NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 02:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers in action against the New Jersey Devils during their game at the Prudential Center on February 2, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Report: Rangers’ Kreider asks for $4.75 million in arbitration

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The next big moves for the New York Rangers this summer are going to be dealing with restricted free agent forwards Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. They both have arbitration hearings scheduled over the next week.

Kreider is first up on Friday, and on Wednesday we found out what the two sides are looking for going into it.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, as well as NHL analyst Aaron Ward, Kreider submitted an ask of $4.75 million, while the Rangers countered with an offer of $3.2 million.

Assuming the two sides don’t reach a new deal before Friday and the case goes to arbitration it is likely that the number will fall right in the middle of those two figures, which would be somewhere in the neighborhood of around $4 million.

Kreider is coming off of a two-year contract that paid him $2.457 million per season. He scored 21 goals both seasons.

Kreider is still two years away from being eligible for unrestricted free agency, while Brooks reports the two sides are currently trying to negotiate a four-or five-year contract. Given his age and production, his value right now should probably be in the same neighborhood of Washington’s Marcus Johansson (who just signed a three-year, $13.75 million deal on Wednesday) and New Jersey’s Kyle Palmeiri (he signed a five-year deal worth $4.65 million per season earlier this summer).

Following the trade of Derrick Brassard earlier this week to the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers should have more than enough cap space to get Kreider and Hayes signed and still remain well under the NHL’s salary cap for the season.

The risk the Rangers would run is the same any other team has when it comes to a short-term contract with a young player just starting to enter what should be his peak years like Kreider currently is. If it gets to arbitration and he only ends up with a one-year deal, there is the chance he could come back with a breakthrough the season that significantly drives up his price.

According to Brooks, the the gap between Kreider’s ask on a long-term deal and the Rangers’ offer is $500,000 per year, which should be relatively easy to close.

No matter what the Rangers do with Kreider they are still going to be in a bit of a tough spot in the near future. Even though they have enough salary cap space in the short-term to keep everybody, it is still a team that has some flaws that need addressed.

Without making another major move they may not be able to adequately address them.

Monahan wants long-term contract with Flames, prepared to take less money ‘to be a better team’

Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Johnny Gaudreau during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Sean Monahan would like to sign a long-term contract with the Calgary Flames.

And in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup, if the 21-year-old center has to leave a little money on the table, he’s prepared to do that.

“Our goal is to bring a Stanley Cup to Calgary, so if that’s what it is, that we can bring other players in, to have a little extra money room and get them in to help us to be a better team, I think that’s the idea,” Monahan said Monday, per NHL.com.

Monahan is a restricted free agent. So too is 22-year-old winger Johnny Gaudreau. GM Brad Treliving has said he’d like to get both players signed to long-term deals.

“The preference for us would be to have some cost certainty with them, get them under contract for term, but again it takes two to make a deal here and we’ll continue to work away at it,” Treliving said earlier this month.

Gaudreau led the Flames with 78 points last season, followed by Monahan’s 63 points. Those two, along with 20-year-old Sam Bennett and 18-year-old Matthew Tkachuk, are excellent reasons for optimism in Calgary. The Flames also have a solid defense, led by captain Mark Giordano, who’s already locked up to a long-term contract. And with the additions of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, they’re hoping they’ve stabilized their goaltending.

Certainly, the goal for 2016-17 should be getting back to the playoffs. Like their Alberta neighbors to the north, with all the talent that’s been assembled, it’s no longer acceptable for the Flames to keep missing out on the postseason.

That will be especially true if Monahan and Gaudreau sign big, long-term deals this summer. While still young, they’re around the same age that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane started winning Stanley Cups in Chicago, and when Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty started winning in Los Angeles.

“We both want to be there, we both want to play together, and we want to win in Calgary,” said Monahan.

Bruce Boudreau’s attitude should be a boon for Eric Staal, Wild

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 25:  Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks speaks to the media after a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 25, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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By handing Eric Staal a three-year contract, the Minnesota Wild made it pretty clear that they believe that the former Carolina Hurricanes captain can bounce back.

Even with that in mind, new Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau seems like he can make a difference as a positive force, and that might be seen with Staal in particular.

Staal seems to think that Boudreau is a proponent of what he brings to the table, as he told the Pioneer Press.

