Who gets the blame; the General Manager? The coaching staff? Or perhaps the players themselves? When you look at the Rangers’ disappointing position in the standings and general up and down performances from a game to game basis, one thing that may go unnoticed is how the Rangers are not getting value for money from their roster. In the cap era, getting good return from your investments is critical and is something found on almost every successful roster.
With New York it obviously begins with Rick Nash ($7.8 million) , Brad Richards ($6.667 million) and yes, Henrik Lundqvist (at present, $6.875 million). When judging the financial returns solely on this season, none of the critical trio named are giving the Rangers acceptable production. Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and in fact almost every Ranger player on a sizeable cap hit hasn’t produced.
Whatever the mitigating circumstances, the underwhelming returns continue with Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto and, until recently, Derick Brassard. No ‘core player’ has produced as anticipated. Considering cap hits of $2 million dollars and above, it can be argued only Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello have produced above expectations. When you consider, from a financial perspective, almost an entire roster hasn’t lived up to its billing it’s a huge area for concern.
Compare the Rangers to Chicago’s roster. Brandon Saad would be leading the Rangers in scoring, and he is one of several Hawks giving the powerhouse Western Conference team great production at a low cost. His 31 points so far have come with a cap hit of less than $1 million. Getting value from entry level deals is a great way for a club to find depth and build success.
While in the minors at present, second round draft pick Brandon Pirri has 11 points in 24 games for the Hawks (with just one goal less than Rick Nash) and has also given the Hawks great value (the consistent theme of this post) as he too brings a cap charge of less than $900,000.
It continues: Marks Kruger and Andrew Shaw (who would be leading the Rangers in goals) both bring cap charges of less than $1.4 million and are both very effective members of the Hawks. While the Hawks are perhaps an extreme example (multiple lottery draft picks certainly help build a roster quickly), they are perhaps setting the league standard.
Good value for money is critical. It means clubs can commit to the right players on long term deals and means a franchise takes less risk with committing to big names (Nash, Richards come to mind). These clubs are less reliant on their big deals.
Right now, you can argue the Rangers only have a handful of ‘good value’ players. Mats Zuccarello has exceeded expectations and is thriving on a relatively cheap deal. Chris Kreider is performing well, particularly judged against his entry level deal, and Ryan McDonagh is growing into a Norris trophy candidate, so that’s surely seen as money well spent.
Yes, injuries to the likes of Nash, Callahan and Staal are unfortunate, and are certainly valid mitigating circumstances to the Rangers current under performance. But whether it be Taylor Pyatt, Arron Asham, or the since forgotten Darroll Powe, several recent Rangers’ transactions (the list is long) too often don’t stack up compared to the better teams in the league.
With several contracts up for renewal in the near future, and with a new coaching team in place long term, the Rangers face a critical period of roster change. It’s time the organisation got back to getting value for money from its roster. It will likely coincide with a return to winning ways.