AnalysisState of the Rangers

Taking stock a month before the trade deadline

To say this has been a roller coaster season so far for the Rangers would be an understatement.  After starting the year 3-7 and getting embarrassed by some of the mighty Western Conference’s best squads, it looked like the team was starting to figure it out.  They went 11-6 over their next seventeen, and genuinely looked like the team we all expected them to be this summer.  Unfortunately, they decided to go 1-6 over their next seven, culminating in brutal 5-3 defeat to the Islanders.  Following that terrible stretch of lost hockey, and presumably to drive Ranger fans to drink more, the team has since rattled off a 13-5-1 stretch to climb all the way to second place behind Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division.

In most years, you can glean a front office’s assessment of their team by how they conduct themselves at the trade deadline.  While my little season recap above could seem like fun with arbitrary end points, it has made the overall assessment of this team exceedingly difficult.  Sure, there have been specific instances one can point to that explain peaks and valleys (Nash’s injury/return, Talbot’s call up, Cally injury/return, Carcillo, etc.) but now that everyone is healthy and playing well, is this the team we thought were getting in August, or are they just on another streak?

Only complicating this situation are the contract statuses on Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle.  Stralman and Boyle aren’t as significant for the purposes of our deadline analysis, as players like them walk from teams all over the league every year.  You only try to maximize that type of asset value when you are selling at the deadline.  It’s really Cally and Girardi that make this a tight rope situation.  At this point, the salary/term demand of the pair are starting to come into focus.  Now, this could all be agent speak/media hyperbole, of course, but most outlets are reporting demands in the $6m for 7 seasons (7/$42 total contract) for Cally and Jay Bowmeester money for Girardi (6-7 years at $5.5m).

The question that is ultimately begged is: what is the best course of action to maximize these assets?  If you believe the team as currently constructed is a true Cup contender, you retain their services though the playoffs, hope their demands come down and try to re-sign them in July.  If you think we are more pretender than contender, maybe moving the Captain and our top pairing D-man can accelerate a re-tooling that will make us true contenders in the short run.  Or you can be in the talk radio camp that says “these are True Rangers, give them whatever they want”.

Dave and the Suit have done a fantastic job over the past week or so doing analysis on the comps, trade values and leverage, so I won’t rehash their quality work.  This analysis does dovetail into the overall deadline strategy for Sather and Co., however.  As per Cap Geek, the Rangers are projected to have just over $8.5 million of deadline cap space.  That’s not a half bad chunk of change.  If Cally ($4.275m) and Girardi ($3.325m) are traded before the deadline, it opens up even more.  This flexibility allows the management team an opportunity to improve the roster, depending on prices.  The Bettman Point (sidebar: can we please go to a 3 point Regulation Win, already?) has kept a staggering number of teams in contention late in the season (8 teams within 8 points of one another for seeds 4-8, in the East), which will presumably drive prices up.

Sather could also try something of a hybrid deadline strategy, and try to maximize useful short/long-term assets for Cally and Girardi, while gauging the market landscape for improving the team in earnest for the playoffs.  The asking and offering prices from other organizations might very well force Slats’ hand on their own.  For what it’s worth, its entirely possible Sather also looks to maximize returns on roster players who don’t fit in with the club’s long-term outlook under Alain Vigneault.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Derick Brassard or Dominic Moore moved either.

I suppose after going through all these scenarios, the question still belongs to the individual: is this team a true Cup contender, as currently constructed?  There is room to improve the roster at the deadline, but cashing in assets and holding on to Callahan and Girardi only to let them walk for nothing is a move that vouches for this team as it stands now.  Is that a risk you are willing to take?  Obviously, depending on the return, but could this team still compete after moving Girardi and Callahan?  It’s going to be an interesting run to the deadline with the Olympics throwing a major wrench into the analysis.  What moves are ultimately made will be very telling about both the short and long term outlook for the organization.

What do you folks think?  Trade the Captain?  Load up at the deadline for a run?  Sound off in the comments below.

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  • What do YOU think Justin? Is this team, as currently constructed, a Cup contender?

    My gut says the odds are long to make a run to the Cup, but stranger things have happened, anything can happen if a hot team rolls into the playoffs.

    I’m glad I’m not making these decisions.

