Thursday, July 7, 2011

Which Rangers RFA Would Team Most Likely Walk Away From Arbitration Award?

When Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer all elected to file for arbitration yesterday they set the stage for an interesting few weeks for GM Glen Sather, but they also made his job easier.  There is no worry about any of the four key Rangers being offer sheeted by an opposing club.  There is no uncertainty about the timetable of having a contract and/or dollar amount for next season decided.  There is also now the option for Sather to use the secondary buyout period if he wants to reconsider his options on players like Wojtek Wolski and/or Sean Avery who were amongst those potentially rumored to be bought out before the June window.
Yesterday there was an examination of how front-loading the longer-term contracts for Callahan and Dubinsky could benefit both sides.  In the case of Michael Sauer and Brian Boyle shorter term contracts would be more expected given that both have only had one season in the NHL at the level they performed last year.   Both going into camp last season on the outside of roster projections and turning into crucial contributors sets them up for large raises from their modest prior salaries.  Sauer made $500K and Boyle $525K respectively during the 2010-11 season.  While it is possible that the Rangers could walk on Callahan or Dubinsky if the award were to be obscene it is highly improbable.  So, of the Sauer and Boyle, which is more likely to receive the big reward and have the Rangers walk away?

While Sauer is likely to get a significant raise from the $500K salary of last season it is unlikely to get a large salary or a huge arbitration award if it gets that far given his injury history and only having one year of NHL experience. However, working against Sauer if he does receive the large award is the Rangers defensive depth which could allow them to replenish from within, though still taking a serious hit.  Even with the defensive depth, Sauer's role as a top-four defender is harder to replace than a player like Boyle who right now could be mainly a fourth line center and penalty killer with offensive upside.

Boyle is the more likely candidate to receive the bigger award because in addition to the defensive work and penalty killing he does for New York he also eclipsed the 20 goal mark.  Factoring in the 20 goal campaign is what makes his award more likely to be the one that gives the Rangers pause on whether to accept or walk away and make him a free agent.  Obviously this only come into play if they don’t have a deal done before the hearing, but the question is: At what price would the Rangers walk away from Brian Boyle’s arbitration award?
Anything under $2 million for next season and the Rangers likely accept the award and keep Boyle as a developing cog in their system.  If he were to get a whacky award like Clarke MacArthur did last year at $2.4 million for his 16G, 35 point season, then the Rangers would walk away.  The promise Boyle showed in the first half last season offensively and the steady work he did forechecking and killing penalties all year gives the Rangers hope that he can repeat last year again, but his offensive struggles in the second half would give them serious pause in taking on an inflated contract for him, especially if he is now the fourth line center again following the signing of Brad Richards.
In the end expect Boyle to back in New York on a one-year deal for $1.5-1.8 million next season.  Sauer likely gets a 1-2 year deal for around $1.2 million.