look bad and if you look at Player A based only on his TOI in years two and three, when he played the bulk of games during that contract, he might be the best option of the bunch.

All six of those players re-signed with their teams and received the following contracts:

Second contract

There contracts were broken down as follows:

Second contract breakdown

Sorry, space made it difficult to put that all in one spot so hopefully it isn’t too difficult to follow.

Now, keeping your original thoughts in mind, who got the best contract? And seeing their contract, do you still want that player on your team?

Player B got paid nicely for having what I thought was the best overall package. Although looking at the breakdown, you can see he didn’t get the money right away. (Also proves no one looks at plus/minus since he had the worst of the group by far and got the highest average total in his second contract.)

Player F basically got a bridge contract, which is impressive for his team considering his numbers were the highest in the second least amount of minutes. Contract for Player D isn’t bad but considering how much the others got, he may be slightly overpaid looking at just these numbers. Unless of course he got paid for that ridiculous plus/minus. (He didn’t.)

Honestly if I’m looking just at numbers, I think Player A or Player F might be the best “bang for buck” players of the bunch. They did very well for young defenseman in their first three years and got the least amount of years and cap space. Any players you wouldn’t take after looking at the numbers and the contract they received?

I guess now is the time I have to tell you who each player is. The results might surprise you because a couple caught me off guard.

Since this is a Rangers blog, I’m sure everyone figured out Player D is Ryan McDonagh. And yes, he was the one that started this project. I got tired of seeing everyone compare him to forwards or UFAs so decided to find some compatibles and see how great his contract truly was.

Did anyone figure out Player E was his teammate Marc Staal? Or that Player F was his defense partner in Sochi Ryan Suter? If so, I’m impressed.

To round out the bunch, Player A is Vancouver’s Alex Edler, Player B is Carolina’s Justin Faulk (hence the horrible plus/minus) and Player C is Tampa’s Victor Hedman.

(I know people want to put him on the list with the perennial Norris candidates and so I looked at using Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara but for one reason or another the comparisons wouldn’t have been fair, especially since most of that group had much higher totals as well as higher second contracts due to those totals. I also tried Brent Seabrook and Matt Niskanen but those comparisons didn’t work either as I wanted the players to truly look similar.)

I think we can all agree these five players are compatible to McDonagh. Yes we all hope McDonagh is better than most of them but we had no proof of that after his first three years. We all assumed he would have the year he had last season. And he was paid for it. But there was no guarantee it would happen.

So the question is, which contract truly is the best of the bunch?

Rangers Sign Matthew Lombardi

Rangers fans awake late last night got a little bit of a surprise when a rumor began that the team had signed 32-year old center Matthew Lombardi. It took a little less than 12 hours for the team to finally make it official:

I always wonder how this news breaks late at night. Teams never announce the move until the next morning yet somehow random stuff like this always gets out at 10 or 11 pm. Anyway, the deal is believed to be two years for $1.6 million ($800k per year).

Immediately fans questioned why the Rangers would make this move. The answer is two fold:

  • Lombardi will be the third line center the team needs.
  • Lombardi was brought in as depth to help Hartford.

Personally, I think the hope is option one but at $800k, option two won’t be a problem as his cap can be completely buried in the minors. Is he the center the Rangers truly need? Probably not. But that player isn’t available and I personally prefer taking a chance on Lombardi over signing someone like Ribeiro.

So what do we know about Lombardi? He started his career with the Flames and played three and a half years there before being sent to the Coyotes as part of their mid-year rebuild in 2008-09. For those who may remember, that was the year Don Maloney decided at the deadline to trade everyone for a bunch of younger guys and prospects. It was also the year Petr Prucha was sent out of New York and I started following the Coyotes so I can vouch for the two years Lombardi spent in the desert.

During his time there, he played on a line with Prucha and Scottie Upshall. Was the line a fantastic, goal scoring machine? I wanted to believe it was but no it was not. But it was one of the Coyotes top lines and did do quite well due to the instant chemistry the three built. Lombardi had his highest point total during his one full year in the desert and looked to finally have cemented his spot as a first or second line center.

Then injuries set in and Lombardi slowly disappeared as he jumped around the league over the next three seasons before playing last year in Switzerland. He did well over there, leading the Swiss league in points. But we all know that means nothing when it comes to the NHL.

My guess? Sather is hoping this works out as well as the Pouliot signing did last year. If so, it’s a win for everyone. If not, he gets sent to the minors and we forget this signing every happened. There’s really no harm in trying it when the Rangers are as desperate for centers as they are. I’m not going to make the same mistake I made last time when I vouched for a player who had come over from the Coyotes. That said, I am intrigued by this move and do feel it could work. But we’ll see what happens.

 

(Photo: Bridget Samuels/flickr)