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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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.

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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)

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)

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.)

**********

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 Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part II

Last week I tackled the Rangers goaltending and defense. If you missed it, you can read it here. Now it’s time for the fun part. Since this is going to get long, we’re going to get straight to it!

Derick Brassard (C, 80 games played, 27-31-58, +12) – As I mentioned in the first part of these reviews, plus/minus is a useless stat. That said, I have no idea how Brassard was a plus-12. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. There been a lot of talk of moving one of the Rangers top centers. If the team were to find and be able to get a true #1 center, Brassard might be the one to go. But those players don’t grow on trees so my guess is the Rangers will stick with the 1A/1B they currently have. Which means another year of cringing every time Brassard is forced to play outside the offensive zone … 75% to return

Jesper Fast (RW, 79 games played, 10-20-30, +9) – There are not a lot of players that are basically guaranteed to return. The moment the Rangers confirmed Vigneault was staying, I felt comfortable saying Fast would be back too. Fans joke about coaches having pets they refuse to take out of the lineup. Fast isn’t one of those but Vigneault absolutely loves him and why not? He is a perfect bottom six forward who doesn’t look out of place when put in the top six. All season, all we heard was how everyone wanted to play with Fast as he made his linemates better. It was obvious too. And I will take 30 points from him every year if I could … 95% to return

Tanner Glass (LW, 57 games played, 4-3-7, -3) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t hate Tanner Glass. He also was the least of the problems on the fourth line as he was extremely solid from the moment he returned from an early season stint in Hartford. Was he a player driving the offense every time he was on the ice? No, but he’s never been that in his career. Was he a liability on the ice? Honestly most of the top six were more of a liability on any given night. He has one year remaining so things could get interesting. Would someone trade for him? Maybe. Would the Rangers think about buying him out? It’s possible. But Vigneault likes him and since the rest of the fourth line might be gone, he could remain as the extra forward. Basically Glass is one of the reasons I’m not doing a straight “keep or dump” this year … 50% to return

HayesKevin Hayes (C, 79 games played, 14-22-36, +4) – Every year there is one player that I just don’t know what to write. This year, that is Hayes. He drives me absolutely crazy and I probably wouldn’t be upset if the Rangers decided to move on from this experiment. But I see the talent. It’s there. There’s a reason he was a first round draft pick. And I keep reminding myself that Kreider and Miller needed a few kicks before they figured it out so maybe Hayes is taking the same route. But he is so damn frustrating to watch. … 75% to return

Chris Kreider (LW, 79 games played, 21-22-43, +10) – Oh Christopher. I feel like I start his this way every year but it’s fitting. Funny part is I’ve seen everyone saying what a bad year he had and then look at his numbers (which are almost identical to Miller’s). Do the Rangers need more from the power forward? Absolutely. But his year wasn’t as horrible as everyone thinks it was. Personally, I wouldn’t give up on him. Yes his new contract will look bad to start. But if he finally puts it together, it should look like a steal in no time. And I still think he will put it together … 85% to return

Oscar Lindberg (C, 68 games played, 13-15-28, +12) – Lindberg had an interesting rookie season. He came flying out of the gates with 4 goals in his first 3 games. Everyone knew he couldn’t keep up that pace and he didn’t, although he was solid until the end of the year. There was a lot of questions over the last month when Lindberg appeared to be a healthy scratch for an extended period of time. Then the hip injury came out. There still hasn’t been any word of when he sustained the injury but I’m going to guess his play later in the year had something to do with it. Either way, it complicates his status for next year. While he is a young player who the Rangers probably want to keep, he may be a good chip to add into a big deal or help get draft picks back. I wouldn’t rush to trade him as he definitely showed a lot of promise in a bottom six role but changes are being made and this might be an easy one to do … 65% to return

J.T. Miller (C, 82 games played, 22-21-43, +10) – Raise your hand if you thought J.T. Miller would be a must sign at the start of year? Heck, raise your hand if you thought he would make it past the trade deadline? Give the 23 year old credit – he took a “show me” contract last summer and earned the raise he will absolutely get this year. His 16.30% shooting percentage (22 goals on 135 shots) was best on the team and he tied for first with 5 game winning goals. Is he perfect? Not even close, especially in the defensive zone. But he got rid of those blind passes through the center of the ice so you can see he’s learning. And he will continue to learn in NY … 90% to return

