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Free agency is still months away, but the Rangers will have some tough decisions to make

Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain

Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.

The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup.  But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville.  So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.

Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation.  A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning.  New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term.  Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team.  If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender.  But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price.  Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch.  No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.

Derrick Brassard - We expected Brassard to blossom under a more offensive-minded coach, but so far the 26-year-old has been plagued by the same inconsistency under Alain Vigneault that got him traded by Columbus.  Brassard’s talent is obvious and he still has plenty of untapped potential, so it’d be hard for New York to give up on him so quickly.  Brassard’s future may depend partially on what the Rangers think they have in Oscar Lindberg, but with Brad Richards still very likely to be bought out, the Blueshirts probably will be forced to keep Brass.

Brian Boyle - This is a really interesting one and I could see it going either way.  Boyle’s future will also be impacted by Lindberg, but Boyle is a proven checking center and though his offensive production is low, he’s still a valuable piece.  With so many other pending free agents higher on the priority list, it’s likely that Boyle will reach July 5th without a deal and will receive more money and years from another team.

Taylor Pyatt - At this point, it’s unclear if Pyatt will still be a Ranger next week, so there’s no chance the team will offer him a new contract.

Benoit Pouliot - Same as Pyatt.

Mats Zuccarello - Somehow the Blueshirts still control Zuc’s rights, as he’s set to be a restricted free agent yet again.  Zuccarello has responded tremendously to an early-season scratch and has been one of New York’s best players over the last month.  Zuc had repeatedly expressed his love for the city, so even if he were free to sign elsewhere, the Norwegian might take a lesser deal to remain on Broadway.  No matter, though, Zuccarello should finally get the multi-year pact he deserves.

Dominic Moore - Vigneault has been unimpressed with Moore, and though his return to New York made for a nice story, the reunion will be a short one.  He’ll be replaced by someone younger.

Arron Asham - We know the Rangers need more grit, but they’ll get it from elsewhere.  Asham will be free to continue his tour of the Metro Division, having already played for every team in the old Atlantic.

Chris Kreider - Kreider’s qualifying offer will be a measly $850k, so if Sather continues his policy of playing hardball with youngsters, then these negotiations could get dicey.  Still, there’s no doubt that Kreider is the most critical player on this list, so a deal will get done eventually.

Dan Girardi - I made my thoughts on G’s future known a couple weeks ago.  He’s clearly on the decline, yet Girardi will understandably hope to be compensated for his past performance.  It helps that Girardi is a righty, a position of major scarcity, but he’ll likely command in excess of $5 million on the open market.  I’m betting the Blueshirts think that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Michael Del Zotto - His name has been in trade rumors all season, but I’m still not completely convinced that DZ should pack his bags, especially now with Marc Staal out.  Del Zotto is set to be an RFA and the Rangers might be able to keep him at or near his affordable $2.9 million qualifying offer given his lack of production and generally rocky performance.  That’s a small price to pay for a 23-year-old with plenty of upside.

Anton Stralman - I still can’t believe neither the Devils nor any of the 28 other teams could find a spot for Stralman when the Rangers signed him off the street in 2011.  Stralman has probably been New York’s third-best defenseman after Staal and Ryan McDonagh, so I expect the team will do everything it can to lock Stralman up long-term.

Justin Falk - He’s keeping the seat warm for Dylan McIlrath, who will finally get his shot next year.  Falk brings a physical element that’s lacking from the Rangers’ blueline, but he can’t skate and won’t be worth a roster spot.

John Moore - Moore was extremely impressive last season after coming over at the trade deadline, but has had a very difficult time this year.  He can skate like the wind and is still just 23, so he’ll be a no-brainer player to keep.  But this is another example of a player that Sather will probably play hardball with.

62 Responses to “Free agency is still months away, but the Rangers will have some tough decisions to make”

  1. supermaz says:

    I know its a little off topic but….am I the only one who thinks Steve Eminger was more reliable and consistent than Falk, Moore, and DelZotto ?

    • Kevin says:

      Not at all, was thinking the same thing earlier

    • Walt says:

      Where is he now??

      Yes, he was a decent player, when paired up with the right partner.

