We are about one month from the start of training camp, and the Rangers still have some unfinished business. They’ve put together a tremendous offseason, but still have yet to sign two RFAs in Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. This isn’t overly surprising since neither have negotiating leverage, but it’s still cutting it close. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. The Rangers have a history of letting their non-arbitration RFAs go this long, so there isn’t really any concern to be had yet. Of course yet is the operative term here, as the longer this drags out, the bigger a chance one or both misses time with contract issues. The last time I remember that happening was with Marc Staal. While I don’t expect any holdouts, this is something worth keeping an eye on. Both Lemieux and DeAngelo are penned into the opening day lineup.
2. If either player were to hold out, the smart money is on DeAngelo. DeAngelo’s qualifying offer is going to be an underpayment, so it’s about coming to an actual contract agreement here. It appears that the kid put his head case issues behind him and emerged as a true offensive defenseman and one of the best transition defensemen in the game today. He’s far from perfect on the ice, but he has the numbers that warrant a big contract. Add in Neal Pionk’s deal in Winnipeg (two years, $3 million) and you have some market value. Yes we know that DeAngelo is far superior to Pionk, but GMs love offensive stat lines and there isn’t much different between the two. This is where the stalemate could occur.
3. Getting to Lemieux, he has one NHL season under his belt and has just 13 goals and 18 points to his name. He has little, if any, leverage here. Lemieux’s qualifying offer, if my knowledge of the CBA is still accurate, is a 5% bump on his $839k salary from last season, which puts him in the $881k range. I’d expect he signs for around that number, but it should be less than $1 million. With no track record and little offensive output, the numbers aren’t in his favor. My guess here is that the holdup is term and not dollars.
4. Of course the other issue is cap space, with both players set to take about $3.5 million of the cap. The Rangers have $1 million in cap space, but will free up another $1 million with Matt Beleskey getting demoted to the AHL. If you assume Subbing in Vitali Kravtsov for Greg McKegg and demoting Boo Nieves gives the Rangers another $500k in cap space. That puts them at $2.5 million in cap space, $1 million short of a full roster with DeAngelo and Lemieux. Demoting Brendan Smith saves $1 million but leaves the Rangers with just 6D.
5. One thing the Rangers could do, and it’s something I mentioned last week, is leverage the soft October schedule to keep a 12F/6D roster and accrue cap space. The Blueshirts play three games in the first two weeks of the season and just 10 games in October. There’s no logical reason to keep a full 13F/7D roster and eat up the cap space. Demoting two players to the AHL to start the year and then calling them up when the schedule gets tighter in November, or when injuries occur, is a creative way to stay under the cap and accrue the necessary cap space to keep the roster full later in the season.
6. In the end, I think this all gets done with minimal drama. Both Lemieux and DeAngelo have good reasons for signing a shorter term deal and then letting their play dictate their next contract. Both have nowhere to go but up."Thoughts on the unsigned RFAs - are holdouts a possibility?",