“Bruce is someone that I believe, through the phone conversations I’ve had with him, believes in my game and believes in me,” Staal said. “He will give me every opportunity to try to rekindle some of that offensive flair I’ve had over the years and haven’t had in the last couple.”

Chris Stewart called Boudreau being in Minnesota “a bonus” after spending one season with the bench boss. Boudreau described himself as a “positive communicator.”

Hockey is a brutally physical sport, and many of the game’s best coaches are known to “bark” at players.

(OK, so Mike Babcock leans more toward a scowl, but you get the point.)

Still, with how highly trained professional athletes can be, a kinder and gentler approach might succeed in its own way. If you ask profoundly successful NFL head coach Pete Carroll, teamwork inspires people to “work harder.”

If you can get past the playoff disappointments for a moment, one factor that distinguishes Boudreau from others is his willingness to be flexible. He found a way to adapt when the Ducks weren’t scoring, molding them into a more defensive-minded group.

Now, let’s not pretend Boudreau is totally averse to screaming fits. HBO’s 24/7 series caught plenty of profanity-laced tirades during the tail end of his Capitals days.

The moments that cameras don’t capture are simply more likely to make a difference, both for Staal and for the Wild overall.

The Wild need Eric Staal to be ‘the Eric Staal that he was in the past’

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 29:  Eric Staal #12 of the New York Rangers skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on February 29, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On a day when hundreds of millions of dollars were committed to unrestricted free agents, the Eric Staal signing barely made a ripple in NHL waters.

The Minnesota Wild committed just $10.5 million over three years to Staal — an entirely reasonable sum considering it was July 1, a day when reason often goes flying out the window.

Just don’t take that to mean the Staal signing isn’t an important one for the Wild. Because, in fact, it’s a vitally important signing. The 31-year-old’s contract may not reflect it, but he was brought on to play a top-six role next season, possibly one that will see him centering Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle.

“He wanted the opportunity to be the Eric Staal that he was in the past,” head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. “And I told him he would definitely get that chance here.”

And he’ll get that chance because the Wild are thin at the center position. (Remember what Thomas Vanek said last year? “We don’t have maybe the strongest depth in the middle.”)

Signing Staal was a calculated risk by GM Chuck Fletcher. He could’ve gone harder after free agents Frans Nielsen or David Backes, but that would’ve been considerably more expensive, and those two are even older than Staal.

Another option would’ve been to trade for a center — perhaps somebody like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — but that would’ve cost the Wild a good, young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba.

And so he rolled the dice on Staal, hoping that the once-elite center can be elite, or at least in that neighborhood, again.

Certainly, Staal has to be better than he was for the Rangers, after New York got him at the trade deadline. He had just six points in 20 games, then no points in five playoff games.

“I still feel I can be a contributor in a very good team’s top six,” said Staal. “I’m going to get an opportunity on a team that’s hungry to win and hungry to be a top team. I’ve got to prove it.”

Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet

Canucks, Rangers reportedly have interest in Vanek

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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If July 1 passes and the Vancouver Canucks haven’t been able to land Milan Lucic or Loui Eriksson or one of the other wingers they’re targeting in free agency, then they might consider signing Thomas Vanek.

Yes, that’s how far Vanek’s worth has fallen. He’s become a backup plan for one of the worst teams in the NHL, a team that finished last season with more goals than only the New Jersey Devils.

It wasn’t even three years ago that the Islanders offered Vanek a deal that was reportedly in the neighborhood of $50 million over seven years.

Things are sure different now. From News 1130 Sports in Vancouver:

To be fair to Vanek, the Canucks aren’t the only team that might have interest in the 32-year-old winger. (“Interest” being a relative term.)

From the New York Post:

The Rangers, we’re told, intend to touch base with Thomas Vanek and gauge his willingness to sign the type of one-year reclamation contract that Benoit Pouliot did when he joined the Blueshirts for $1.3 million in 2013-14. Pouliot used that season as a springboard to the five-year, $20 million deal he then signed the following summer with the Oilers.

It would make perfect sense, too, for the Islanders to check in on Vanek, who melded beautifully with Tavares (and, uh oh, Okposo) during his 47-game lend-lease tryout with the club during 2013-14.

Last week, Vanek was bought out by the Wild following an 18-goal season.