    • RangerMom says:

      Agree. But hey, the entire defense was more reliable under “he who shall not be named.”

    • Ray says:

      A million times amen. Sather’s worst offseason mistake. After watching last night’s game, was thinking even the upgrade from Falk to Bickel might have swung the outcome. Bickel has no skill or speed, but at least he knows how to play the position.

  2. Walt says:

    Where do we start:

    Flush down the toilet the following:
    D. Moore
    Pouliot
    Pyatt
    Asham

    Callie gets re-signed, but they shouldn’t pay more that $4.5-5 mil with his injury history.

    Brass gets re-signed at current rate, too young to give up on, and still shows signs of flash in his game. Given the right wings to play with, he COULD be a force.

    Zucc is signed for three years, $3-3.5 mil per.

    Kreider gets a contract like Callie, and Dubi got!

    Boyle is signed fo current rate.

    Girardi should be moved, while we can still get something in return. Maybe all those years blocking shots, and the new system took their toll on Dan, he still is a batteler!

    J Moore is re-signed for $2-2.5 mill, three years.

    Strahlman gets anoither contract for $2-2.5 mil also, and three years.

    Falk get a one year for $900K, and will be happy for it.

    That leaves us with MDZ, who I believe will get moved out sooner, rather than later. Don’t know why, just a gut feeling.

    It was announced that the cap will be as high as $71.1 mil, and BR’s contract coming off of the books, the GM, let’s hope to God it’s not that peckerhead Sather, will have plenty of money to work with, and field a decent team, because this one is terrible.

    Coming up next year will be:

    Oscar Lindberg
    Dillon McIlrath
    Danny Kristo
    and maybe Connor Allen

    But then I could be wrong on all counts, it wouldn’t be the first time!!!!!!!!!!!

    • flatbush says:

      Its alot of fun for all of us to guess and have opinions on the perfect lineup but in reality the coaching staff has to have a concept and players that fit that concept. I really don’t know what the concept is or that its so radical. The MSG BS machine painted a picture that AV system would allow D men to be active implying that Torts never allowed D’s to join the rush which is just BS. Unless your Bobby Orr type D’s don’t lead rushes they join. If you want to have everyone pinching you need the players that can. If you want everyone flowing and scoring you need those skill sets but you also need the grit when the pretty guys can’t put the puck in the net.

  3. The Suit says:

    Not sure I understand all the hate Cally is getting today…7 goals in 23 games while playing a system that doesn’t fully utilize his strengths AND spending part of those 23 games on the third line with Brassard, Hags, or Pouliot? C’mon guys you’re better than that.

    • Walt says:

      Suit

      I have no hate for Callie, as a matter of fact I love his play, his heart, and leadership.

      The reason I posted what I did is because of his style of play, his size, and the recent history of injuries, does the team really want to over pay him for his services???? It’s only a business decision, nothing personal at all. Sorry if anyone misinterpreted my post as hate, NOT THE CASE AT ALL!!!!!!!

      • VinceR says:

        “Hating on” is just an expression Walt. No one thinks you hate Cally. Suit is saying why is everyone dismissing him when he’s had pretty good numbers so far this season, even while injured.

        I admit he hasn’t been fully himself (who has), but everyone is being a little quick to pull the breaks on the Cally train.

        • VinceR says:

          *despite being inured, not while being injured (not sure how someone has good numbers during injury)

          • The Suit says:

            Wasn’t reffering to you Walty. You’re still my boy blue.

            • Kevin says:

              Callahan’s scoring has been fine, but he hasn’t been taking the body as much or doing those little heart and soul things as much, it’s noticeable. That said, I blame that mostly on lingering injuries. But he certainly has a long history on that front at this point and that has to be taken into account when considering a long-term deal. In the end, they won’t have a choice and will pony up the cash, but maybe more reluctantly than expected.

    • VinceR says:

      I guess our boy 17 was pretty spot on about “shiny new things”. I hope NYR is ready for what he will be bringing tomorrow night.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      It’s the injuries. The production is there when healthy, but that’s, well, rarely the case. Love the guy, we all do, but the injuries are a concern and have to be taken into account.

      Most underrated stat in sports: games played.

