State of the Rangers

Rangers early season success not breaking the bank

chris kreider
Will Chris Kreider ever find consistency? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton must be watching his team win game after game to start the new season while wondering what he’s done to deserve such luck. Why luck? The Rangers are likely headed toward a tough offseason with several young, but key, roster players due new contracts. The lucky part for Gorton right now, is that none of those players are making a strong case for (key word) significant pay rises.

As we enter mid-November, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and veteran defenseman Keith Yandle are all approaching next summer with their future’s unclear. Particularly in the cases of Kreider, Hayes and Yandle all three should be significant parts of the Rangers future. Kreider is the power forward, goalscorer in waiting, Hayes has quickly become an integral and flexible part of the top nine while Yandle is the best puck mover the Rangers can turn to.

The thing is, not one of the above group of players is demanding a huge pay rise through their current play. Kreider continues to struggle with his consistency and if anything, has taken a step back offensively this season. Hayes continues to flash brilliance and elite puck handling skills but hasn’t yet determined one settled position or – like Kreider – established the type of consistency to warrant a strong negotiating position. Yandle, on the other hand hasn’t been as advertised, even if he too has flashed his obvious and elite level skill.

Unfortunately (?) the fact is that Kreider, Hayes and Yandle will all get “healthy” new terms of employment almost regardless of how they play out this season. Combine youth, potential upside and hard to find skill-sets in the modern day, cap era NHL and as a player you almost get what you want regardless of whether you’ve earned it. It’s a seller’s market right now and has been for a generation.

There are plenty of examples in the league right now where teams have paid for upside rather than for current production – Nick Bjugstad of Florida is perhaps one of the best current examples. A fine talent for sure, but Bjugstad hasn’t earned a six year $24million dollar contract which is what he got last summer. Apparently a career high of 43 points on a losing team is worth 24m dollars. Florida paid handsomely for the promise of more to come from a big, young and skilled forward and the Rangers will do the same with Kreider and Hayes. It’s inevitable.

With that said, Kreider and Hayes are not making Jeff Gorton’s job as hard as they could. In particular Kreider. Entering the season, Gorton would have been nervous at the thought of Kreider potting a 30+ goal season (which absolutely could still happen) during a contract year. Kreider would be looking at a bare minimum of $5m per year on a long term deal if he bags 30 plus goals. Indeed, $6m is much more realistic with a rising cap and – from a team’s perspective – an ever dwindling free agent pool to replenish from. There are not many players with Kreider’s size, speed, skill and youth available anywhere. He could almost write a blank cheque.

Throw in Etem (the talented but yet to stick in the line-up winger) and Miller (another who has taken a long time to carve out a defined role with the Rangers and who also still lacks consistency) and the Rangers have a handful of young players approaching contract time, none of which are forcing Gorton’s hand.

Yandle, the veteran blueliner is in a slightly different scenario. He’s going to get paid regardless where the cheque comes from. The difference is he’s not making the Rangers offer his agent a blank cheque with his play. Given his skill-set there is every chance the Rangers will want to retain him but right now there’s a chance Yandle might make the open market. He’s not made himself indispensable with his play. Luckily for Yandle, the market for quality puck moving defenders is historically weak right now but if Yandle wants to get a significant pay rise, he may have to settle for (another) hockey backwater rather than a competitive location such as New York.

There’s still the vast majority of the season to play so it’s obviously very early to consider the contract fallout for the aforementioned players but right now Jeff Gorton has to be smiling. He’s watching his team win, and not having to stress too much about upcoming contract season. Not a bad position to be in for the first year General Manager.


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  • Always a top quality read. For the players referenced, isn’t the biggest issue whether they have UFA status or RFA arbitration rights? Only Yandle fits here with UFA status, if I am not mistaken. Otherwise, I believe the Rangers have virtually all of the leverage when it comes to an extension.

    • Thanks for your comment AD. the post isn’t referring to their individual FA status’ because everyone knows these days that a player has leverage regardless of status. A team will want to tie down a player as long as possible in most cases, and less bridge deals are being dished out because of the fear that a player will get a huge deal earlier. Kreider will get 6m if he flirts with 30, and even if he doesn’t.

