If you’re fascinated by athletes chasing big numbers in contract years, then the New York Rangers have been a go-to source of entertainment in recent years.
It’s difficult (if not nebulous) to try to quantify the impact of “greed is good,” but the Rangers are a hungry team with plenty of motivation in 2015-16. That’s what happens when you mortgage bits of your future via trades and employ some players chasing their next checks.
You never really know how wide open a Stanley Cup window might be.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault saw that in action in Vancouver, as the franchise declined from a huge contender to a bubble team in little time.
We’ve asked more than once if Henrik Lundqist’s elite days are numbered. It’s also worth noting that at 31, Rick Nash is in the middle of that age in which snipers see a slide in production.
The contract year situations aren’t of “uh oh, we better re-sign Henrik Lundqvist/our current captain/Derek Stepan” enormity, but they’re still intriguing.
On defense, you have veteran Keith Yandle and fading graybeard (literally) Dan Boyle. Antti Raanta also enters a pivotal year as an NHL backup.
The forward group might be the most intriguing.
Just look at the pending RFAs alone: Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T Miller and Emerson Etem. There’s some fascinating potential for all four of those players.
Even with Boyle’s $4.5 million cap hit set to expire, salary cap gymnastic may be required once again in the summer of 2016.
Paying players after strong years – and learning to let some of the less essential ones go – has been a pretty rewarding process for the Rangers, even if there’s been the occasional miss (see: Anton Stralman).
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.
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.
From the StarTribune’s Mike Russo:
The Mike Reilly sweepstakes are coming to an end this afternoon and unless something backfires, he will be signing with the Wild.
Russo cites sources that say Reilly will sign a two-year, $1.85 million deal (plus bonuses).
The 21-year-old Minnesota native and ex-Gopher was originally drafted 98th overall in 2011 by the Blue Jackets.
However, he opted not to sign with Columbus, thus freeing him to sign elsewhere, a la Justin Schultz in 2012 and, last summer, Kevin Hayes.
Reilly’s dad, Michael, is a limited partner in the Wild.
The Chicago Blackhawks were recently the reported favorites to sign Reilly.
Aaron Ekblad is the first defenseman since Tyler Myers (2009-10) to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
The blue liner becomes the first Panthers’ defenseman to take home the award.
“The competition is pretty unreal for this award and there are a couple of names who were left out who definitely could have made a case for it,” Ekblad told the Sun-Sentinel recently. “It’s pretty cool to see who wins it.
“I’ve been able to share this with my family and everything so whether I win or lose it’s been a great experience for sure.”
Ekblad led all NHL rookie defenders in goals (12), power play goals (six), power play points (13) and shots (170). The 19-year-old also finished second in assists, plus-minus (+12), hits (109) and blocked shots (80), all while averaging 21:48 of ice time per game.
He eclipsed Ed Jovanovski’s 19-year franchise record for goals and points by a rookie defenseman.
Ekblad beat out Ottawa Senators’ rookie Mark Stone and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.
Here are the full voting results:
1. Aaron Ekblad, FLA 1147 (71-39-24-12-8)
2. Mark Stone, OTT 1078 (47-49-46-11-2)
3. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY 1026 (33-57-48-19-0)
4. Filip Forsberg, NSH 594 (6-9-37-91-13)
5. John Klingberg, DAL 127 (0-2-1-15-63)
6. Mike Hoffman, OTT 57 (0-1-1-5-30)
7. Kevin Hayes, NYR 15 (0-0-0-1-12)
8. Michael Hutchinson, WPG 13 (0-0-0-1-10)
9. Anders Lee, NYI 12 (0-0-0-1-9)
10. Jake Allen, STL 10 (0-0-0-1-7)
11. Bo Horvat, VAN 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
12. Adam Lowry, WPG 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.
Mikko Rantanen (RW)
Height: 6’4 Weight: 211 Shoots: Left
Team: TPS Turku (SM-liiga)
NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 among International skaters
What kind of player is he?
Another large, physically imposing winger, Rantanen benefited from playing professionally last year in the Finnish league — he finished second on his team in scoring, with 29 points in 56 games, and served as an alternate captain despite only turning 18 in October.
His professional experience was on full display at the World Juniors. While Finland flopped to a seventh-place finish, Rantanen impressed scouts with his individual efforts, scoring four goals in five games while emerging as one of the most dynamic forwards in the tournament.
Rantanen is easily one of the most NHL-ready prospects in this year’s draft. He’s spent either part or all of the last three seasons playing against men in the SM-liiga, and his size should allow him to immediately hang with professionals in North America.
“Rantanen utilizes a coveted combination of size, skill and offensive ability that teams cherish. He has a long, lean frame that he uses to shield the puck from defenders, but I’d like to see that size used more effectively as a consistent physical force. He doesn’t play scared, and could physically dominate opponents when he fills out his body — which would make him very tough to stop. His skating is good for a big kid and defensively, he’s aware of his responsibilities.”
NHL comparable: James van Riemsdyk/Kevin Hayes