  4. Erixon20 says:

    I want to see McIlrath now and the new guy Beach asap. If we are going to lose at least make it difficult for the other team. Make it so teams aren’t looking forward to an easy game vs the Rangers, and build from there. Note to Sather (other than you suck): only Hank, Mac, Nash, Step, Kreider and Cally are on the Do Not Trade List. Do something please. Painful to watch these days.

    • Kevin says:

      I think Beach was a wild stab at adding that element, one that the organization would probably acknowledge has a 5% chance of working. McIlrath is coming on, but I still don’t think we’ll see him until next year.

  5. Bloomer says:

    AV’s system doesn’t utilizes anyone’s strength. They look like a peewee hockey team out there every out doing their own thing. Now the fans and media is talking about blowing up the team, but this is the same team that had a great run at the end of last year and knocked Washington out of the playoffs. Yeah, they lost to Boston, but so did Toronto and Pittsburgh did you see them panicking?. AV has to forget the “puck possession” pipe dream and have his team play simple discipline hockey. If this team continues to lose, I would make one move and one move only….find a new coach.

    • Kevin says:

      Like Tortorella? That seems like it’d be a good fit for the personnel…

    • flatbush says:

      Not sure about all this blame on systems talk. Not rocket science and how do u explain playing a great game vs garbage game using the “system”. Don’t want to hear about injuries; had them last year. Same basic core guys and thought we upgraded. So whats missing? If the room is coming apart its the players. Last year the same group was all in and they had to be. Then came the change. The relentless focus seen last year may have been overbearing for a some but the impression is that the foot has come off the pedal.

  6. SalMerc says:

    Seems to me have about 3 players that other teams need to try to match up with; Nash, Zucc and sometimes Cally. All the probably are not feared when they hit the ice. That tells you alot about our team and free agency. On the other side of the puck, other than McD, do other teams care who plays D? We are a .500 team, that seems to need a shake-up.

  7. Paul says:

    If we don’t resign Cally, I might jump off the Brooklyn bridge. Having said that, I believe that Callahan is the type of player & captain to take a lesser deal for the long-term good of the team, much in the way that Dustin Brown did. As long as the offer is still fair though.

  8. BobM says:

    “…and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team.”

    I hate to break it to you folks, but the Rangers are a rebuilding team, they just don’t know it quite yet.

    What happened to the team that came within one point of the President’s trophy?

    I’ll tell you, Dubinsky, Prust, Rupp

    These guys were the Hanson Brothers.

    Didn’t Avery teach Dubinsky how to fight?

    He should do the same to Boyle.

    • Paul says:

      I’ve been saying that (the team is rebuilding) to my friends all season. If they would just openly acknowledge it, and make moves in-line with a rebuilding philosophy then they would be much better off. Instead we’re still trying to pretend that we’re a high skill, top tier team and the accompanying strategy and tactics aren’t paying off.

    • Kevin says:

      The team that also almost won the President’s Trophy had .940 SAV% and a 41 goal scorer.

      I think those two facts are more important than some “Toughness” bullshit

    • Rich says:

      The Rangers hired a coach that doesn’t fit the team. They have to start making moves for different players. I like Molson and Ott in Buffalo. I miss Gaborik.

    • Old Fogey says:

      Jason Strudwick taught Dubinsky how to fight.

  9. Frank Cerbone says:

    Andrew Cogliano is a UFA and has never missed a gm in like 7 seasons in the NHL. He’s a GREAT FORCHECKER, 2nd fastest guy in NHL (Hagelin is #1), and has 9 goals this season.
    However, he’s only 5-10, 185 and is terrible on faceoffs.

    Rangers are not a good forchecking team, terribly lacking in speed (as per Roenick & Milbury last night).

    Choosing a 27 yr old Cogliano or a 29 yr old injury prone Callahan should be a nobrainer.

    Maybe we can try to sign Cogliano and Steve Ott and say goodbye to Boyle,Richards, Pouliot, Pyatt, Asham. Then call up Kristo & Lindberg, neither of which are ready this year.