    • I go back and forth, RFIB. I do think with the resurgence of the PP and the improvement in defensive play in front of Hank, this team could make some noise. Could they knock off Chicago, Anaheim, St. Louis, Boston or Pittsburgh in a seven game series? I’m not so sure.

      Another question to consider with regard to Cally: has his marginalized role under AV affected what everyone thinks his value is relative to his importance to the team?

  • There was a time I thought G might never get AV’s system. Now, I would pay the man. He’s not great but he’s a steady RH D… and possibly captain material.

    Callahan? If the return is really good (a prime young current roster player, either D or W) then they should strongly consider it.

  • There is an interesting piece by Lou Fontinato on the Blushirt Banter web site that made me think about the Callie’s potential re-signing. The point was if Callie was being signed as a free agent this off season, not ever having played for us, would we spend the kind of money, and term he wants.

    We as fans love the guy, real blue collar player, but is he worth that kind of money, and years?? Point is Slats has to think with his brain, not his heart, and so do we as fans, for the long term benefit of this organization!!!!!

    Because of Callie’s injury history, I wouldn’t sign him, and would trade his for as much as we can get in return. This is a very unpopular view, and there will be plenty who disagree with me, but it’s in the best interest of the Rangers, and the teams ability to field a better team down the road!

      • Callahan should be inline with Horton. Horton has PPG of .676 over 10 NHL seasons. Callahan is .56 over 8. Horton brings more production but Callahan has the C and some intangibles which are deserving of compensation.

        Zajac is overpayment for sure, but Centers are a bit different than Wingers as far as usefulness to organization. He’s not worth superstar money but he is more important to NJ than Callahan is to NYR. In that sense it can be argued he’s worth it.

        Dustin Brown is also very comparable with .58 PPG over 10 years. Similiar role of 2nd line winger. Team captain. Plays a heavy game. Don’t love his contract but it ain’t that much of an eyesore.

        Based solely off of the D Brown contract I’d give Callahan the same caphit ($5.5-$6), but term scares me, so I’d like to cap it at 6 years. That’d have to be my top dollar.

      • I would take that in a heartbeat.

        The idea that the media is running with that a perennial 50 pt player is going to be offered a contract with a $7M cap hit is laughable. I am sure they are just regurgitating what Callahan’s agent is saying, still, it’s ridiculous.

        • Walt, who are you talking about as a third line player? Callahan? Dustin Brown?

          Neither of those two are third liners based on ice time.

        • He’s only a 3rd line guy now because to balance the scoring and lines out. R/L and chemistry. Callahan can easily be playing on the top 2 lines right now. In fact his right handed shot could go over well there.

      • Would the Rangers take Dustin Brown straight up in a trade for Callahan? If the answer is yes, then Callahan contract offer shouldn’t be higher then Brown’s. Overpaying for players in a salary cap world isn’t a winning formula. Chicago has a boatload of talent but is never afraid to move a player when their contact demands become excessive.
        Wasn’t the purpose of the Lock-out last year to hold the line on players salaries? The way these hockey GMs are throwing money around, the only thing the lock-out achieved was to piss off the players and alienate hockey fans (their paying customers).

        • Chicago is different because they have 3-4 franchise players (Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook) that they would never consider moving. With that luxery, they can be more shrewd with their other contracts/transactions. A core that good means you can be flexible with the supporting cast.

      • The fact that much better players than Callahan have been gotten for less than he wants says something, doesn’t it?

        • It tells me he’s negotiating.

          These stories in the press are the usual bluster to get everyone worked up. In the end Callahan will sign for Dustin Brown money and that will be the end of it.

          • Why do you even think about giving him Dustin Brown money? Brown is surely worth Callahan and a first rounder. Brown averaged 56 points over a five year period. Callahan exceeded 40 points twice in his career (48 and 54).

  • Dave brought up an awesome point yesterday which cements my thoughts on Girardi. If we can get him done @ around $5 mil, our top D pairing would carry a cap hit of 9.7 mil. For Girardi/ McD caliber effectiveness, that is a hell of a bargain. Look no further than Toronto and Phaneuf’s 7 mil caphit for 7 yrs.

