Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rangers Winners Amongst Atlantic Division During Summer?

Dan Rosen, at NHL.com, took a look at the offseason changes made by teams in the Atlantic Division. 

The big fish came to the Big Apple, giving the Rangers the bona fide No. 1 center and power-play quarterback they've been looking for.
Richards signing his nine-year, $60-million contract to become a Ranger highlighted the team's offseason moves. The hope is that Richards and Marian Gaborik show immediate chemistry together to give the Rangers one of the best one-two punches in the NHL.

Discussing Richards and the hopes for what he will bring to New York as the highlight of the Rangers offseason is to be expected and certainly warranted.  However, Rosen goes further and acknowledges the importance of avoiding arbitration with Dubinsky and expects the Rangers to do the same with Callahan.  While Callahan is the expected next captain, Rosen cited both Callahan and Dubinsky as major components to the leadership core for New York.

The only work he says the Rangers had to complete was adding depth on defense, but they did that yesterday by bringing back Steve Eminger.  Eminger should quell the calls for the Rangers need to add an older defender and one with more NHL experience; at least for now.

With the Isles and Devils doing little other than hoping their young are ready to step in and produce for them, and the Flyers blowing things up by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Rangers additions certainly have them improving more than those three.  The Penguins getting Crosby and Malkin back, if at their previous form, would still make them the big winners of the summer compared to how the respective teams finished last year.

Rumor: Arbitration Could Cost Callahan Captaincy?

The commonly held belief is that Ryan Callahan is destined to be the New York Rangers’ next captain.  However, Larry Brooks of the New York Post believes that if Callahan and the Rangers cannot come to terms on a long-term contract and have to resort to using Thursday’s scheduled arbitration hearing, then Callahan will not be named be named captain this year.  Brooks says that the favorite for the 'C' would then become Brad Richards, but in that scenario Marc Staal should be the guy who gets it, not Richards.  Giving it to Staal would help to calm the waters of an angry fan base, but it would not erase how bad it would be received by the fan base.

In terms of Callahan, it would be unlikely to see coach John Tortorella name a player who could not come to terms on a long-term deal to stay with the club the captaincy, but with Callahan he might still do it.  This is likely the only scenario in which Callahan does not have the ‘C’ put on his sweater for the 2011-12 season, but since he will get a deal done before the hearing on Thursday it is not one to worry about.

What worries me more is the kind of numbers that Brooks thinks Callahan will get paid either in arbitration or on a long-term contract:
Callahan, who recorded 48 points (23-25) in 60 games while establishing career highs in goals, assists and points, will likely come in somewhere between $4.5M and $4.75M on a multi-year deal, though he all but certainly would command more on the open market next July.'
If the parties cannot agree on a long-term deal and Callahan goes through with the hearing for what would automatically be a one-year contract given his status as an impending free agent, he would likely get somewhere around $4.2 million.
As I wrote yesterday in discussing what Ryan Callahan is worth to the Rangers, the market may give him those numbers, but that does not mean he is actually worth that kind of salary.  Check out the link to see why I think paying Callahan that kind of money could be a mistake while many others are willing to give it to him without any reservations. As always, feel free to disagree.

Rangers Looking To Trade Zuccarello? What Is His Trade Value?

A few days ago there was a report in a Swedish newspaper claiming that the New York Rangers were looking to trade Mats Zuccarello this summer.  The rumor is likely more just speculation than anything tangible, but since seeing it the other day as first posted by Puck Central, I have been pondering the likelihood something like this could be in the works.  Ten days ago I wondered how safe Mats Zuccarello’s spot on the roster was depending on how different positional battles play out during training camp.  If he is not going to play on the top three lines, then Hartford is likely the best place for him developmentally in terms of his NHL future.

Add to that the Rangers losing money due to performance bonuses and having to pay Dubinsky and likely Callahan more than most hoped they would and you have a situation where the salary cap comes into play in roster decisions as well.  Zuccarello carries a cap hit of $1.75 million this season, so a move to send him down would certainly create significant breathing room if the Rangers made it.  Does that mean they would look to move him on to another team though?

I doubt the Rangers are looking to actively shop Zuccarello anywhere as he showed flashes of the tremendous skill that made him so highly sought after last summer.  That does not mean the Rangers would not listen to offers from other teams, but getting a feel for what his value is on the trade market is a more difficult proposition.  Gauging his value is difficult because there are so few cases like his that have been around recently.

In some respects Zuccarello should be treated like trading for a prospect, but giving his accomplishments overseas there should be more value to him than just a regular mid-to-high level prospect.  Having put up 23 points in 42 NHL games as a rookie should add some to his value, especially if a team has the ability to play him in a higher level role where he can get more ice time to adjust to the league and use his skill.  Having control over Zuccarello as a restricted free agent should also add to his value in the trade market.  The only real negatives would be his larger cap hit, though that could be a positive for teams looking to hit the salary cap floor, and any lingering concerns about how his size would allow him to transition to the NHL. 

Zuccarello rumors are going to be natural while his spot on the roster is still somewhat in flux and the Rangers are anywhere near close to the cap limit, but there are other ways the Rangers can solve the cap problem if Zuccarello wins his spot on the team this fall.  If Zuke fails in camp and goes down, the talent and upside would make him worth keeping unless the Rangers get a significant offer for the man from Norway.