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:

roster2016

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)

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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.)

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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 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.

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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.

Why?

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)

Rangers Start to Re-Sign RFAs as Arbitration Looms

Four days after the frenzy of July 1st signals another deadline, of sorts – filing for arbitration.

Players had until 5 pm today to file for arbitration while teams have until 5 pm tomorrow to do the same. Of the Rangers restricted free agents, the following players are arbitration eligible:

  • Chris Kreider
  • J.T. Miller
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Dylan McIlrath
  • Marek Hrivik
  • Mat Bodie
  • Tommy Hughes

Of the names on that list, Mat Bodie didn’t need to worry about filing as he re-signed earlier in the day. Shortly after the Rangers announced that, they also announced RFA Nicklas Jensen was also re-signed. Jensen didn’t have arbitration rights but is expected to fight for a roster spot in training camp so this was an important one to get done. Per Larry Brooks, both contracts are one year, two-way at $600k.

That left six others who could possibly elect arbitration. To the surprise of no one, four of them did as Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath filed before the 5 pm deadline. Does this mean they are headed to arbitration? No it doesn’t, and I stand by my belief that none of them will get there. It just means we have a deadline of when they will sign by and won’t have to worry about them not being around in training camp. The other positive? No offer sheets for any of these players. Not that anyone really expected one anyway.

As for Marek Hrivik and Tommy Hughes, the fact they didn’t file leads me to expect their contracts to be done shortly.  (I don’t expect there to be any issues with either re-signing.)

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And now we wait for more news. Something is going to happen. Everyone knows it. Just no one knows what, which is exactly how the Rangers like to do business.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Find New Asst Coach (+ Go Bargain Hunting)

July 1st always makes me laugh. Teams cry they don’t have money and then they spend an exorbitant amount on players they probably don’t need. The good news is the Rangers decided to sit on the sidelines of the frenzy today. In fact, their biggest news came before free agency officially opened when they (finally) announced who their new assistant coach would be:

Honestly, I would’ve been happy if that was the only thing the Rangers did all day. No it wasn’t a surprise, but it was what everyone wanted and expected from the moment Ulf Samuelsson left. Jeff Beukeboom is a fan favorite in New York and has been working with the organizations’ defense for the past four years in Hartford. If he manages to make the Rangers defense look competent next year, he will reach Messier status with this fan base.

An hour later, free agency opened and Rangers fans watched as mediocre teams threw loads of money at players they hoped would get them over the hump. We also watched as Eric Staal signed with Minnesota and Viktor Stalberg headed to Carolina. (Side note: I expected Stalberg to get a lot more than he did.)

It looked like the Rangers were going to stay out of the day completely when the bargain deals started rolling in. First, defenseman Adam Clendening.

Clendening bounced around a little bit last year but originally was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2011. I honestly don’t know much about him other than he went to Boston University, is 23-years old and will be a depth defenseman for the Rangers. (He’s either #7 or starting the year in Hartford.) He comes in at a very reasonable one year, two way deal at $600k/$300k.

He was joined a couple hours later by another ex-Blackhawk depth defenseman in Michael Paloitta. To be honest, all I know about him is he helped Lake Erie win the Calder Cup this past season. He is also on a one year, two way deal at $600k/$70k but expect him to be headed straight for Hartford.

Then came the “names”, if you will, as Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe joined the organization. What do they have in common besides both being forwards? Their resumes include speed and penalty killing. At least the Rangers realized a weakness last year and focused on fixing it.

Born in Austria, Grabner was a first round draft pick (14th overall) in 2006. (This is why the Rangers don’t keep their first round picks. They would rather go acquire ones from other teams.) The right winger, who will be 29 when the season begins, joins the team for two years at a very reasonable $1.6 million per year. (Considering his actual salary was $5 million last year, it’s safe to say he will be looking to redeem himself.) He spent 2015-16 with Maple Leafs but Rangers fans know him more for his years with the Islanders. During those five seasons, the Rangers watched as he put up 90 goals and 54 assists for 144 points. He currently is tied for fourth in the league in shorthanded goals (12) since 2010-11 and won the fastest skater competition at the All-Star game in 2011. (Carl Hagelin won it the next season.)