Dominic Moore (C, 80 games played, 6-9-15, -2) – All year I heard how his linemates were bringing Moore down. There’s only one problem with that – he played with plenty of guys and they all did fine when moved off his line. So maybe they weren’t the problem. Look I have nothing against Moore. It was a great story for him to come back and he really is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. The last two seasons he was more than serviceable in his role. But if we’re being honest, he had a really bad season this year. And because of it I think it’s safe to say his time in New York is up … 5% to return

Nash-BrassardRick Nash (LW, 60 games played, 15-21-36, +8) – Where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious – this was an injury plagued year for Nash. He missed a lot of games and had trouble coming back when he did return. Truth of the matter is, the Rangers need more from him. They know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. To sit and say the year was a failure, though, wouldn’t be accurate. Think of how bad the penalty kill was in January and February. Who was missing at that time? I get it. The Rangers aren’t paying him for his defense. But to ignore how good he is on that side of the puck would be ignorant. He’s very good defensively. But the Rangers need offense which is why, for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it to opening night next year. Although I do laugh at the fact I predicted this exact situation before the trade was even made … 55% to return

Eric Staal (C, as a Ranger: 20 games played, 3-3-6, +1) – Two years ago, everyone said give Marty St. Louis some time to adjust to a trade from the only home he’s really known. He was horrible that season after the trade (1-7-8 in 19 games) but had another year so everyone forgot. Same thing happened with Keith Yandle last year (2-9-11 in 21 games). But because Staal was only here for this season, everyone can’t believe how bad he was. These players need time to adjust. Staal never got the chance. Do I regret the trade? I wasn’t really for it the day it happened but I accepted it. Is it the worst trade the Rangers have made? Not even close. They tried, it didn’t work, move on. At least they didn’t give up another 1st round pick … 5% to return (I highly doubt he’s returning but it’s not impossible.)

StalbergViktor Stalberg (LW, 75 games played, 9-11-20, +6) – Sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong. Stalberg surprised me this year. While he definitely had some bad streaks, he had more good games than bad ones. I guess whatever Vigneault said to him in regards to this being his last shot finally sunk in. But while he was good, he wasn’t irreplaceable. Would I be upset if the Rangers kept him? No, assuming it’s a short term, cheap contract. His speed does help in both the bottom six and on the penalty kill. Will Stalberg be able to take this year and cash in elsewhere (similiar to Benoit Pouliot a few years ago)? Absolutely. And if that’s what he wants to do, I will wish that team as much luck as I wished Edmonton … 65% to return

Derek Stepan (C, 72 games played, 22-31-53, +5) – The best news regarding Stepan right now is that this isn’t a contract summer. There has been talk of possibly moving the young center but personally, I think that is one of the dumbest moves the Rangers could make. Yes he could get them a ton in a trade. But he wouldn’t get his replacement. I understand the Rangers need a true #1 center and Stepan isn’t that. (Although to be fair, at almost 47% he ended the year with his highest faceoff percentage in his career so there’s hope on that front.) But he does everything. And don’t forget how much he was missed during that month he was out. His defensive game did seem to take a step back but so did everyone this year. I’m not ignoring five years of fantastic play because of one below average season. I’m going with my gut and saying Rangers will do same thing … 90% to return

Mats Zuccarello (LW, 81 games played, 26-35-61, +2) – Going into the season, everyone was worried we might not see our favorite Norwegian on the ice again. Zuccarello had other plans, having a career year after a life threatening injury. But he’s very similar to his best friend when on the ice. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. (Yes I literally copied and pasted those same four sentences.) Honestly, no one can complain about what Zuccarello did this year so while there are only a few definites this summer, Zuccarello staying is probably one of them … 95% to return

 

If these percentages are accurate then yes, I realize there won’t be enough changes if the team really is in a new era. But there are reasons to keep almost every player on this roster and I’m sure the Rangers management realizes this which is why I’m really intrigued to see what they do. It’s going to be an interesting three months, that’s for sure.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Contracts: UFAs, RFAs + NTCs

From the moment the final buzzer sounded to end game 5 last Saturday afternoon, the assumption amongst Rangers fans and media was simple – change was coming. No one is expecting the team that left the ice that afternoon to be anywhere close to the one stepping on the ice at MSG in October.