    Now I also would like to resign Callahan but his asking price is steep. I’ll give him his $6 mil a year, but only if he settles on 4 years term. If he wants 6/7 years I wouldn’t be comfortable with any more than $4.5 – $5 per. That money overcompensates him for production. His max year was 29G 54 pts in 76 games in 11-12. He broke 50 points once. Intangibles will bump him up slightly but that production does not warrant $6 mil +. That’s Marleau money without Marleau production. Alex Steen signed a 3 yr deal worth $5.8 mil per as a UFA. Top line player, team mvp effectiveness on both sides of the puck and better production than our beloved captain. People may argue that if Zajac can get 5.75 per yr for 8 years, then Callahan should get the same, let me refute with 1) that was signed prior to the last lockout when contracts were completely out of control (see Parise and Suter) 2)Zajac is the Devils top line center, #1 faceoff guys and top defensive forward and although his production doesn’t warrant the dollars he plays a bigger role on the NJ team than Callahan currently does for us.

    All that said, I want Callahan in blue but we cant’ overpay. Is he top 6? Is he top 9? Over the course of the next 5 years it very well might be a mix. We need to make sure the salary is a match.

  • If I look at Cally purely from the stat sheet, I don’t think he’s worth what he’s asking for given production, history of injuries, and his diminished role under AV. That being said, a player who consistently puts 100% of himself in the game, and legitimately leads by example is worth more to a team than merely what his numbers say. The Rangers have been nothing if not consistently inconsistent and I think trading Cally would lead to another long stretch of lazy unmotivated play from a team that looks good on paper and nothing more.

    As for Girardi, he’s a relatively young RHD workhorse defensive defenseman. Shut up and give him money.

  • Where did this myth that Callahan has a diminished role this season come from?

    Among fowards he’s third on the team in Even Strength minutes per game and third in Minutes per game. So he’s not a key cog on the PP, big deal. That is just a testament to the overall roster improvements made over the past six months.

    Look at it this way, if Callahan was playing more this year it would mean three things:

    – Zucc was stinking up the joint
    – Kreider was a bust
    – The fourth line was a black hole

  • I feel that there are teams out there which will overpay for Girardi and Cally if they become free agents. Are these players thoughts with money, a chance at a cup or remain with a stable near-Cup contending team. As a GM, Slats has to forecast what type of guys they are and act accordingly. If DG, for example, feels unappreciated and underpaid, maybe he is a goner. It behooves Slats to try to move him and get some pieces IF (big if) someone can step in and play some strong minutes as a right-handed shutdown defender.

    I cannot see a DG move, but I can see a Cally move. I also would not be surprised to see Brass and Hags go to get a piece or two that supports the AV way. Slats has some difficult choices ahead.

  • As much as I try to rationalize moving Girardi and / or Callahan, I simply can’t find an adequate justification.

    We all had some skepticism over Girardi earlier in the year fearing that he couldn’t acclimate to AV’s system or that Torts may have squeezed this lemon dry (see McGuire, Piere / see “creepy”). I think this is behind us now. Girardi has shown he can adapt and play for AV and he’s made a resurgence in physicality and intensity that to me indicates the Torts syndrome was temporary. G is still a top – pair defenseman on almost any team in the League, including the Rangers. He’s an iron man who simply doesn’t get hurt, plays physically, plays passionately, and is still quite young. Resigning him solidifies the Rangers’ top pairing for under $10 million. Do it.

    Captain Cally. What else can be said? Sure, his production is down. Yes, he’s filling a reduced role under AV. But, this speaks more to this team’s depth than it is a reflection of Callahan ‘ s play. Torts didn’t have the luxury of running 4 lines. With this luxury comes a reduction of ice time for some players. Callahan is a guy you no longer need to play in every situstion. And that’s a good thing considering the Captain’s questionable durability. This team, with its speed and aggressive transition play needs a leader who constantly reminds his troops that this game also requires heart, defensive responsibility, and sacrifice. Callahan is actually the perfect guy to keep an AV team grounded. You can’t put a price tag on that. Sure, haggle the price down a bit if necessary, but you don’t ship out your captain when you have a team on the cusp of doing something special. Callahan has earned his right to see it through with the organization that first gave him the opportunity. Get him signed!