Gerbe is known for one thing – his size. At 5’5″, he is actually smaller than Mats Zuccarello. (I’ve seen them stand next to each other, it’s close.) Born in Michigan, Gerbe will also be 29 when the season begins. He has amassed 138 points (58-80) in almost 400 NHL games with the Sabres and Hurricanes. Unlike Grabner, who may be pegged for a more offensive role, Gerbe was definitely brought in to fill out the bottom six. Personally, I expect him to be the left wing on the fourth line unless the team is hit by a ton of injuries.

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So far, that’s all the team has done. To be honest, that’s probably more than anyone expected them to do as the Rangers weren’t expected to be big players today. Now the fun begins as teams who missed out on free agents are more willing to make trades. Someone who still has a contract for next year won’t be here in September. The question is who? My guess is we’ll find out sometime this month.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus. Yes that is Kevin Hayes talking with Adam Clendening. This was taken at the Comm Ave Classic (BU vs BC charity game) last July.)

Thoughts On The Rangers 2016-17 Schedule

We learned yesterday that the Rangers would be opening at home for the first time in 10 seasons against the Islanders. That game will be part of six (out of nine) games played at MSG in October. As for the rest of the schedule, while there may be other dates added to fans “must see” lists in the coming weeks, here’s what we know for sure:

* Once again teams will play every team at least twice. For the Rangers, they will have a home and home with every team in the west, three games with every team in the Atlantic Division and at least four games against Metro Division opponents. This year, we get lucky enough to see Columbus and Pittsburgh five times. I knew the Penguins would be on that list.

* Speaking of the Stanley Cup champs, the Rangers first match up with the Penguins comes on November 21st as part of a home and home that week with our division rivals. In the past few seasons, the first game against the team that eliminated the Rangers the previous year meant something. This year? Not so much. It’s just another annoying game against Pittsburgh, except this time with even more Penguins love than normal.

* In regards to back-to-backs, the Rangers are down to 15 after having 17 last year. The bad news? Four of those are consecutively in March. In a 15-day span, the Rangers will play 8 games and every one is part of a back-to-back. (They also have another back-to-back the week before that span.) I don’t even know where to start with that. As for the breakdown, none will be consecutive home games and only four will start at home before going on the road, same amount as ones that are completely on the road. That leaves seven games that start on the road and then have the boys returning home. I need to check the numbers but my memory seems to be the Rangers play poorly in the second half of those. I’m also sure most of those teams will be waiting in New York for the Rangers to return.

* Every team also has a mandatory Bye Week this year, where there are no games or practices. For the Rangers, that takes place in the beginning of January as the team has nothing between a road game vs Blue Jackets on January 7th and a home game vs Maple Leafs on January 13th.

* Another date to circle? February 28, 2017 as that is the Trade Deadline. Of course the Rangers are again home that evening. Wonder what “shiny new toy” will be making their debut against the Capitals that night.

* Looks like the Rangers will spend a lot of October and November at home with 14 out of 24 games at MSG (6 of 9 and 8 of 15, respectively) and a lot of March on the road with 10 out of 15 away from MSG, including the California roadtrip at the end of the month.

* As for the holidays, the Rangers are doing something a little different this year. The Rangers will once again be home the day before American Thanksgiving, this time hosting the Penguins. Day after? Once again part of the NBC Thanksgiving Showdown in Philadelphia that Friday. I guess instead of Florida they are surrounding themselves with Pennsylvania that week. As for New Years’ Eve, the team will actually be in Denver as part of a two game road trip leading into the new year.

* Speaking of road trips, the Rangers longest this year is only four games, which happens twice (once in November and once in March). Their longest homestand is also only four games which occurs in early February. At least they have a balanced schedule this year.

* Finally, the Rangers last game of the season is at home against the Penguins on April 9th. It is part of a back-to-back with the team in Ottawa the day before. Considering the rest of April sees them playing the Flyers and Capitals, I’m just going to say the Senators game is a must win and pray the other three mean nothing. I know I say this every year but seriously, can we make sure those games mean nothing, boys? Please?

 

You can see the full schedule here. And with that, let the countdown begin. Only 114 days until the craziness starts again!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)