As was the case seven years ago, the NHL owners and players are very far apart heading into the final months of labor negotiations prior to the scheduled open of the 2012-2013 season. If there aren’t some serious compromises by both sides, it’s unlikely that the season will start on time.
While that’s an unpleasant thought for Rangers fans, it also might be a good thing for the team’s fortunes next season, assuming it is held in a shortened fashion.
- Marian Gaborik will have more time to heal. Despite his efforts, GM Glen Sather has been unable to find another big offensive threat this summer. The Blueshirts are woefully thin on scoring depth without Gaborik leading the way and they may really struggle with him out of the lineup. However, a month or two of lost season may be just the time Gaborik needs to recover from his torn labrum, allowing him to lead New York’s offense again from the first game of the year. An extra month or two could also bring Michael Sauer closer to a return and it would give many of the Rangers’ black and blue shot blockers a little extra time to recharge.
- The team could use the rest. It’s not a coincidence in recent years that many teams that go deep into the playoffs struggle mightily the next season. Those 20 extra games the Blueshirts played last season could hurt the team next year, especially considering many of New York’s youngsters are still adapting to the gruel of an 82-game regular season, which differs tremendously from the shortened college schedule that Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider are all accustomed to. The extra rest could help other teams too, but some of New York’s players might really benefit from just a little bit more time off.
- The Rangers are in good shape with the salary cap and could be poised to strike under the new CBA. Although the first proposal from the owners is a far cry from the eventual resolution to collective bargaining, it’s still very likely that the salary cap ceiling will be significantly lower under the new CBA. Sather has been very frugal and patient this summer and that could pay off. Some teams haven’t been quite as careful and may have to scramble to shed dollars, meaning Sather could be in position to snatch up quality players at a discount rate. Even if the lower cap number doesn’t go into effect until next summer, the Rangers could still benefit for the same reason as they go fishing in a loaded 2013 free agent pool.
- The increasing likelihood of a work stoppage means Sather can be even more patient in negotiations with Columbus GM Scott Howson. With Gaborik potentially available for the start of the season, the Rangers’ need to add scoring may not be as dire as presently thought. That means that Howson has less leverage in negotiations to dump Rick Nash.
So while this surely doesn’t make any of us actually want a lockout, there is an optimistic way of looking at things.