After a week in Aruba (side note: awesome trip), I have noticed that the Rangers have not signed their RFAs yet (three filed for arbitration), and there appears to be a bit of a panic about this. It’s not a huge panic, the way there was over Derek Stepan a few years back, but there is still a sense of unease that the Rangers will have one of their RFAs poached, and that the priorities of management should be to get the kids under contract.
Unless there is a legitimate concern that an offer sheet could come (i.e.: Ryan McDonagh last year), then RFAs are never high on the priority list in the beginning of July (or end of June). The reason here is that offer sheets are incredibly rare (due to multiple reasons), so teams focus on filling the holes they can’t fill internally via the UFA market. Time is of the essence in the UFA market. Time is on their side for RFAs.
So why the wait now, that UFA signings are pretty much over?
Three Rangers filed for arbitration: Chris Kreider (7/23), Mats Zuccarello (7/25), and Derick Brassard (7/28). Once the players filed for arbitration, they are protected from offer sheets. With the arbitration dates coming up in the near future, these are the next priorities for the club. I’d expect that all three sign before their arbitration hearings, as is customary with Glen Sather and his arbitration eligible RFAs.
After the arbitration-eligible RFAs are locked up, attention then shifts to John Moore, who is the only non-arbitration RFA on the club. The wait here is pretty easy to figure out: His deal doesn’t have a “must-sign” date at the end of the month. Locking him up to a new deal can wait until August.
It’s worth noting that just because priorities are set, it doesn’t mean that Slats is working in that particular order. It’s not a waterfall type of list, where one thing gets done, followed by another. It’s just a matter of setting priorities, recognizing deadlines, but not neglecting other areas that need addressing. This is what we all do at work on a regular basis.
There’s no need to panic that the RFAs aren’t signed yet, or that RFAs don’t usually get signed until July or August. This is par for the course for NHL GMs, despite what the NHL video games teach us. Luckily, the Rangers don’t have a Ryan McDonagh caliber of player as an RFA this year (star potential without arbitration rights), so there is no immediate rush to get an RFA signed. The key guys will get signed.