Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Locking Up Michael Sauer Should Be A Rangers Priority This Summer

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
There have been a number of pleasant surprises for the New York Rangers during this season, but few if any have been as good as the play of rookie defenseman Michael Sauer. Coming into the season Sauer was seen by many as an afterthought even to make the roster.  His play throughout the year has not only changed that thinking, but made him a critical part of the Rangers defensive core now and into the future.  The 23-year-old defender has played himself into the top four on defense and has been arguably the best defender on the club the second half of the season.
There has been a lot of discussion this year about the necessary contracts for Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky along with some for Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov but very little attention has been paid to the fact that Michael Sauer is also on that RFA list.  He will never be the flashy player on that list, the big name or the big producer but his steadiness this season has made him as important as any of those guys to the position the Rangers are in.  Normally I look at players have their best season in a contract year with skepticism and only want to give them a one year contract to prove it again, but with Sauer I don’t have those doubts because of that level of consistency he has played with every game this year.
Every night he steps on the ice you know you are getting a player with tremendous defensive awareness, positioning and attention to the basics.  Add to that a man who loves to hit, clears the crease and fights to defend himself and his teammates and you get someone you have to keep around this summer. 
What has come along more than most would have expected is his offensive contributions.  As with everything Sauer does his offensive improvement and impact is beyond the boxscore and stems from his intelligence.  He does a tremendous job of reading the play and knowing when to pinch to keep possession alive, when to slide down for a potential scoring chance and when to back out and play defense.  Those traits were on display Monday night against Boston as Sauer read the play beautifully and slid down to a position where he was able to take advantage of the hustle by the forwards behind the net and beat Tim Thomas for his second game winning goal of the season.  The goal was his third to go with 11 assists in 74 games this season while playing to a tremendous +18 rating.
Where would the Rangers be without Michael Sauer this season?  I for one do not want to find out as this summer the team should lock up the 23-year-old defender for at least two seasons at a price of 1-1.2 million per year.