We knew this time was coming. Rangers’ fans knew that as the team’s window of contention began to open so would the period come where multiple essential Rangers would approach contract negotiation time. It leaves the Rangers in a sort of crossroads over the next twelve months.
With Derek Stepan still unsigned, Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan all approaching free agency, the absolute core of this team – Rick Nash aside – is in need of new deals. Whether the Rangers can afford to pay the going rate for all these players is questionable. Brad Richards’ uncertain future, the impending free agency of Anton Stralman, and a potential career year –in a contract year– for Derick Brassard also play roles in the questionable financial future for the Rangers.
On the open market Callahan, Lundqvist and Girardi would seriously cash in. If a guy such as Bryan Little can turn a seven goal season into a multi-million, long term deal; a guy such as Callahan or a solid top pair blue liner such as Girardi could break the bank. Clearly the Rangers will not let these players leave, but will new (appropriately paid) contracts hamstring the Rangers to continue to ice a competitive roster?
Think of the financial problems that may arise not now, but in 12 months time. If Derick Brassard follows up his impressive start with the Rangers he could demand well north of $4m. Replacing Brad Richards appropriately (if the buyout happens) won’t come cheap if the answer to that question lies outside of the franchise. There are no guarantees prospects develop, so replacing Richards isn’t as easy as inserting JT Miller or Oscar Lindberg.
Often we hear the term hometown discount. The next 12 months will tell us whether any of the above named Rangers priority is to cash in, to chase the Cup (aka take a discount, of sorts), or a combination of both. Of course, so much of the financial element of the game is speculative. Other factors include the cost savings for shedding Brad Richards or the potential increase in the salary cap in the coming seasons.
The bottom line is that this New York Rangers franchise has multiple big decisions to make internally and this roster could look very different in the next 12 months. Don’t get too attached to some of names mentioned above (or any for that matter, get attached to the team, not the players). A legitimate chance remains that one or more of your current favourite Rangers could be on the move. It promises to be a pivotal period for Glen Sather and the decision makers.