The Rangers sure did strike gold with Michael Grabner. Signed to an expansion friendly deal before last season, fans –and probably the front office– thought they were getting 10-15 goals with good penalty killing. Getting that and a body for expansion for $1.6 million was a solid deal.
But then Grabner started scoring. His shooting percentage astronomically high, but the goals were coming. He scored 27 last year, and many thought the Rangers were silly not to capitalize on his value. He likely could have fetched a first round pick at the trade deadline last year. But the Rangers held court.
This year Grabner is already halfway to his production from last year (16.7%), with 14 goals in 30 games. He is again shooting with an astronomically high shooting percentage (22%). He was supposed to regress to our expectations. He has not, and it’s been wonderful to watch.
But Grabner’s sweetheart deal expires at the end of the season. After what will likely be a pair of back-to-back 25-goal seasons, Grabner will be due a huge raise. At 30 years old, it is likely the last time he will be able to get a big contract.
Grabner’s future contract has Benoit Pouliot written all over it. Pouliot turned a 15-21-36 year with the Rangers into a five year deal worth $20 million with Edmonton. It’s worth noting that while the contract was bought out, Pouliot put up seasons of 34 and 36 points before his 14 point stinker last year. That said, we all breathed a sigh of relief that the Rangers passed on that deal.
Grabner is certainly older than Pouliot was at the time of that massive contract. That will likely play into Grabner’s deal. But on the flip side, GMs have more money this offseason, and there aren’t many big names. Grabner’s pair of 25-goal seasons (assuming he gets 11 more goals this year) will look mighty enticing.
I spoke with Chris, and his model has Grabner at $2.75 million over five (!!) years (that’s how his model is built – to age everyone out at 35 years old). The model doesn’t account for the cap ceiling or other free agents, but it does account for production compared to other contracts in the league. I think that’s a good starting point for any expectations of a Grabner contract. Let’s use that as a base, and assume fewer years means more dollars.
Perhaps the Sam Gagner deal (three years, $3.15 million cap hit) in Vancouver is a comparable. That is on par with Chris’ model, with fewer years and more dollars. That’s certainly more palatable than five years, even at a lesser cap hit. I’d actually be pretty ok with that number, but it is admittedly a lot to spend on a third line winger. With big raises due to five key RFAs, it might not be doable. That $3.15 million mark may be the ceiling the Rangers can afford.