Report: Rangers appear hesitant to give Brandon Dubinsky $5M per year

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When you consider the absolutely bonkers money that the New York Rangers hand out to unrestricted free agents, it seems a bit odd that they end up using unthinkable measures such as “care” and “discretion” with their restricted guys. Wouldn’t you expect them to spend more on guys they know rather than blind gambles … or are they instead seduced by hypothetical gains?

Either way, the Rangers still have two crucial restricted free agents headed for possible salary arbitration hearings: Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. If GM Glen Sather cannot come to terms with Dubinsky soon, he might be the first NHL player “on trial” this summer; the two-way forward’s hearing is set for Thursday, July 21.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post breaks down the impasse in the simplest of terms: it’s all about money. Simply put, the Rangers aren’t totally comfortable with giving Dubinsky the a five or six-year contract worth $5 million per year. Brooks reports that they’re offering a $4.5 million average annual salary.

The 25-year-old winger is two years away from the unrestricted age of 27, although Brooks points out that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could change that scenario. Brooks makes an interesting comparison to two other restricted free agents who recently signed deals.

For the sake of comparison, Winnipeg winger Andrew Ladd just signed a five-year deal worth $4.4 million per year. The Rangers would not trade Dubinsky for Ladd. On the other hand, Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan is entering the second year of a five-year deal worth $5.1 million per. The Ducks would not consider dealing Ryan for Dubinsky.

Brooks notes that fellow heart-and-soul winger Callahan might make the discussions a bit more complicated, too. While Callahan isn’t quite as prolific as Dubinsky, he’s considered nearly as valuable because both players impact games in ways that go beyond traditional box score numbers.

Brooks provides an estimate of what Dubinsky might receive in arbitration and some of the other effects.

The Rangers, whose case will be presented by newly installed assistant general manager Jeff Gorton, should be careful not to make their presentation an attack on Dubinsky. Indeed, the best plan would be to submit their numbers and comparables while otherwise remaining silent. The 25-year-old winger is, after all, an integral part of the team and the program.

It is believed Dubinsky will earn between $3.8 million to $4.4 million through arbitration in a system where the arbitrator generally comes as close as possible to splitting the difference between the team’s and player’s submissions. The absence of either/or baseball-style arbitration allows the respective parties to be unrealistic in their submissions. Neither side should take it personally.

The Rangers have the option of electing a two-year award, but there is a sense the club may go for a one-year award, though it is unclear what advantages this strategy would yield.

Obviously, that $3.8-$4.4 million range would provide short-term savings for the Rangers, but they might risk losing Dubinsky for nothing if he becomes an unrestricted free agent once the shorter deal expires.

Perhaps this is an example of oversimplification, but would the two sides be satisfied if they took the “King Solomon” approach and split the difference? Maybe a six-year, $28.5 million deal with a $4.75 million per year cap hit would do the trick.

For all the hubbub about adding Brad Richards (and how he might resurrect Marian Gaborik’s career), Dubinsky and Callahan were the team’s most valuable forwards in 2010-11. If the Rangers hope to be a contender, they need to keep both of those spirited wingers in the fold.

If all else fails, maybe someone can hypnotize Sather into thinking that they’re both unrestricted free agents with a ton of hype. My guess is that they’d have new contracts by the end of the business day if that happened …