  10. WilliamW says:

    I still think the team can turn it around and become a playoff team given the talent on the ice

    That said, it’s always fun to look ahead and play GM and try to guess contracts

    No brainer keep:
    Kreider (2 yr / 2.25 mm per year)
    Callahan (4 / 5.5)
    Stralman (3 / 3.5)
    J Moore (2 / 1.75)
    Zuccarello (3 / 2.5) – probably the hardest value to gauge

    Try to keep
    Boyle (2 / 2.0)
    DZ – 1 year QO

    Can go either way
    Brassard (2 / 3.75)
    Girardi (3 / 4.5)

    Moving on
    Asham
    D Moore
    Falk
    Pyatt
    Pouliot
    Richards

    This opens spots for any of the prospects if ready: (Kristo / Miller / Lindberg / McIlrath) and frees up $ for an upgrade up front depending on who is available

    • WilliamW says:

      Leaves you with the following

      Kreider/Stepan/Nash
      Zuc/Brassard/Callahan
      Hagelin/Miller/Kristo
      Boyle/Lindberg/Dorsett
      Fast

      McD/G
      Staal/Stralman
      DZ/Moore/McIlrath

      Hank
      Talbot

      $5+ mm in cap space to upgrade Brassard (3.5), Girardi (4.5), any of the prospect spots or add additional FAs and upgrade / retool the rest of the line-up

  11. Chris F says:

    Kreider has been a huge spark plug this season and has shown that he can be an effective power forward in this League. He has filled a major need for the Rangers.

    I would not play hard ball with him on a bridge contract. I’d want to keep him very happy. $4.5 million over 3 years.

    • Kevin says:

      That seems like a deal the Rangers could live with, but I’d bet Kreider is looking for more. That’s probably about where the bridge deal will come in, though I’ll defer to Dave, who’s the expert on that stuff.

      • Chris F says:

        I’d be OK with more as well.

        Just hope that Sather doesn’t disrespect Kreider by offering the minimum. Gotta keep this kid happy.

  12. Chris F says:

    How does management address the Callahan void?

    Do they simply recall Miller despite having just given him a vote of no confidence or do they give someone else a look?

    • Kevin says:

      Yeah, I’d expect Miller to return. But obviously Miller isn’t capable of replacing Cally – it’s going to have to be by committee.

  13. Mike Red says:

    Ive read 2 posts here that say keep Boyle. What are you smoking? He is the first guy that should be put on a bus outta here. Hes awful, just go to a game and hear what the fans yell about him.

    • Kevin says:

      You’re right, if the fans at MSG are yelling it, it must be true

      • Dave says:

        Is that sarcasm and snark out of you Kev? Welcome to the dark side.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        At least the fans at MSG are yelling something…

        It’s been live a graveyard there lately.

      • Mike Red says:

        You keep useless Boyle then…Remember, he’s a good locker room guy…Its working out well….Chara still waiting for him stop flopping like a fish and get up and fight….Good job last nite getting knocked down repeatedly in front of the net….even better job on that rebound that he had the whole net staring at him and he puts it right into the Goalies glove. On top of that he is slow, cant keep up, doesn’t hit anyone… he’s useless

  14. paulronty says:

    So AV says he doesn’t have the players to play the system he wants. That’s just a BS excuse. The fact is that these players look confused & unmotivated on the ice. Putting Boyle at centre & moving Richards to the wing is being brain dead. Boyle has NO offence and is a forth line winger. AV changes the lines up as much as Torts did. Miller gets sent down but at least he looks motivated out there. Blame the players if you want but it’s on the coaching staff to keep these guys on top of their game. If the coach thinks a guy is floating bring up a younger guy & give him a chance.

    • Dave says:

      The coach does need to adjust. Torts had the same issue when he came on board. He tried safe is death, it didn’t work, he adjusted. Time for AV to do the same.

      • Kevin says:

        I agree AV needs to adjust to the roster, but doesn’t that highlight the overarching problem? Torts got run out of town (fairly or unfairly) because his team’s couldn’t score (also, because of a 48 game season but whatever). AV adjusts and plays more defensive but the offense still won’t be there because the talent isn’t

    • Mike Red says:

      Most of the 12 forwards that dress every nite are 3rd and 4th liners…that’s the problem.

