Derek Stepan Back For Six More Years

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh? Actually, the Rangers went past the last minute as they asked for more time once 9 am hit rather than go into the arbitration room. And what did they do with that time:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAbout damn time. Inside I knew this was never going to the actual hearing. I just don’t understand why the Rangers can’t resolve these contracts before the day of the hearing. Why did both sides need to make a trip to Toronto to get this done? It doesn’t make sense to me.

The best news is the term:  

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Are you kidding me with that term? That is an absolutely perfect contact for Stepan. Sure he probably wanted more (and maybe market value says he should’ve gotten more), but in reality that is what he is worth. And that shouldn’t force the team to have to cut other players in order to not be up against the cap.

From the Rangers release:

Stepan was one of two NHL players who ranked tied for fifth or higher on his respective team in all of the following categories in 2014-15: assists, points, game-winning goals, plus/minus rating, shots on goal, power play goals, power play assists, power play points, shorthanded goals, shorthanded assists, and shorthanded points (along with Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks). In addition, he was one of three NHL players who tallied 55 or more points, posted a plus/minus rating of plus-25 or better, and recorded 25 or fewer penalty minutes in 2014-15.

I really want to know what the Rangers argument would have been if they did go to arbitration. Would they have said Stepan should’ve been better than Toews rather than tied with him? And if those facts weren’t enough:

In addition, Stepan is one of five Rangers in franchise history who have tallied at least 40 points in each of their first five NHL seasons. He is also one of three Rangers in franchise history, and the only forward, to post a plus/minus rating of plus-eight or better in each of his first five NHL seasons.

He’s also the only Ranger player to have a hat trick in his NHL debut. And probably one of only a few to play every game for his first four straight seasons. Honestly that release had more good stats then even I knew existed for Stepan so it’s pretty clear the Rangers had no desire to let this get ugly.

So they didn’t. And now Derek Stepan is signed for another six years and the Rangers and their fans can officially start thinking of next season. Is it October 7th yet?

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Why The Rangers + Stepan Shouldn’t Go To Arbitration

The clock is ticking. There is less than 24 hours before the Rangers and Derek Stepan are due to be in a Toronto court room to hash out a new contract for the teams’ top six center. Yesterday, numbers were given – the Rangers asked for $5.2 million while Stepan wanted $7.25 million. The Rangers number is ridiculously low while Stepan’s is honestly lower than I expected. So what does it all mean? There’s no reason the two sides should ever step into that court room.

Is there a huge gap between those numbers? Absolutely. But the Rangers don’t actually think they can get him to sign for that low (or possibly even want to). And the fact Stepan is only asking for $7.25 million per year means he knows he’s getting less. That right there is a huge win for the Rangers as many believed Stepan would only take over $7 million. This tells me he’s willing to take less.

(Let’s have a quick arbitration lesson. The two sides give their dollar amounts and the arbitrator always picks somewhere in the middle. If Stepan wanted $7+ million, he would’ve asked for over $8 million, which is honestly the number I was expecting his arbitration ask to be.)

So, you may ask, why isn’t this already resolved? That is the million dollar question (no pun intended). I have no idea, especially since there were rumors late last week that the difference was actually quite small with the Rangers wanting six years at between $6.5 – $6.75 million and Stepan wanting seven years at $7.25 – $7.5 million. If that’s all it was then one side needs to bend on years (possibly Rangers) and the other on money (Stepan, that’s you) – seven years at $6.75 million and we’re done with a contract both sides should honestly be happy with.

That said, it’s possible there is something else holding this up. Or it’s possible the Rangers are doing what they always do with their home grown forwards – waiting until the last possible second to get something done. Is it possible that both sides are in Toronto tomorrow morning? Yes. Should they actually walk into that court room so a third party can resolve this contract? No, they shouldn’t. And even with the clock ticking, I still don’t expect them to. The Rangers saw how much they needed Stepan when he was hurt last October. Now they need to admit it to him.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Roster Predictions For 2015-16 Rangers

It’s the dog days of summer meaning that finding hockey news is as easy as finding an arena with ice in July. So what do fans and writers do during this time? Speculate and start rumors. It makes me long for the heart-stopping days of the playoffs.

I’m going to be honest – I don’t claim to know everything. If I did, I would work for the team or at least somewhere within the league or actually covering the team. But by following the team AS A FAN, I’ve figured a few things out.

For instance, I usually assume a forward coming off his entry level contract with no arbitration rights, won’t be signed until September. Apparently that’s changed now, or at least for this summer. As for a player with arbitration rights? He’ll be signed the morning of his hearing. (They couldn’t have changed this one too?)

