Ryan McDonagh probably won’t be getting a contract extension this summer

June 11, 2012, by

In a season full of surprises, none was bigger than 22-year-old defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

The former Wisconsin Badger was stolen from Montreal in the laughable Scott Gomez salary dump, arguably Glen Sather’s greatest transaction as general manager of the New York Rangers.

McDonagh spent the first half of the 2010-2011 season quietly honing his game in Connecticut before being called up on January 3, 2011.

He immediately clicked with Michael Sauer, bolstering New York’s second defensive pair just in time for the playoff push.

But even McDonagh’s stellar rookie season couldn’t prepare us for his monster 2011-2012 campaign.

With Marc Staal lost to a concussion, McDonagh joined Dan Girardi on the top pair and matched the 2012 All-Star every step of the way.

McDonagh really stole the spotlight in the postseason and his signature moment came in the triple overtime Game Three thriller against Washington when McDonagh logged a ridiculous 53:17 and blocked eight shots.

Following his banner year, many Rangers fans are clamoring for the team’s number one priority this offseason to be signing McDonagh to a long-term contract extension.  While there’s no question that McDonagh is worth far more than the paltry $1.3 million he made this season, an extension isn’t likely forthcoming.

McDonagh represents one of the best bargains in the league entering the final year of his Entry Level deal and New York isn’t likely to open contract negotiations early.

On the open market, McDonagh could likely command $5 million per season.  The Blueshirts might be able to lock him up for slightly less if they attempted to sign him now – say $4 million per year – considering the advantage of immediate financial security and the comparable recent deals inked by Staal and Girardi.

However, that’s not the way New York has done business in recent years.

Part of what has made the Blueshirts so successful is the team’s radically altered economic philosophy, one in which young commodities that far outperform their contracts are highly preferable to overpaid veterans.

Of course, the Rangers figured that out a bit later than many other teams, but they are now among the most cost conscious organizations when it comes to following their carefully designed plan for exploiting young talent.

It’s very advantageous for the Blueshirts to employ McDonagh at a discounted rate for the short term as it frees up plenty of cash and it also gives the organization protection in case McDonagh’s development stalls or he succumbs to injury.

Those reasons are why the Blueshirts have preferred to stretch Entry Level contracts to the max before issuing paydays.

Consider the recent youngsters that were due for new Broadway deals:

  • Brian Boyle – Scheduled for arbitration date on July 25, 2011, inked a two-year $3.4 million deal a couple of weeks before hearing
  • Brandon Dubinsky – Re-signed for four-years, $16.8 million the morning of his 2011 arbitration appointment
  • Ryan Callahan – Signed a three-year, $12.825 million deal hours before his arbitration hearing last summer.
  • Mike Sauer – Avoided arbitration hearing last summer by signing a two-year, $2.5 million deal
  • Dan Girardi – Avoided scheduled arbitration date and was re-signed for four-years, $13.325 million in 2010
  • Marc Staal – Inked a five-year, $19.875 million contract after a holdout in 2010

McDonagh would be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning New York could choose to take him to arbitration to settle on a new salary. The Blueshirts may also control McDonagh’s rights for a couple of more seasons, depending on what happens with the new CBA.  And unfortunately for McDonagh, he has very little leverage to change anything about his current situation.

The Blueshirts have been unafraid to threaten young players with arbitration hearings in recent years and though nearly all have re-upped before ever setting foot in court, the team has ended up with cap-friendly deals in nearly every situation.

However it’s quite possible that the Blueshirts could regret not extending McDonagh now for a few reasons:

  • Failing to extend McDonagh could also burn the Rangers (if you want to look at it that way) should NBC Sports Network’s Pierre McGuire’s playoff prediction that McDonagh will grow into a 50-point player come true, for high-scoring defensemen have a much easier time negotiating giant paydays.
  • Though it’s unlikely there will be dramatic changes to the economic system for handling young players with the new CBA, there is at least a chance and the Rangers’ current plans could be thrown for a loop.

No one wants to see hard-working homegrown players that have earned new contracts be shortchanged, but the reality is that the savings gained by employing young, cheap players makes extra cash available to go after the missing piece of the puzzle in unrestricted free agency, be it Brad Richards a season ago or Zach Parise this summer.

New York does risk the possibility of angering some of its core players that believe they’ve earned raises with their service to the franchise, but thus far the Blueshirts have avoided such confrontations and McDonagh doesn’t seem like the type to stir the pot.

There exists a fine line between antagonizing a player and playing to win within the league’s economic rules, but GM Glen Sather has done a phenomenal job of straddling it over the last few seasons.

And if the Blueshirts do surprisingly end up paying McDonagh a year early, it should show you just how valuable they consider him.



  1. Zen says:

    Good write-up. Just a note on the angering issue… I don’t believe that is an problem in the NHL as players have to play out their current contracts either way. Aren’t extensions just tacked on at the end of their current contracts?

    • The Suit says:

      Yes. Other than Crobsy, I can’t think of another RFA who has signed a contract extension a year before his contract was up.

  2. Kevin says:

    Solid points, you’re both right that the fits over extensions and renegotiations are not nearly as prevalent in hockey as in other sports.

    • Chris says:

      Great post Kevin. He’s a bargain and it makes too much sense to just throw money at him just as a ‘reward’. He’ll get a good pay day when it’s actually due

  3. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I just read this and man I hope the draft pans out like that….I highly doubt it….but it would be awesome…we could easily end up with great pics as discussed in previous post


    As for McDonagh post this could go both ways…We have to reward our young kids….who deserve it and certainly McD has earned an appropriate contract. So it will be very interesting to see how his negotiation will unfold. In 2 years he will be one of the top 5 D men in the entire league.

  4. Leatherneckinlv says:

    did my post get deleted?

    • Dave says:

      When you post a link in a comment our spam filter automatically picks it up as spam. We have to manually go in and approve a lot of comments because of this.

  5. Jess says:

    Sorry Kevin but I have to disagree with you here as the Rangers have traditionally not extended contracts especially for those who would be entering RFA status.

    It is highly unlikely that RFA will gain any better bargaining position in the new CBA so McDonagh won’t have any kind of leverage like arbitration for another year AFTER his current ELC expires.

    I think you are under the wrong impression that it was the NYR who filed for arbitration but that is not true in the cases of Dubinsky and Callahan as they were the ones who filed.

    And to be honest, of the most recent RFAs to get new deals only Callahan and Girardi gave the NYR real value for their dollar.

    Dubinsky, Boyle and Anisimov all struggled after receiving new deals.

    Sather and Jeff Gorton are doing the right thing not giving out extensions the uncertainty of the next CBA

    • Kevin says:

      Not sure what you’re referring to with the first 2 grafs Jess as I explained why he wouldn’t be getting the extension…
      Point of the whole thing is that the Rangers don’t do business ahead of time, don’t give raises before necessary.
      Anisimov and Boyle may not have exceeded expectations, but neither was too far off their monetary worth IMO.
      I think only time will tell if it’s the right decision, for reasons stated above.