    • Chris F, this is a damn near perfect summation IMO. Cally provides that stability that the team needs when it begins to falter through the course of a game, stretch, or season. Cally will still need to be willing to deal though. $5.5-6 over 5-6 years seems reasonable given how hard it is to put a price on the ‘intangibles’ that he brings to the team. And if Cally isn’t willing come down somewhat on his terms, then you have to ask where his commitment truly lies. I’d like to believe that he will be amicable, but at the end of the day who really knows what he’s thinking or what’s being said behind closed doors?

      • Thanks, Paul.

        I agree, the Rangers absolutely should be willing to negotiate with both Girardi and Callahan.

        But, yes, if Cally isn’t willing to come down from either salary or term, then that is a troubling indication. Obviously, I want NY to retain Callahan, but only if he wants to stay for what would be a very reasonable contract.

  • Girardi’s play fell off significantly from two years ago to last year, and from last year to this year. Having said that, who is out there is capable of replacing his minutes on top D pair for under $5.5mm/year? Given Stralman uncertainty, it’s even more imperative that we keep Girardi.
    Callahan is trickier. He’s a young homegrown talent, capable of playing in all situations (the fact that he hasn’t been is not a knock against him as much a compliment to the fact that we have a better all around team). Is he worth $6mm/7 years? Probably not. Is he going to get it? Probably, or something very close to it, if not from Rangers, then from someone else. Remember, fans always underestimate FA contracts.

  • I think the Rangers can win the Cup without Callahan, at least I certainly hope so. It just makes it tougher. It is wishful thinking to expect your eighteen best skaters to all be healthy for the playoffs. A good team overcomes them. Yes, the loss of McDonagh or Nash might be devastating, but a team that can’t survive the loss of a mid-level player is in bad shape. Trading Callahan without getting equal return just means it takes one less injury to take you out of the picture.

  • Brassard will be resigned, he is not going anywhere. Zuke will also be resigned and I think pouliot will also be resigned. These 3 have tremendous chemistry together and for a 3rd line that is not bad, Richards is the question mark that will answer what the Rangers will do. If they buy him out one or both of Girardi are going to get solid contracts and be signed.
    I am not a believer that this team will be a favorite to win the Cup. As of late I believe they have a chance to win the Cup. That is better than earlier this season where I was thinking they should tank the season to get a high draft pick.

    Klein’s addition has been a great move because we are strong on Defense and Hank looks like he is back. Nash and Kreider are playing well with Stepan, Brassaeds’s line is out playing Richards’s line. Richards, Callahan and Hagelin are a trio that are a threat. But if Richards is going to be bought out then it makes sense to try and acquire a legit 2nd line. If it is Stastny that replaces Richards then we need to find the players that will gel with Stastny when he arrives. And having 1st round picks does not hurt.

    My opinion is Girardi stays, Callahan gets traded with a possibility of Hagelin and Richards gets bought out.

    If Lindberg is ready then Moore or Boyle will get traded as well. I prefer we keep Boyle and Moore has grown on me to the days he was here. Both are players a team needs to win the cup.

    So to close this out I think it all depends on what the Team is thinking of doing with Richards that will determine what happens to Callahan and Girardi and to a lesser extent Hagelin or Boyle

  • Why would you think Brassard could be on the move? He’s AN RFA after this year so he’s under team control and shouldn’t cost a raise in $, also he’s pivoting the teams most consistent line. Am I missing something you’re seeing?

    • Easy tiger, that line has played like this for only about the last 20 games. Hot streaks have been a feature of Brassard’s and Pouliot’s entire careers. I wouldn’t trade Brass now, I might consider it in the summer based on how he does the final 26 games of this season and the playoffs.

      Brassard is going to look for a significant raise this summer since signing anything longer than one year means he is giving up years as an unrestricted free agent. Of course, the Rangers can force him to take arbitration this summer and sign him for just one year if they choose not to lock him up long term.

      The trick with players like Brassard is recognizing if you have his replacement coming up through the system. That’s why the Richards signing was a mistake, Stepan is Brad Richards also Anisimov could have been Brad Richards. All three produce about the same right now. Of course, Richards costs significantly more than Stepan or Anisimov.

      For all we know, Miller or Lindberg could be putting up Brassard numbers (about 45 – 50 pts a season) as soon as next year if they are given Brass’ ice time. Of course, Miller or Lindberg would cost millions less than Brassard.

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