With stuff like that in mind, a few things I expect for the start of the season. Again, I have no connections. I have no way of knowing what will happen. These are just my guesses from what I’ve seen and heard (which admittedly is what the team wants fans to see and hear).

* Barring some unforeseen circumstances (i.e. a major injury on defense in training camp), Brady Skjei will start in Hartford. I get all the anticipation for him and from the sounds of it, he will be a big part of the team sooner rather than later. But with all six defenseman returning from last year plus the addition of Raphael Diaz, there is no need to rush him. And if they need anyone else? Chris Summers is still around and there’s always Dylan McIlrath. Do I think Skjei will spend the entire year in Hartford? No, I honestly don’t. But he’ll start there just as the guy everyone has been comparing him to did. And that guy has done just fine.

* Kevin Klein will be on the Rangers opening night roster. Will he be on the roster after the All-Star break? Again barring an injury back there, I say no. Might not make the start of 2016 either but would be surprised if he will be with the team in New Jersey on February 2nd. He will be in Chicago on October 7th though…and not because the Blackhawks traded for him.

* Know who else will be on the opening night roster? Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. I understand one makes a lot of money and the other is about to. But teams in win-now mode don’t trade their leading goal scorer or the player who lead their team in points over the past three combined years. And the Rangers are still in win-now mode. In fact they will continually be in win-now mode until some guy named Henrik Lundqvist retires. And those two players are a big part in helping them get to where they want to be.

* One more roster prediction – both Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle will be on the Rangers roster when the playoffs begin. And yes, the Rangers will be in the playoffs. Ignore the negativity that surrounds the team every year at this time. (Last summer they were going to barely make the playoffs, if they even made them at all, after all the players who left. That’s exactly what the President’s Trophy signifies, barely making the playoffs.)

* In regards to predictions of where the Rangers will land come April, I won’t begin to guess that. I never have in the past and I won’t again. I am perfectly okay with everyone predicting they will either be fighting for a playoff spot or miss entirely. They tend to play better when they are looked as an underdog. That said, I’m not sure how anyone can consider a team who has been in the conference final or further three out of the past four seasons an underdog. Only the Kings and Blackhawks can say that, and no one ever considers them one.

And with that, we go back to relaxing and preparing for another long season as it will be here before we know it. Less than two months until training camp begins!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Small Updates From Around The Rangers

I am going to be completely honest – there really isn’t anything going on with the Rangers right now. But since I’ve been away and haven’t posted, I’m posting so that something does happen. Maybe a certain signing?

Speaking of signings, the Rangers did have one over the weekend as they signed Mat Bodie, their last RFA, without arbitration rights:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI haven’t seen any terms but I’m sure it’s a two-way deal since he will be spending the year in Hartford. (Unless he surprises everyone at some point this year, I would assume he never puts on a Rangers jersey after preseason. If he does, that probably means the Rangers had a lot of serious injuries on the backend this year.)

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As for the Rangers regular season, most fans have December 11th circled on their calendars as that is when the Rangers head to Edmonton. Sure fans want to see Connor McDavid but that should also be the first Henrik Lundqvist vs. Cam Talbot showdown. Now there’s another reason to watch that night as it will also be the night the Oilers raise a banner for Rangers president Glen Sather:  

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Sather was behind the Oilers dynasty of the 80s so this is completely deserved and actually surprising it took this long to do. Should be a great night for both teams.

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And lastly, we have news on an ex-Ranger as Marty St. Louis discussed his retirement with the media yesterday. You can read about it here, as well as see full video of his press conference on Blueshirts United (part 1, part 2 and part 3).

The first quote that caught my eye? When he mentioned before July 1st it was 80/20 that he would retire this summer. I said the moment he announced his retirement that it had nothing to do with offers he received when free agency opened. He made the decision too quickly not to have thought about it before the offers came in. I think if the Rangers had wanted to bring him back, he would’ve tried one more year. Once they said they couldn’t, his heart was with his family. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Simply put, it sounds like his heart wasn’t in it. I don’t want to say I could tell as the year went on as his play doesn’t deserve a comment such as that but I do think he made the right decision. He got to the point that he would rather spend the summer with his kids than train for another NHL season. No one can be mad at him for that.

The interesting part to me was when he spoke about how much Tampa meant to him. I do believe him when he says that. Lightning fans feel differently and I’m really intrigued to see if the team plans to do something either this year or down the road to honor his time down there. While I’m not sure how fans would feel, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something on either November 19th or December 30th. That said, they may be better off waiting till at least next year.

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And with that, we can go back to summer vacation. Until a certain Rangers puts his name on a contract which will happen within the next week. It just better happen in either New York or Minnesota, not Toronto.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Keep Working, Re-Sign Fast + Miller

I knew when Dylan McIlrath signed earlier in the day that he wouldn’t be the only one today. I just wasn’t expecting two out of the three big ones to be crossed off the list. I am 100% convinced that Gorton was on vacation until this week and plans to be back on vacation starting next week.

