Florida Panthers v New York Rangers

With Dubinsky signed, the Rangers can turn their full attention to Ryan Callahan

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The New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan have an arbitration hearing scheduled this Thursday to determine Callahan’s salary for next season. If the team and player can control the negotiations, there’s no way an arbitrator will ever hear both sides of the argument. The Rangers will negotiate with Callahan and hopefully avoid a hearing just like they were able to do with Brandon Dubinsky as they reached a 4-year deal, $16.8 million deal at the very last minute. Callahan’s agent, Steve Bartlett, acknowledged that there was “a pecking order” and once Dubinsky’s deal was finalized, he and the team would be able to get down to business. Well, the time has come.

The two players have been linked at the hip during their tenure in New York—so it’s no surprise that their contract negotiations should affect one another as well. Blueshirt Banter’s Joe Fortunato notes that Callahan’s deal could be just as much—if not more than Dubinsky’s recent contract:

“The two deals have always expected to be similar. Both players play key roles on the team, although Callahan has the advantage of being the top candidate to be the next captain of the team. Callahan also has another advantage, his numbers last season are comparable to Dubinsky’s (Callahan finished the year with 48 points to Dubinsky’s 54) but Callahan missed 17 more games than Dubinsky did.”

Again, it makes sense that the players who are so often linked on the ice would command similar salaries off the ice. Unfortunately for GM Glen Sather and the Rangers, the contracts and negotiations won’t happen in a vacuum. Circumstances change with each and every deal; and after Dubinsky’s deal worth $4.2 million per season, the Rangers are inching closer to the salary cap. It’s a familiar position on Broadway, but then again, they aren’t usually staring at arbitration with a guy who could be their future captain (as early as next year). Houses of the Hockey explain the financial problems of signing Callahan:

“The problem with signing Callahan to the long-term deal in the range of $4-5 million that he rightfully desires is that the Rangers can afford his salary, but barely. Sather has $5.8 million in cap space, leaving minimal wiggle room throughout the season to possible acquire depth at the trade deadline during a playoff push.”

The importance of both Dubinsky and Callahan to the New York Rangers and their future can’t be overstated. Callahan’s 48 points were tied for 2nd on the team behind Dubinsky. Likewise, Callahan’s 23 goals were also second on the team—also behind Dubinsky. Now just imagine if Callahan was able to avoid the broken leg that prematurely ended his season after only 60 games. But it’s not just obvious points that Callahan brings to the table. He lead the Rangers forwards in shorthanded ice time, power play ice time, power play goals, game winning goals—all while facing the toughest competition over the course of the season.

There’s no way the Rangers want to go to arbitration, risk a one-year contract, and unrestricted free agency next season with a player who has the potential to be their next leader. Callahan brings everything to the table that a team would want—he throws his body around to create energy for his team, scores on the power play, kills penalties, and leads in the locker room. Since Brandon Dubinsky was able to land a 4-year deal worth $4.2 million per season, that’s the starting point for any negotiations from the Callahan camp. It’s tough to separate the two players—but once they are viewed on their individual merits, Callahan is the slightly more valuable player.

If the Rangers can get him in the $4.5 million range, they should happily take the deal and run. Whatever they agree to—it’s a safe bet that they’ll do everything in their power to lock-up the 26-year-old for more than a single season. If the dispute goes to arbitration for some reason, you’ll be able to hear the audible cheer from 29 front offices around the NHL. There’s no way the Rangers would want Callahan hitting the open market as he enters his prime next season. It’s their job to handle their business with Callahan like they did with Dubinsky before the two sides enter an arbitration hearing on Thursday. Like just about every other potential arbitration dispute, the two sides will likely reach a resolution before a third party has to get involved. The only questions for Callahan and the Rangers are: how long and how much?

Let’s throw this one out to the readers: after seeing Brandon Dubinsky get his 4-year contract worth $16.8 million, what do you think Ryan Callahan’s contract will look like?

Buffalo’s depth on defense is dwindling

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 18:  Josh Gorges #4 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on October 18, 2014 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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The Buffalo Sabres aren’t known for their depth on defense, so when they have to deal with injuries at that position, things can get complicated.

Well…I guess things are about to get complicated.

On Sunday, the Sabres announced that Josh Gorges (pictured) will miss “weeks” because of a non-displaced fracture in his foot. The injury occurred after he blocked a shot in Thursday’s game against the Rangers.

Besides Gorges, Buffalo is also without Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov.

Bogosian has been out since Nov. 3 with sprained ligaments in his knee, and he’s still 10-to-14 days away from getting back into the lineup.