  15. agentsmith says:

    i agree except for one.

    zuc is too small. he gets thrown around like a ball. he is irrelevant vs bigger teams especially at even strength.

    no wonder we cant generate sustained offense – we cant get by any defender w/o losing the puck.

    also i think the new icing rule has eliminated much of the dump and chase game tort instilled in guys like cally and hags.

    • flatbush says:

      Its not an icing rule. We don’t have the horses and it just shows how much Torts got out of a group by being Torts. Granted the same bark has less effect over years but the concept is to get the most you can and add pieces. We are now rebuilding concepts with players that may not fit. This will be ugly while we wait for the perfect pieces to materialize. In the mean time the players need to execute whats asked of them or tell AV hes wrong. They went crying last year but the problem is not the coaches past or present.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        I will say it does look poorly on the faction of players that complained about Tortorella and are not backing up their new coach.

  16. Ray says:

    Great post in general, but I don’t understand the remark about Dubinsky, Anisimov, Boyle, and Sauer being paid over Callahan. He got more than all except maybe Dubi. He got 3-1/2 times what Sauer did and IMO, Sauer was the better player. Of course, RFAs often get underpaid.

    I’m not saying Cally was overpaid, thought his old contact was about right.

    • Kevin says:

      Years and term were limited – basically they gave him what was left over. Would have to do some digging, but his quotes at the time reflected his frustration

  17. Jk says:

    Lets See.. If I were GM what I would do with some of our current players..

    Pouliot and Pyatt: – These two have no heart, they can grind out decent shifts with dirty work along the boards and corners and they have the offensive skill of a Goalie..I would get rid of them in a heart beat. I’d consider trading them for a bag of practice pucks..lol

    Asham:- doesn’t have the grit he used to, he’s getting old.. see ya!

    Boyle:- His offensive game isn’t great but he’s showed it can be, possibly with an upgrade in linemates by getting rid of Pyatt and Pouliot Boyle would contribute a bit more offensively, he’s big, decent defensively, and great on the draw, I’d try to keep him.

    Cally:- gets re-signed.

    Richards: – we definitely, without question buy him out.

    D. Moore:- Old and hasn’t played in over a year, I’d replace him with someone younger, someone tougher, or someone from hartford.

    Brass – I’d trade him. He’s soft let some other team HOPE he can become a force. He hasn’t got it done here…We need a finisher we have too many playmakers and no one who can finish the damn play Lol!!

    Zucc – sign for Multi years, especially with trading Brass..Zuc is a much better and smarter playmaker anyway.

    Kreider gets a contract.

    Girardi:- resigned, he’s having a down year but he’s a solid d-man and a workhorse. He’ll bounce back with a great season next year.

    J Moore:- re-signed

    Strahlman: – resigned.

    Falk: – can go either way as long as he’s the 7th Dman or helping hartford

    Delzotto- Trade him, he’s horrible with the puck, makes poor decisions, and what good is a “offensive” d-man if he can never hit the net with a shot? Just like Brass let some other team take a chance with his upside.. We need a big solid Dman who can blast shot on the point and actually hit the net.

    Staal:- Trade him. I think we can get great value for trading Staal, he’s injury prone, a solid d-man but worth trading in a package for an offensive weapon.

  18. Lou says:

    Some of you seem to be drinking the Koolaide.

    If Calley was such a great leader, why is it that this team has no heart? With all the talk of Prust (and I think we all agree with his importance), it is easy to infer that one player CAN make a difference. If so, then why isnt it Calley?

    Frankly, he is a complimentary player — good as he may be, but he’s no CAPTAIN.

    As for the other losers, we need to get rid of:
    MDZ (really no skills and no heart)

    Brassard (too scared to let his obvious talents evolve – can you say Zherdev?)

    DMoore (would be a good player on the red wings but not here)

    Pyatt (too slow / too dumb / no balls)

    Boyle (needs to havE a gang backing him up to find his balls…maybe with McIllrath, Dorset and another toughie he could find himself on the 4th line)

    Girardi (tied of seeing him clear the puck outta the zone onto the opposition stick)

    Pouliott (he’s as soft as they come)

    What is gonna piss me off to no end is watching Calley sell out for team USA — he’ll be healthy, he’ll hit everything that moves and he’ll be a force. My coMment to him – hey bro – wHy not do it here AND NOW?!