Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing On The Wall For Christensen Departure From Rangers?

During his WFAN interview this morning Brad Richards revealed that he would be wearing #19 again after switching to #91 in Dallas.  Ruslan Fedotenko gave up the number to Richards whom he played with in Tampa Bay.  Later Brian Compton of tweeted that Fedotenko will instead wear #26 this season, which is the same number he wore when he was in Tampa.  The fact that Fedotenko was taking #26, which belonged to Erik Christensen last season has led to many thinking it means that Christensen is a lock to be gone before the regular season.  Andrew Gross reported that Christensen granted Fedotenko permission to take the number because he doesn’t care what number he wears. 

Update: The New York Rangers official twitter reports that Christensen will wear #40 and Rupp #71

So is the writing finally on the wall for a Christensen departure this summer?

With Richards in the fold and the rest of the roster at best Christensen should be a spare forward who is kept around as a healthy scratch in case of an injury.  He will no longer have the crutch of hope that his initial chemistry with Marian Gaborik can be rekindled because Richards is taking that spot permanently. 

Kevin Baumer at Blueshirt Bulletin examined how Richards own shootout quality could eliminate the need for Christensen as a specialist there as well, which was his only other use to the team.  Baumer points out that Richards has converted 25 of his 59 (42%) career shootout attempts rendering the need to carry Christensen for the skills competition moot. 

It is unlikely the Rangers will just waive Christensen without attempting to deal him first.  If the Rangers could do a similar deal with him this summer as they did with Voros last summer to get a solid defender to fill the 6/7 role in the defense corps then they would do well.  Someone is likely to take a chance on Christensen thinking they can get him to consistently use his skill and take advantage of his shootout skills in the process. 

The Rangers were obviously one of the best teams in the NHL in shootouts last season, but having a player like Richards who is good in shootouts means that they can stop carrying guys just for their shootout expertise and removes the last vestiges of Christensen’s usefulness to New York.

Listen: Richards Discusses Many Topics, Reveals Switching Back to #19 During WFAN Interview

During an interview with Sid Rosenberg of WFAN, Brad Richards of the New York Rangers touched on a variety of topics.  Here is a bullet point rundown of what was talked about.

  • Richards is a Yankees fans as growing up in Prince Edward Island it was Boston or Toronto for most and he hated both.
  • Richards cited his relationship and comfort with Tortorella and the system as a key to signing with New York
  • Rangers young talent was also a key consideration for Richards who reiterated his comparison to what went on in Tampa before the championship.
  • Hopes that Gaborik will benefit from playing with him and wants to personally dominate out there as he has in the past with other wingers.
  • Passes on chance to discuss Rangers free agency failings in Drury and Gomez.  Says he was focused on his own game and not what was happening with them.
  • Rosenberg gave Richards an open net asking him if he automatically hates the Islanders now that he is a Ranger and Richards slammed the puck in the back of the net.
  • Will wear #19 again
Audio of the interview:

Front-loading Contracts For Callahan, Dubinsky Would Aid Them and Rangers

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.
Having been done a favor by the players filing for arbitration it is now up to GM Glen Sather to take advantage of it and get deals done with these players before the hearing ever happen starting later this month.  With Dubinsky and Callahan the deal should be of the longer term variety 4-5 years to lock in two integral pieces of the core, while on Sauer and Boyle the deals are likely to be shorter term 1-2 seasons to have both prove that last season was not a fluke.
In negotiating the longer deals with Dubinsky and Callahan, Sather could employ a similar tact as he did with the Brad Richards negotiation in giving a large piece of the money in the first few seasons to entice the players to potentially take a lower cap hit over the course of the deal. While the two won’t have the extra years at the end of the deal to drastically lower the cap hit, what can happen is the players get their money guaranteed before the new CBA and protect themselves against rollbacks.  Basically what you would do with their contracts is invert the Staal deal.
Take Callahan as an example: 

2011-12: $5.25
2012-13: $5.25
2013-14: $3
2014-15: $2.5
2015-16: $2

While Callahan is not worth the $5.25 million he would be getting in the first two years of the deal it would allow the Rangers to get him for a lower cap hit than if they did an escalating deal where he worries about potential rollbacks in salary following the new deal.  The move also protects the Rangers if the new CBA counts salaries as they are against the cap as Callahan’s later years would be at a decreased rate.  There are positive trade-offs for both sides in this kind of arrangement.  Overall the deal would come out to a five-year, $18.25 million contract with an AAV of $3.65.

If public perception is correct, then this kind of tact might be even more effective for Dubinsky who gets his money up front and then worries about his next deal later on.  Just something to consider, but either way Glen Sather will be busy over the next few weeks to not squander the gift some of his key players gave him in taking the arbitration route.