Free agency is still months away, but the Rangers will have some tough decisions to makeDecember 11, 2013, by
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.