Monday, December 6, 2010

Daily Recap: Salary Cap Rising; Gaborik Must Step Up; Have Rangers Proven Anything?

Today there only a few stories on the blog as there was no actual team news, but there was analysis of the team as a whole, the man who is paid to be the star of the offense and what the salary cap changes means for the Rangers going forward.

The most important story of the day might be the one this evening when I looked at Marian Gaborik the man who was brought here to be the Rangers version of a Crosby or Ovechkin as a dangerous offensive threat in every game the Rangers play and this season he has failed mightily to do that.  He has had some phenomenal performances without question as he has two hat-tricks and two four point games this season, but those two games also account for his only multi-point performances and the Rangers need more from him.  The Full story, Will the Real Marian Gaborik Please Stand Up?, goes into the good and the bad of the season for Gabby so far, where the Rangers most need him to get better and how when he is he can change the attitude of his bench.

This afternoon I looked at the announcement that the NHL salary cap is likely going up 3 million dollars to 62.4 million for the 2011-12 season and all the ramifications that will have for the Rangers in terms of signing back their own players and going into the market for some of the top talent.  Does the Salary Cap Change the Rangers Options? Are Richards/Parise types Now Possible?  looks at the Rangers current cap situation for next year, what the amount of space is, how much it will cost to keep the guys they have and what is left over in terms of free agency.  It also looks at what if any possible moves the Rangers can make to create more room and how they should spend that money.

Finally this morning in, “Rangers 16-12-1 Record Due to Who They Are or Who They Played?

I looked at the legitimacy of the Rangers record in terms of the fact that it looks good on the surface but it is a product of the team the Rangers have played thus far on the schedule while also looking ahead to how the schedule is getting tougher from this point forward.

Will The Real Marian Gaborik Please Stand Up/Step Up?

The Rangers Need To See More of these (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers signed Marian Gaborik in the 2009 offseason to be their star on offense and to help lead this team to higher levels.  Last season offensively Gaborik was tremendous putting in 42 goals and adding 44 assists while staying healthier than many expected and playing in 76 games.  On the surface one would look at his numbers from this year and think 15 points in 16 games means that Gaborik is doing his job and producing for the club.  Frankly for me that is simply not the case and the Rangers 16-12-1 is as much in spite of the performance as because of it.  The season for Gaborik has been a series of stops and starts, ups and downs and no consistent production on the offensive side of the ledger.  The early injury along with the illness has been part of what has prevented that consistency but at the same time he is a world class player and production is necessary when he is in there.  For Gaborik to miss 13 of the teams 29 games and be held off the scoresheet in 7 games he has played while only has two multi-point efforts is not what the Rangers need or expect from him.  So will the real Marian Gaborik please stand up and lead this offense?

Does Rising Salary Cap Change Rangers Options? Richards/Parise Types Now Possible?

The salary cap and what number it is set at each year is something that New York Rangers fans have had to follow very closely over the past few years because the club was in salary cap nightmare based on some of the huge contracts given out by Glen Sather over the years.  Last season the cap after being expected to go down surprisingly rose from 56.8 to 59.4 million and while 2.6 million might not seem like a whole lot is the reason deals like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi got done this past summer.  Now this coming summer there has been a lot of talk and speculation about the Rangers going after Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars, but before that happens the Rangers have five integral players who are RFA’s this summer: Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, and Michael Sauer. 

The news on next year’s cap that first started over the weekend with Darren Dreger of TSN when first on twitter and then on that the cap could rise another 2 million dollars this coming offseason to a cap ceiling of 61.4 million.

Preliminary projections assume the Salary Cap will go up at least another $2 million in the 2011-12 season from the current level of $59.4 million.  This of course is under the assumption that the NHL Players' Association requests a five per cent inflator as is their right. 

Well this morning as the Board of Governor’s meetings are getting underway in Florida the reports are now circulating from Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail that the bump could be as much as 3 million for next year if the inflator is exercised and bring the cap to 62.4 million for 2011-12 season.  The reasoning from David is the following is that since the cap is based on revenues it means revenues are likely increasing but that those increases are being carried by the Canadian teams over the lackluster performances of some American markets. 

The reality for Rangers fans is they really do not care why the cap will be whatever it will be just what it is and what it means for their hockey club.  So, what does an increase to 62.4 million mean for the Rangers?

