Thoughts on the unsigned RFAs – are holdouts a possibility?

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?", 5 out of 5 based on 11 ratings.
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  1. There is another issue, which is the 2020-2021 cap crunch. I view the Kreider and DeAngelo situations as linked. If and when the Kreider contract is completed, the Rangers will know where they stand and ADA’s salary becomes the big 2020 issue. It may be that the Rangers don’t know how badly they want a two year deal and what they are willing to pay and are just waiting on the Kreider negotiations.

    1. Ok, assuming Kreider signs for 7 million per, which is 2.5 mil more than he makes now, one also has to assume that cap space can possibly (hopefully) be attained in a few ways. Taking Shatty’s 6 mil into account we are now working with a 8.5 million negative. Again assuming Namestikov, Fast and Strome are gone that’s a net 9 million. Girardi and Belesky’s reduction nets approx. 3.3 million. We now have a positive 3.8 million.

      With Giorgiev due a raise maybe a million more, we now have 2.3 million to field 12 forwards, which have been depleted and needs some reinforcement. We also have to submit raises for Lemieux and ADA again. So yeah, there’s trouble ahead.

      If I haven’t missed anything or just basically screwed this up, I think the Rangers are not going to sign Kreider to an extension.

      1. Your math looks spot on and the biggest reason why the Shattenkirk buyout was a (big) mistake. They are looking at the same crunch again next year when their contention window opens and they should be focused on getting better. It will be hard enough to just field a full team with their limited cap space.

      2. I disagree with your math. For starters, I think you forgot about this year’s Shattenkirk cap hit. Combined changes of Shattenkirk, Girardi, Beleskey are $1.3M, that’s all. If you add an extra $2.5M for Kreider while saving $5.1M by replacing Names and Strome by $1M players, you come in at $1.3M less than this year. Figuring that the cap goes up about $2M, we can afford raises for Fast, DeAngelo, Georgiev. And all this in the unlikely scenario that Lundqvist does not retire.

        There is no doubt that next year’s cap will be tight, but it is achievable. And they can do it while keeping Kreider and Fast (unless these guys want too much money). I’m not saying they should pay Kreider $8M, but I think they could make things work even at that number. When the Rangers bought out Shattenkirk, they knew exactly what they were doing.

        Also, the goaltending situation is unclear. Assuming Shesty is as advertised, there is simply no way the Rangers can keep him down in Hartford a second year. Georgiev will be subject to waivers next year I believe and there simply will be no way to keep all three tenders.

      3. If the roster remains the way it is, The Rangers will have around $65mm in cap hit(including Shattenkirk) in 20-21 which gives them $16.5mm in cap space for 9 players with no increase in the cap.

        4 of those contracts will be either ELC or league minimum guys, let’s call it $3.2mm for them.

        So $13.3mm for 5. Georgiev probably looking to get extended for $3mm, so it’s $10.3mm for 4. If Kreider gets his $7mm(Rangers can frontload & bonus to get him the cash equivalent of $7mm for only $6mm AAV) so then it’s $4.3mm for 3.

        Lemieux will be $1mm until he plays like his dad in the playoffs, so it’s $3.3 for 2. Somebody’s gonna get a short straw unless someone gets moved.

        A big problem is that going into 20-21 is that without Kreider there’s not enough forward depth in the system unless Gropp, Leedahl et al show tremendous progress this year. You have Barron, Gettinger, Kravtsov and…Meskinen? Fogarty?

        Georgiev, OTOH, is a potential starter that can create value in a trade(even though that usually doesn’t get you more than a 2nd) if he signs the right contract. Getting a 2nd for a UDFA is very good value creation. This is provided that Shestyorkin is the real deal.

    2. Raymond, I have worked the cap scenarios several ways for this year and next, even signing CK to $7M per is not a problem for next year.

  2. With Pionk getting 3 million per I have to seriously wonder if Gorton would have let that case go to arbitration and then walked away. Of course this pre-supposes that there was no trade market for Pionk which was unlikely but still possible. 3 million would have really strapped this team.

    1. Walk away number is indexed to midpoint number like offer sheets, it’s just north of $4mm.

  3. JG will navigate thru this crunch just fine. Don’t be surprised that the contracts aren’t already signed, or at least agreed to, but not announced to position themselves better for a potential trade. On a side not, I’ve been screaming about Shatty’s lousy contract, and again it’s biting in the ass!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I don’t think there’s any way the Rangers keep BOTH Namestnikov and Strome around, so the problem is pretty much solved. I look at the Rangers keeping a combination of 2 players out of Kreider, Fast, Namestnikov and Strome. They were smart to buy out Shatty’s contract NOW because his money will really be needed in 3 seasons.

    1. I believe the best route to contention this year is to keep everybody. I think this is what the Rangers are hoping to do. As for next season, I think evveryone agrees that Names is overpaid and overpaid players become UFAs and sign elsewhere. He is gone. The Rangers might like to keep Strome (not sure) but a path to do so would seem to require removing Kreider or Fast or amother expensive player.

      As for trading Names and Strome, I think they will have more value as trade deadline deals, so it makes sense to keep them until then. The question of what to do at the deadline if the Rangers really seem competitive may be a challenge. Do you sacrifice a 2% chance at a Cup to help the rebuild?

      If the Rangers can’t resign Kreider, things may be trickier. He may be worth more in trade now than at the deadline.

      I think Fast’s current salary is about right and the Rangers should resign him for about the same money. If he wants a lot more, then bye-bye.

      1. Regarding next year’s cap:
        There is a good chance next year they buyout Staal (assuming Miller is ready) which would add cap space (though costing cap space the following year). There is also a chance they buyout Lundqvist if Georgie plays well and Shesty is ready

  5. bottom line I see minimal chance that strome and Vlad are both here to start the season. Good thing is that for now our leverage in those dealings swings back towards us somewhat, for now.

  6. I don’t see ADA and Lemieux taking up $3.5M per. I think they take closer to $2M to $2.5M combined and risk have ADA walk at some point after this year.

    1. So here’s a question. Give ADA a choice – accept the QO or sign a two year deal for $3.2M (1.6 per). What does he do?

      I like the latter for the Rangers as it sidesteps the possibility of a problematic spike next year when the numbers are tight and seems doable this year, but will he hold out for a big payday next year when he has some leverage.

      1. I like the latter as well, and it might be possible as ADA would be an RFA again next year, without arb rights, if he signed a one year deal this year. He really has no leverage.

        And Lemieux should be happy just to get a contract.

  7. I trust JD and JG to resolve the salary issues (including the Shatty buyout). They know what they are doing.
    I think Lemieux is a real sleeper. He has a great attitude and has very underrated offensive skills. Great hands. Quick accurate shot. Solid middle six winger in my book……

  8. Right now Namestnikov contract is not what teams want to take on this summer for the upcoming season. The best scenario that could happen is Namestnikov starts out playing really well and came be moved sometime in Dec or Jan where his contract will off-set the number a bit. Everyone on vacation right now but I am sure in about three-weeks talks will resume.

  9. Almost everybody is so HIGH on DeAngelo, the 2nd coming of Brian Leetch, but there are no offer sheets for him so far, none. I bet all NHL GMs are fools, they don’t know hockey.

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