First it was Jesper Fast:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsGetting Fast back in the fold was a no-brainer and never looked to be a problem. The fact that they got him signed for two years at $950k per year is incredible. (I had him pegged for between $1 – $1.2 million.)

But then came the real magic as the Rangers also announced this:  

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J.T. Miller didn’t just sign, he signed his qualifying offer which was one year at approximately $874k. I am shocked. Not only did I assume he would get double that but I also never in my wildest dreams expected him to sign this early. Honestly, I had him pegged as the “problem RFA”, a.k.a. the player who signed while the rest of the team was taking physicals at the start of camp. And the fact he signed his qualifying offer? Since when do Rangers players do that?

According to Larry Brooks, Miller opted to protect his arbitration rights by taking his qualifier and therefore being able to get a bigger deal next year. If he takes the next step as expected, it could work like a charm for him. I’ll ignore the fact it is making next summer an even bigger disaster as a couple of Boston boys, actually all of the Boston boys currently on the team, need new contracts.

So what does that leave? Well Mat Bodie needs a contract but that will be an easy one that will be taken care of soon (if it hasn’t been already). Which only leaves one more…

Derek Stepan.

At this point if they go to arbitration, I will be pissed off. Gorton has done a phenomenial job of taking care of everyone else for less than everyone predicted meaning there is plenty of money remaining for Stepan. (Plenty as in what most people expect him to get. He doesn’t need to take more just because it’s there.)

I will be away for the weekend so I’m expecting this to be taken care of then. This way Gorton can go back to his summer vacation plans starting Monday.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Another One Down, Rangers Re-Sign McIlrath

One look at what the Rangers have done the past two days tells me that the front office had been on vacation to start the month…and wants to get back on vacation as soon as possible. No complaints on that.

After re-signing Oscar Lindberg and Emerson Etem yesterday, the Rangers continued to lock in their RFAs this morning. Next up, Dylan McIlrath:

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It is a one-way contract for one year at $600k. I’ll admit that is cheaper than I expected. As for the contract, the one-way means he will be paid the same amount whether he plays in the NHL or AHL so in regards to those of us watching the team, it means nothing to us.

Belief is that McIlrath has made strides in his play and could be close if not ready to make the jump to the NHL. He played 73 games last year and had six goals, 17 points and 165 penalty minutes. I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to watch him play so I’m intrigued to see him in training camp.

McIlrath will be subjected to waivers (I believe due to his age & how many pro games he’s already played) so it will be interesting to see how he does in camp as well as the Rangers plans for the roster. Right now, I don’t see a spot for him unless they plan to keep him around as a spare which really doesn’t make sense to me. But if he proves he deserves a spot, it’s possible we will see another defenseman traded before the start of the season. Either way, this is a big camp for the guy known as the Undertaker.

Four more to go, Gorton!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Re-Sign Lindberg, Etem

Looks like things might be a little different around the Rangers this summer. Typically, free agents with no leverage (i.e. RFAs with no arbitration rights) are the last to sign. But today the Rangers locked two of them up.

First came this signing:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsNot surprised Oscar Lindberg was signed before the RFAs we are all waiting for. While many have him penciled in for opening night, he is still a prospect who will be fighting for a spot in camp and could start in Hartford. In other words, his contract wasn’t going to be an issue.

The surprise came with the next signing:  

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I honestly didn’t expect Emerson Etem to be the first of the “big four” to sign. Problem is we’ve all penciled him in for the Rangers and assumed he will be on the team. He has bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL so that probably shouldn’t have been a guarantee which may explain the next part.

As for terms on both:

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Lindberg is exactly what I expected. (Brooks actually later updated that to say it was $650,000 per year. I know every penny counts but not a big difference there.) Surprised Etem signed for his qualifying offer but that explains why his was done so early. He probably wants to prove what he can do and then try to cash in next year. For now, that works for the Rangers.

With both Lindberg and Etem signed, that leaves five RFAs to go – Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Dylan McIlrath and Mat Bodie. If I had to guess, the last three will be the next ones signed. It is possible the team is done until the end of the month when Stepan is sorted out but it’s possible they want to see how much they have available for him. Either way, I’d expect most of those guys to be signed before August.

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On a separate note, news came out today that ex-Ranger Taylor Pyatt has decided to retire. It’s no secret his signing didn’t work out here but that doesn’t mean we can’t wish him the best as he moves on to the next stage of his life. Enjoy your retirement, Taylor!

 

(Photo: Photo: Chris Rutsch/flickr)