Before all Rangers fans go writing the checks to and buying the jerseys for Brad Richards on Broadway let us look at what the current cap scenario looks like, project what the key pieces that the Rangers should bring back are and then see what is left.  The following guys will surely be one from the team roster by next season: Alex Frolov, Todd White, Matt Gilroy, Vinny Prospal and probably Ruslan Fedotenko.  The key players that the team needs to sign are those I listed at the start and possibly Steve Eminger as an unrestricted free agent. 

Currently the Rangers have 13 players under contract for next season at a cap hit of 41.85 million dollars.  The players on that list in declining cap numbers are: Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Henrik Lundqvist, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Sean Avery, Derek Boogaard, Michael Del Zotto, Erik Christensen, Derek Stepan, Martin Biron and Brandon Prust.  Having those 13 players in place the Rangers have a grand total of 20.5 million dollars under the cap to bring back the guys they want and/or add new ones.  If I had to project right now I would guess that the combination of Dubinsky (3.75), Callahan (3.4), Sauer (850K), Boyle (1.3), Anisimov (1.6) makes a grand total of 10.9 million.  That would give the Rangers 18 players under contract and 52.75 million spent with 9 million left to fill out the last five roster spots. 

If Mats Zuccarello is ready to make the team that is 1.75 million and you will either bring back Eminger at basically his current salary or call up one of the young guys from Hartford but let’s take that at 1.25 to be safe and call the combined 3 mil.  Those two moves give the Rangers six million to fill out the last 3 roster spots which is a considerable amount of flexibility but not nearly enough for a big name whether it be Richards, Semin, Ehrhoff as UFA’s or any other significant contract like a run at Zach Parise as an RFA.  Also must consider if any of the prospects like Horak, Hagelin, Kreider, Werek might be able to step in or Weise from the Whale to take spots.

The key to any big move for the Rangers this summer will still be the moving of Michal Rozsival in a trade and not taking back a significant salary in any such move.  If the Rangers could move Rozsival who will have value, especially to a team looking to hit the cap floor of 46.4 million but not spend that as his cap hit is 5 million but his salary is only 3.  Now if they are able to move Rozi it means that Eminger is either coming back or they are bringing in another top 4 defender to the club. 

The other place that this 3 million dollar bump really helps the Rangers is the summer when Wade Redden’s 6.5 million counts against the cap again but teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% which this summer will be virtually the full amount of Redden’s deal. 

In the end the 3 million is certainly a huge help to the Rangers in planning for next season, but that money alone does not afford them the flexibility to bring in a huge salary and if I was running the show, which obviously I am not I would play it how the Rangers initially did coming out of the lockout where you don’t spend and in a year you are looking at likely only needing new deal for Del Zotto and Prust while huge contracts like Drury, Rozi (if still here) and smaller ones like Avery, Christensen go away and your young talent is able to play or spend the money with a better understanding of what your long term needs are.  Remember this is a bad economy, it is time the Rangers show some fiscal responsibility.

Rangers 16-12-1 Record Due to Who They Are or Who They Played?

In all sports the ultimate goal for each team and their fans at the start of a season is to win a championship.  Obviously if teams and fans are realistic about their actual goals many will realize the ultimate goal is not in the cards for them in that season and they have secondary goals whether it be making the playoffs or just making sure you leaving it out on the field/court/ice each game.  For many New York Rangers fans the realistic goal for this teams coming into the year was a run at the playoffs with a seeding likely in the 6-8 range as the better end of the expectations while maybe pushing the right matchup in a first round series.  Those expectations though have a tendency to change most dramatically at the beginning of years based on hot or slow starts.

Where the Rangers are concerned the 2009-2010 season was one that had fans in the first 10 games handing them the Stanley Cup and it ended with the Rangers missing the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.  In 2010-2011 the Rangers did not get off to the same start right out of the gates and had their ups and downs on a rollercoaster that had them hovering mainly within striking distance of .500 for the first 20 games.  In the nine games since a loss at Colorado November 19th that dropped the Rangers to 10-9-1 the team is an overall 6-3 and has had 3 consecutive 2 win 1 loss mini streaks along the path.  The question becomes though is the Rangers run of late and overall record a product of who they are or just who they have played?