But the question becomes what can change. I will do my usual “keep or dump” in the coming weeks (although I might take a different approach this year) but let’s look at the Rangers contract situations.

Unrestricted Free Agents

The Rangers have five unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Dan Boyle won’t be returning. The assumption is he will be retiring, as that is what he hinted at after his blowup at Brooks, but there hasn’t been any confirmation yet. Also probably not returning? Eric Staal and Dominic Moore.

Staal was never expected to return but I don’t think that was a slip up. As for Moore, his story was great but I think we can all agree it’s time to move on.

That leaves defenseman Keith Yandle and forward Viktor Stalberg. (Goaltender Antti Raanta was re-signed earlier this week.)

Personally, I think there are better options than Stalberg out there but if Vigneault likes him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return. I just see him as a player similar to Benoit Pouliot, who used one good year to get a long term contract he already isn’t living up to. And then there’s Yandle.

“It’s been nothing but amazing,” Yandle said of his time with the Rangers. “The way they treat their players, the way you come to the rink every day … it’s a pleasure to come to the rink and I can definitely see myself playing here and it’s one of those things — I have to weigh my options.”

My belief on Yandle has always been that he wants to go back “home” – either Boston or Arizona. His piece in the Players Tribune a few weeks ago made me think he might want to stay. But his quotes at break up day made me think he’s intrigued by free agency. Is he closing the door to returning? I doubt it. Do the Rangers want to keep him? Possibly. Is the money/term going to work? That’s the million dollar question (no pun intended).

Restricted Free Agents

RFAs have typically been where the fun is when it comes to contracts. This years’ candidates for last player to receive a deal are forwards Chris KreiderJ.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes along with defenseman Dylan McIlrath.

At the start of the year, if you asked any Rangers fan who of the three forwards would probably end up as the odd man out, they would’ve instantly said Miller. Now? He’s probably the first to be signed. Not many players should feel safe right now but odds are pretty high Miller will be remaining in blue.

Personally, I wouldn’t give up on Kreider yet either. If he spoke on breakup day, he didn’t say much as I saw no quotes from him. But if the team plans to keep Vigneault, they can’t get rid of their fastest player. As for Hayes, Vigneault was asked if he was in the organizations plans going forward and responded:

We’ll see if that remains the case in the next few weeks.

That leaves McIlrath. While Vigneault said the back end is where they need to look to change, I’m not sure moving the rookie is what he was implying. I said all season that McIlrath was a clear #7 when the others were playing to their capabilities and would be a regular next year. We’ll see if I’m right.

No Trade + No Move Clauses

Here comes the fun. If the Rangers really want to make changes, they will need to touch their long term contracts and most of those have some type of move clause attached to them.

The top three candidates are Rick Nash (limited no trade clause), Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (both no move clauses).

Nash, when asked, replied:

“It’s hard not to worry about it. I love the city, I love the organization, but the realistic side to it is that you don’t know what’s going to happen over the summer.”

Most assume he’s the most logical to move. It would be a big shake up as well as free up a bunch of space. But while he didn’t score this year, he was a 42 goal scorer last season and most assume he’s closer to that then the 15 goal scorer we saw this year.

As for the two defensemen, that’s where it gets interesting. Girardi has four years remaining while Staal has five years. Both would need to approve any move except a buyout. (Since they have a no move, they can request to skip the waiver period needed before the buyout period but if I am understanding the CBA correctly, they can still be bought out.)

Many have mentioned buying out Girardi. If the Rangers choose to, this would be the cap hit over the next eight years:

Girardi-numbers

From a business standpoint, I would rather have the option of the player than that hit for that length of time. Yes they save money next year but they really hurt themselves the following years. Staal’s numbers are even worse which is probably why very few have mentioned that for him.

Other options to move? Derick Brassard who currently has a modified no trade clause (terms are unknown), Mats Zuccarello who has a full no trade clause or maybe Derek Stepan, who unfortunately for him isn’t old enough to have a trade clause. (Players cannot have a clause added to their contract until they are in their UFA years. It is believed Stepan has one for the end of his contract.)

Is the organization actually thinking of moving any of those players? Who knows. But it’s probably safe to assume anything is possible when your coach says the following:

“I think we’re at the stage now that we need to look at some changes,” Vigneault said days after the crash-and-burn, five-game first-round defeat to the Penguins. “For any NHL team, status quo is not possible and it is not what’s needed.