  • Hayes has been playing a lot better recently especially with Lindberg on his line. Kreider has obviously disappointed a little bit, but i wouldn’t say Yandle has. He is on pace for 46 points and doing a fine job defensively and is the best possession defenseman we have. Rangers gave up a great player and a first for yandle. I don’t see how they will just let him walk away. I hate to say it but the rangers are probably going to end up trading klein this offseason(selling high) to give Mcllrath a permanent position with the squad next year while clearing up cap space. looks like McDonagh may have to play the right side.

    Skjei McDonagh
    Yandle Girardi
    Staal Mcllrath

    Kreider will score when it counts this year though…. playoffs

    • People may flip out with this, but I believe Yandle is over rated defensivly..

      We gave up a load for his offense, not his “D” !!!!!

  • I just don’t see a valid argument about Yandle. He’s on pace for a 52 point season. And that is sure to increase with more power play time, which he hasn’t gotten that much of. That would be tied for his second highest in his career. This is clearly what we were going to get in a puck moving defense man – more assists than goals. Hell he was supposed to be terrible in his own zone but proved to be the complete opposite. Often times being one of the best in his own zone.

    • Thanks for your comments guys. I’m an unashamed and huge Yandle fan but at times he’s been an adventure in his own end and he’s not made the difference e should have on a still inconsistent power play. He needs to be better.

  • A Stanley cup on your resume also greatly increases How much money a player can get. Hasnt there been a few Stanley cup winners recently who just couldn’t keep all the young kids who were due for raises?

    • Almost every cup winner recently have had to sacrifice players particularly the Hawks. Though they’ve been able to find good free agents such as Panarin to replenish. That said, I think the hawks have paid players far too much on the back of cup successes and its hurt their depth.

  • Cap is rising with new uni & streaming deals, but against the currency depreciation of the Rogers TV deal I’d be amazed if it gets to a $2mm bump.

    So with our pool of players hitting free agency it’s the hockey version of F,M,K.

    At this point, barring a dramatic improvement in his shooting on breakaways improves(hint: use your body to get on the off wing), Kreider is the F. All the tools, not much of a mean streak, needs to build a tool box. If I could buy him a DVD collection of Bill Guerin’s play I would, but I’m not sure it would matter. The next 3 months are now the countdown to fish or cut bait.

    Hayes is the M. Makes his linemates better, reads the play well and has the size, hands and skating to be confident his production/TOI will be consistent.

    Yandle is the K. Nothing against him, but his style doesn’t fit the system, Skjei gets me 80% of the production at a much cheaper price and we have to cut off Peter in order to pay Paul & Mary.

    Etem is screwed by CBA, it comes down to whether he signs a 1 or 2 year bridge deal. If Kreider were to get moved, he still has Buchnevich to compete with on that top 6 spot.

    • Yandle doesn’t fit the system??? He’s the only D man who does. Skeij is an unproven rookie. If he continues to develop, he’ll be a great addition and makes others on the roster expendable. But he’s not the offensive machine that Yandle is.

      • Yandle not breakout stretch passer, he’s a lug it out the zone & distribute player. AV wants the former, Slats kept giving him the latter.

        • I don’t think you’ve been watching carefully enough. He very frequently makes a long pass out of the zone and carries when there are no other options.

    • Alec-

      I agree with much of what you are saying. For Kreider, I agree, make or break year. His game is starting to come around though. Hayes, agree, he looks like a real keeper.

      Yandle, I have to agree with Mom. He definitely fits this system. Also, I understand your focus on the cap, but respectively, I think you are underestimating the difficult leap it is from the AHL to NHL, especially on defense. To suggest that Skjei can give you 80% of Yandle by next camp is as much of a stretch as it was to say that you can trade Klein, slot in McIlrath, and lose very little in terms of quality. Possible, but highly improbable. It usually takes a few years to master NHL defense.

      Now, that being said, I would not be shocked to see the Rangers trade Klein and let Yandle walk next summer. But if they do, they won’t turn those assignments over to two inexperienced players on the back line simultaneously. No chance of that unless the kids prove they are truly ready.

  • nine in a row and now three days off and then a Florida roadtrip first the bolts and then the panthers. will see you guys on Monday especially you brass I have a surprise for you.

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