The news is a little better for Kulikov, who returned to practice on Sunday. He’s missed 11 games because of a back injury he suffered in the preseason. He tried playing through it, but obviously he was still in some discomfort.

“Kulikov has now skated two days with some physicality and now been skating for seven days,” coach Dan Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News. “Hopefully, that means we’ll see him in practice soon – in the next week hopefully.”

Now, some of the replacements for these guys are starting to get hurt.

Taylor Fedun missed Sunday’s practice and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play against the Capitals on Monday night. If he can’t go, Buffalo will need to call someone up from the minors.

Things got so wacky last week that the Sabres called up Brendan Guhle from junior on an emergency basis. By rule, he can stay on the roster as long as he keeps playing. Once he stops playing, the emergency tag is removed and he has to go back to his junior team.

Guhle, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Cody Franson and Justin Falk are the healthy defensemen on the roster right now.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk looks to continue dominance of Oilers

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07:  Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild celbrates a win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on April 7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Playing against your old team is always special, but Devan Dubnyk takes it to another level when he goes up against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers drafted Dubnyk in the first round, 14th overall, in 2004 and he spent parts of five seasons with them.

Since leaving Edmonton in 2014, he’s won six of seven games against his former team.

To make matters worse for the Oilers, his individual stats are better against them than they are against any other team in the league. He has a  1.28 goals-against-average and a .949 save percentage in those seven games.

His numbers in 2016-17 aren’t as good as his career numbers against Edmonton, but he still has a fantastic 1.67 goals-against-average and a .946 save percentage this season.

Like the Wild, the Oilers played last night, as they won an OT decision against the Ducks.

Cam Talbot played in that game, so they’ll opt to start backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson tonight.

Elsewhere… 

Ben Bishop turned in a solid performance against the Capitals last night, but the Lightning still haven’t announced who their starter will be this afternoon. Cam Ward is likely to get the nod for the Hurricanes.

–The Flyers and Predators both played afternoon games yesterday, and neither side has indicated who will start. Don’t be surprised if it’s Steve Mason against Pekka Rinne.

Jared Coreau made his NHL debut for Detroit yesterday, so look for Petr Mrazek to get the call tonight. Jaroslav Halak is the probable starter for the Islanders.

–Look for Connor Hellebuyck to be between the pipes for the Jets, but that hasn’t been confirmed. With Corey Crawford hurt, don’t be surprised if Scott Darling gets his second start in two nights for Chicago.

–The Ducks will give backup Jonathan Bernier the start in Calgary. The Flames will continue to ride Chad Johnson.

Flames get Johnny Gaudreau back way ahead of schedule

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Some good news if you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau, who missed 10 games with a finger injury, will be back in their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Flames forward was injured in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 (he was slashed by Eric Staal), and after he underwent surgery, the team announced that he’d be out six weeks.

In the end, he missed less than three weeks of action.

“I’m ready to play,” Gaudreau said, per NHL.com. “I think the finger’s healed up pretty well there. I’m just excited to get things going here.

“I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it’s going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I’m excited to finally get out of there.”

He’ll be playing with some added protection, as Calgary’s equipment manager made this glove for him:

Before Gaudreau got hurt, the Flames had a 6-10-1 record. But thanks to improved team play and some strong performances from goalie Chad Johnson, they managed to go 6-3-1 in, while Gaudreau was out.

The 23-year-old has five goals and six assists in 17 games, but he had scored three goals in three games before getting hurt.

Related:

Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are treated

Boudreau: Flames made “mountain out of a molehill” over Gaudreau slash

Garret Sparks plays for first time since being suspended by Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 30:  Garret Sparks #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to face the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Air Canada Centre on November 30, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Garret Sparks made waves for all the wrong reasons last week, as he was suspended by the Maple Leafs for remarks he made on social media.

Sparks officially made his return on Saturday night in the Marlies’ 3-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He stopped 27 of 30 shots.

“It’s been a lot to deal with. I understand what I did,” Sparks said, per TSN.ca. “[The incident] wasn’t me. That’s not who I want to be known as, it’s not the image I want my reputation to have.

“I should know the difference between what I can and can’t say. It’s just holding myself to a higher standard of professionalism.”

The 23-year-old actually returned to the team on Tuesday, but didn’t play until yesterday.

With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen dealing with an illness, the Leafs recalled Antoine Bibeau, which opened the door for Sparks to make his return.

Sparks has been limited to just five AHL games this year, but he was between the pipes for 17 NHL games in 2015-16.