Mike Sauer is the perfect example of when dedication and unwavering self belief go rewarded. Sauer, the last remnants of the Brian Leetch trade, had been with the organisation for a long time before sticking with the big club this year. Oft injured in previous years and even heading into this year a legitimate doubt to make the roster, Sauer has become a rock for the Rangers. Prior to this season, Sauer had only 3 NHL appearances to his name despite being drafted way back in 2005.
This season Sauer has impressed in many ways. Whether it has been his solid defensive play, his willingness to stick up for his teammates or Sauer dropping the gloves when called upon but especially his physical play, Sauer has been a great surprise in New York this year. So much so, that this summer Sauer can expect rather than hope for a new deal from the Rangers.
Sauer has even thrown in some unexpected offense this season. Always considered a defensive defenseman, Sauer grabbed 3 goals and 15 points to go with his exceptional +20 rating which led the team. Given the fact Sauer was a big league rookie; the way he has played – along with his rookie partner Ryan McDonagh – has been sensational. A candidate for the 6/7th defense spots in pre season; Sauer (and McDonagh) locked up the second pairing this season. While Mike Sauer is not necessarily a borderline roster player for next season, what kind of contract he receives this summer is worth debate. The Rangers have a host of young defensemen in the system. How much do they value Sauer now, and going forward?
The Rangers should be looking to get Sauer under contract for at least 2 years. A sensible cap figure and length of deal will allow the club to evaluate the defense while Dylan Mcilrath and Whale players such as Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek mature and develop. Ideally for the Rangers, when Mcilrath is ready for the big club they will have an envious problem of too much defensive depth and thus some trade assets to play with. After all, there are only so many defensive spots up for grabs.
This season something else aided Sauer’s cause to stick with the Rangers; health. That hasn’t been the case much for Sauer and could be a source of debate come contract negotiation time. Prior to this year only once had Sauer completed more than 65 games in a season since 2006. Thankfully for the Minnesota native health was something he could rely on this season. Sauer was also not considered ideal for the way Coach Tortorella wanted to play but perhaps has benefited most from the change of approach in New York. If the Rangers can come to rely on 15-20 points a season to go along with a defensive shutdown, physical approach Sauer becomes an ideal depth defenseman.
Sauer should be receiving between $1 and $1.5m dollars this summer depending on the length of the deal. Anything around 2 years and $1.1m seems fair. The length of the deal Sauer receives will be a sure fire indicator of the level of confidence the team has in him.