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?

Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

Can’t be good, though.

Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

“He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching was a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.