“We want to bring in different players to add to the dynamic. The core guys have been together for a while. Certainly it’s time to look at what we can do to improve.”

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

The Day After: Additional Thoughts On Rangers-Red Wings

Two years ago, the Rangers and Red Wings played a January game at MSG that turned into a goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard. It was said to be one of the best games of that year. I was supposed to be at the game. Instead I was lying in bed with the flu. (Side note: If hockey players feel even half as bad as I did over those five days when they are “out with the flu”, I have no idea how they even think of trying to play through it.) I guess the goaltenders wanted to give me another chance to live through that game by playing the one they did last night.

Anyway, Tom Albano did a great recap of the game (that you can see here, if you haven’t seen already) but I had a couple of things to add from being at the game.

– In case you missed it, Marek Hrivik was recalled to replace Dan Paille on the fourth line and made his NHL debut last night. He didn’t get much ice time (7:32, to be exact) but I’m going to assume he was solid in that time. Why? Because other than specifically looking for him over the first few minutes, I never noticed him on the ice. I’m going to take that as a sign he didn’t make any mistakes. It will be interesting to see if his minutes go up once he goes through a few practices or if he is even still here a week from now.

– Everybody, including myself, kept asking why Jimmy Howard remembers how to be a goaltender any time he steps on the ice at MSG. One possible reason? He grew up in Syracuse, NY and his favorite player as a kid was Mike Richter.

– The disallowed goal. From the replay I saw, it looked like the right call even though there was plenty of time between the contact with Howard and the shot by Kevin Hayes. I’ve also heard mention that Howard tripped Oscar Lindberg which is what caused the contact. (I’ll admit I missed that part.) The Rangers said after the game they asked why no tripping call on Howard. If Lindberg was indeed tripped, it’s a good question. Here’s my issue with the entire thing, which is the same issue most people have with the NHL – consistency. Remember the “wheel of justice” people used to jokingly spin for suspensions? These reviews are worse. What one officiating crew thinks should be disallowed another feels is a good goal. They need to figure it out before April because I can see it now – a playoff series will be decided on one of these calls. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s in the Final again, as it was in 2014.

I also couldn’t help but think of this Marian Hossa quote from a few weeks ago when the announcement was made:

“The league wants to get more goals, but it seems like the rule is doing a good job of taking good goals away,” Hossa said. “Last year, definitely, that would be a goal. No questions asked.”

He’s right. Only in the NHL.

– To be honest, what irritated me more than the no goal was the penalties called in the second and third periods. J.T. Miller get rocked at center ice leading to Derick Brassard going after Helm. I completely agree Brassard should have had the extra penalty and have no problem with him taking it. But holding on him and nothing else? So basically the penalty was for the two of them hugging it out. Since when is that a penalty? (It should have been roughing or nothing.)

Then you have the invisible penalties to Keith Yandle (his second one) and Dan Girardi. I have no idea how you call interference on a guy being high sticked other than wanting to keep the penalties even. And to be fair, I didn’t see Quincey’s tripping penalty on Derek Stepan and have seen some mention that the penalty shot was the wrong call. (It looked like the right call to me but I guess that could go either way. Didn’t really matter as I’m pretty sure everyone in the building knew Fast wasn’t scoring on it.)

– As for the only goal of the game, who ever thought we would be saying the words “that was a incredible game saving defensive play by Chris Kreider in overtime”? I know I never thought I would say that but wow. I just remember thinking Henrik Lundqvist made a great save and then wondering why the puck was all of a sudden back in play. If a Red Wing had found that puck instead of Kreider, game over. I guess that’s one positive to 3-on-3 as there was no way there would be a Red Wing that close to the net at that point.

But between the play Kreider makes, the speed and pass by Kevin Hayes and the smarts of Kevin Klein to be ready to shoot, that goal was beautiful. And it basically came from three players you wouldn’t expect it from. (It also shows what type of team the Rangers currently have that those guys are on the ice together in overtime. Kreider, if playing to his believed potential, should be out there. The others? I’m not so sure.)

– And finally, before the game Vigneault was asked about any other call ups from Hartford (namely on defense). His response was along the lines of probably not as they are trying to keep cap space available for one or two moves in the next week. The belief around the league is the Rangers are all in on making a run this year, which is what I’ve expected all along. I’ve also said the Rangers are going to do something. The question is what. We’ll know a week from today.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)