The Montreal Canadiens have hired Rangers Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix to their coaching staff. Lacroix joined the Rangers last summer, watching games from the press box to give coach Alain Vigneault the “eye in the sky” view.
Last year: 51-24-7, first in the Metro Division. Eliminated by the Rangers in the second round.
Key additions: Patric Hornqvist, Christian Ehrhoff, Nick Spaling, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss
Franchise direction: The Penguins roster has been retooled, but the major news of their offseason was the firing of coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero. In their place are Mike Johnston and Jim Rutherford, respectively, but while Pittsburgh has had higher expectations than Bylsma and Shero have been able to meet in recent years, it’s hard to view the changes behind the bench and in the front office as an upgrade. Pittsburgh did improve its depth up front and cleared dead weight that should allow some youngsters to make an impact. But why was playoff goat Marc-Andre Fleury retained while sweeping changes were made in every other facet of the organization?
Last night, the Rangers re-signed their final arbitration eligible RFA, locking up Derick Brassard to a five-year deal at $5 million per season. This came a few days after locking up another key RFA, Mats Zuccarello to a one-year deal at $3.5 million. The reactions to the Brassard and Zuccarello contracts seem to be a bit mixed. Fans are clearly happy the players are back, but the contracts seem to be “backwards” as most have communicated.
It’s true, the Rangers took a calculated risk with Zuccarello, and a little less of a risk with Brassard. But let’s tackle the first question: Why did the Rangers give Brassard more than he was asking for in arbitration?
The answer here is simple: Arbitration for Brassard was a one-year request, and it would make him a UFA at the age of 27, where he could cash in big time from a team in need of a 2C/3C. The Rangers bought four of those UFA years, through the age of 31 (remember, Brass will be playing out his twenties in New York, not his thirties). That costs money. In fact, it only cost them $50,000 more per year for those seasons.
There are multiple reports that the Rangers have re-signed RFA center Derick Brassard to a five-year deal worth $25 million ($5 million cap hit). The deal will keep their second line center in blue until the age of 31. Brassard found chemistry with linemates Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot last season, putting up a line of 18-27-45 in 81 games and another 6-6-12 in 23 playoff games. Brassard has decent metrics, driving puck possession, but his WOWY (puck possession of teammates with/without Brass) show that he may have benefited from his linemates more than his linemates benefiting from him.
That said, $5 million is fair market value for Brassard, giving the Rangers a much needed 2C in his twenties. There really isn’t much to complain about on this deal.
Per Elliotte Friedman, RFA center Derick Brassard is requesting $4.95 million in arbitration, while the Rangers have countered with $3.825 million. The gap here is larger than the gap for Chris Kreider’s arbitration numbers, but that isn’t really a barometer. The Rangers have a history of getting their RFAs under contract before arbitration, and this one will hopefully be no different. The middle ground here is $4.5 million, which is right where I ballparked him.
While $4.5 million may seem a bit steep for Brassard, let’s remember that 2C’s are pulling in $5-$6 million lately. It may hurt this year, but the cap is expected to hit $75 million next year and $80 million the year after. When looking at those numbers, $4.5 million is a steal.
Now that the roster is finally taking shape, and the pieces are starting to fall into place, the main questions are about the line combinations and kids making the roster. Signings like Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak add flexibility to a roster that was almost 100% reliant on kids making the roster, while all of the core pieces are returning for this season.
No matter which way you look at it, the Rangers have significant turnover this season. They lost Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, and Dan Carcillo up front. They lost Anton Stralman on the blue line. But hey, 100% of their goalies will be back this year, so that’s a plus.
Derick Brassard and John Moore remain unsigned, but that’s not really a big concern. Both will be back and both will fit under the salary cap. Piggybacking off Suit’s line combinations post, here’s what we could be looking at on opening night:
Happy Friday, everyone. Let’s chat a little this afternoon. We will start at 1pm, but drop by at 12:45pm to fill that queue up. Until then, feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss the newly signed Zuccarello/Kreider contracts, Brassards pending arbitration, bargain bin free agents, whatever. See everyone this afternoon!
Assuming Alain Vigneault can continue to improve Kreider’s defense, Kreider’s contract should immediately become a bargain. The big, skilled forward has the potential to explode this coming season. He is now firmly established in the NHL, will have another camp under his belt, will be coming off a solid playoff season and will also want to prove that he was worth that $2.9 million he was demanding prior to agreeing with Glen Sather earlier this week.
Kreider is still all about potential and –while still slightly raw– he has 30-40 goal potential. Given his likely line mates (Stepan and Nash) and his talent, there’s no reason why he can’t hit 30 goals this coming season. In fact 30 is a number many fans will expect (albeit unfairly expect) from Kreider given his development over the past year. Twenty-One players scored 30 or more goals during the last regular season, and only Ryan Johansen of the Blue Jackets (33 goals, on his entry level contract) earned less than $3 million.