The end of August is here. The 2019 Traverse City Prospects Tournament is just around the corner. The Rangers are back in the states and preparing for training camp. Thoughts are already shifting towards roster construction and cap space. Yet two important players remain unsigned: RFAs Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux.
Both restricted free agents have very little leverage and, if rumors are true, the Rangers are taking advantage of this and barely budging off their qualifying offers for both players. Those single year qualifying offers are for a shade under $875,000. It’s understandable that both players are reluctant to sign those deals, but options are limited and time is running out.
For both players, they appear to be down to two options. Sign the contract, or holdout into the start of the season. There is the option of an offer sheet, but it takes two to tango. It looks like no teams around the NHL are willing to commit cap space to two unproven, yet promising RFAs.
For DeAngelo, the issue is inconsistency. He’s on his third team in three years after off-ice issues plagued him. David Quinn appeared to get through to him, and DeAngelo had the best season of his career last season. But now with Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox in the mix, DeAngelo’s role as PP1 QB, in which he excelled, is in question. He’s one of the top transition defensemen in the game, but he struggles mightily in the defensive zone. Are the Rangers willing to commit to a multi-year deal in the $2-$3 million range based off 61 good games, especially given the cap situation and the Chris Kreider situation? It’s a sticky situation, and the wrong move here could have long term rebuild implications. How much should the Rangers commit to a player who is the 3RD and shifting to a PP2 role?
As for Lemieux, his situation is a little different. His first full season was last season, playing in 63 games between Winnipeg and the Rangers. His 19 games with the Rangers were good, but like DeAngelo, it’s too small of a sample size to make any long-term commitment. Lemieux brings a different type of sandpaper, agitator game to the Rangers that they lack, but the jury is still out if he’s more like Sean Avery’s first run on Broadway or Sean Avery’s second run on Broadway. The former is worth spending money on, the latter not so much.
For both players, the qualifying offer represents an opportunity as a “show me” deal. Prove it wasn’t a fluke, and then get paid. The Blueshirts have taken this approach before, but rarely has it extended this far into the offseason.
Lemieux’s deal will get done soon because his one year market value is around is QO amount. DeAngelo’s situation is different, as his role is diminishing and he might not put up the point totals he did last year due to ice time and opportunities. His camp knows this, and wants the money up front now. It is not the best situation for him. But with little leverage, what can be done?