James O'Brien

Derek Stepan

Report: Rangers haven’t submitted opening proposal to Stepan yet

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It’s anyone’s guess if the New York Rangers will stop Derek Stepan from reaching salary arbitration, but as of this moment, it doesn’t sound like much is happening yet.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that “the parties haven’t quite even reached the preliminary stages of negotiating” as a potential arbitration hearing looms on July 27. Going further, the Rangers haven’t even offered an opening proposal for a long-term deal, according to Brooks.

Yikes, right?

OK, Rangers fans, compose yourselves.

Yes, it seems a little dicey that the two sides reportedly haven’t done much, if anything. Stepan, 25, has a strong argument for a hearty deal – Brooks believes that a contract carrying a $6.5 million cap hit would merely get the ball rolling – but the Rangers hold some leverage in his RFA status.

General Fanager places the Rangers’ cap space at about $10.2 million at the moment, yet the Rangers have other situations to address with RFAs, as J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast all need new contracts. There are also some situations to consider for 2016-17, as Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider rank among the most noteworthy players currently on expiring deals.

Even with that tight squeeze, note that a lot can happen in two weeks, and deals often get hammered out within breathing distance of these hearings.

The outlook just doesn’t seem particularly rosy right now, at least if this report is accurate.

Related: Ryan O’Reilly’s big deal might not be helping matters.

Sharp says so long to Chicago with heartfelt ad

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
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Food for thought: maybe newspapers are the true winners of each offseason.

It’s almost a cliche at this point: when someone spends a long time in a city, that player (or even coach) will take a full-page newspaper advertisement out to say goodbye and thank you. Considering his lengthy stay with the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s no surprise that Patrick Sharp did just that, placing an ad with newspapers including the Chicago Tribune:

(Sharp must have at least 1,000 photos of himself with the Stanley Cup, right? It must have taken him a while to choose the right one for this spot …)

During Saturday’s introductory press conference, the 33-year-old said he wasn’t sure when he would touch base in Dallas, but he noted that his wife has never been to Texas. One can only imagine the conflicting emotions Sharp must be dealing with at the moment, as a long journey comes to an end … but at least the Stars show interesting promise.

Here’s the full text of his lengthy letter:

I arrived in Chicago in 2005, not knowing the journey that the Blackhawks would take me over the next 10 years. This team gave me an opportunity to play, to grow and become the person I am today. I will always be grateful for the time I spent here.

Winning the Stanley Cup once was a dream come true; winning it three times, with three different groups of teammates, coaches and trainers, was the ultimate privilege as a player. I feel an overwhelming sense of pride when I look back on all that we’ve accomplished together.

Thank you to Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, Stan Bowman and the entire Blackhawks family for allowing me to be a part of a world-class organization on and off the ice. Thank you to the fans for embracing me as a player and accepting me as a part of Chicago.

This city has meant so much to me and my family: Three Stanley Cup victories. The birth of Madelyn Grace and Sadie Ellen. Endless memories from the fans, my friends and teammates. For the Sharp family, Chicago has become home.

Thank you,

Patrick, Abby, Madelyn and Sadie Sharp

Report: Kruger awaits long-term offer once Blackhawks clear cap room

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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The Chicago Blackhawks still have some salary cap fires to put out, even after trading Patrick Sharp. It sounds like Marcus Kruger is willing to wait until the smoke clears.

ESPN Chicago reports that Kruger is fine with allowing the Blackhawks to take the time they need to clear salary cap space for a specific personal goal: a long-term contract.

General Fanager puts the Blackhawks’ current room at about $982K, but the situation is fluid even beyond defenseman Johnny Oduya’s future. Looking at qualifying offers alone, Chicago still needs to resolve discussions with Kruger, Joakim Nordstrom and Viktor Svedberg.

Kruger, 25, carried a cap hit of $1.325 million during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. His actual salary was $1.4 million last season. It’s not really clear what kind of money the useful depth forward is looking for, only that he seems most interested in term, at least according to ESPN Chicago.

To summarize: it seems like Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has some work to do before he can go in full-on vacation mode, but Kruger apparently isn’t giving up on returning to Chicago even if it means waiting in limbo for some time.

Caps GM doesn’t fear possible arbitration for Holtby, Johansson

Braden Holtby
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“If you’ve got to go to arb, you’ve got to go to arb.”

No, that’s not a new slogan for fast food roast beef. Instead, it’s the amusing phrasing Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan used as he projected comfort with the possibility of Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson going to salary arbitration, according to the Washington Post.

“I think we’ve made an aggressive offer with Holtby, hoping to get it done sooner than later,” MacLellan said. “I like what we’ve offered. We’ve offered a term deal with a good salary. The total dollars is pretty significant. Unfortunately, I guess you play it out. If you’ve got to go to arb, you’ve got to go to arb. It’s part of the process.”

The Washington Post notes that MacLellan described his offer to Johansson as “competitive.” Does that rank a little lower on the scale of negotiations than “aggressive,” though?

Contract talks don’t really go through the sometimes-tense arbitration process very often any longer. Each case would be fascinating if they made it that far, however.

A quick look at each RFA

Holtby is obviously the bigger name of the two, and with good reason after a breakout year.

The 25-year-old’s career numbers look excellent (especially an impressive .921 save percentage), and he really made an impression in 2014-15, going 41-20-10 with nine shutouts and a .923 save percentage. While his resume isn’t enormous – 73 of his 178 games played came this past season – his stats argue for a hefty raise from his bargain $1.85 million cap hit.

Johansson, 24, would be an interesting consideration in his own right, though.

The Swedish forward set career-highs with 20 goals and 47 points last season; he didn’t look out of place when he joined the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, either.

***

Washington boasts about $10.9 million in cap space, but those two could eat a huge chunk of that breathing room. It sounds like MacLellan isn’t sweating the situation too much, though (at least publicly).

Nill hopes Sharp trade moves Stars from ‘infant stage’ to Chicago’s level

Patrick Sharp, Michal Jordan
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Patrick Sharp tried not to cry when discussing the trade that sent him from the Chicago Blackhawks to Dallas, but Stars GM Jim Nill provided the most interesting fodder.

For one thing, a theme seemed obvious: while Sharp is the headliner of the swap, Dallas seems awfully excited about acquiring defensive prospect Stephen Johns.

On a skill-heavy team like the Stars, it could be a boon to add such a big body.

“Stephen was a big part of that trade,” Nill said. “We’re trying to change a little bit of the dimension of our back end … he’s 6-foot-4, 220 lbs. and can skate.”

Of course, Nill also pumps up the Sharp acquisition, saying “anyone who’s won Stanley Cups, you can’t replace that.”

On the future

Nill said he’s “very comfortable” heading into the 2015-16 season as is, yet he also noted that the Stars still enjoy healthy cap space. By Cap Friendly’s measure, the Stars enjoy about $6.4 million in room, which would easily allow for another move if something comes up. (Of course, not every team budgets to hit the cap ceiling, though.)

The way Dallas’ GM looks at this trade, the Stars are hoping to go from what he calls their “infant stage” to Chicago’s level.

They definitely have a long way to go before they’re a perennial Cup contender, but when you look at that roster on paper, it’s not outrageous to imagine much more than baby steps going forward.