Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rangers Sign 2011 First Round Pick J.T. Miller To Entry-Level Contract

The New York Rangers announced on their official twitter account that they have signed 2011 first round pick J.T. Miller to an entry-level contract.  Miller was chosen 15th overall in the draft and while a surprise to some being selected in that spot, he fits the mold of what Gordie Clark and company are looking for in future Rangers.  Last week I discussed whether the Rangers would sign Miller this year and have him play in the AHL this year.  

Miller, 18, being that he was not drafted out of the CHL so he is eligible to play in the AHL unlike many prospects who are either NHL or Juniors.  Seeing Miller in the AHL this season would be surprising as he would burn a year of his contract instead of playing in the OHL this year and then joining the professional ranks next season.

Three Years Is Perfect Length For Both Callahan, Rangers

For the second time in a week the New York Rangers came within 24 hours of having an arbitration hearing with one of their key young players.  Thankfully for all involved both of those situations ended with the long-term contracts that will keep Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan with the Rangers for four and three years respectively.  The piece of Callahan’s contract that sparked the most conversation in the initial reactions was about the length being only three years.  The length is somewhat surprising given his importance to the Rangers, but there are reasons on both sides why three years is perfect for both sides to get what they want from the deal.

Having the deal last three seasons gives the Rangers security in having a player who epitomizes exactly the type of team the Rangers want to be around for a significant amount of time.  The deal is more cap friendly than if they had gone with a one-year deal and had to renegotiate next summer and avoids the PR nightmare that would have ensued if they had to take the presumed captain to arbitration to get a deal.  Having Callahan locked in at a reasonable rate also allows more certainty in terms of the salary cap. The key benefit to the deal being three years for New York is about the way Callahan plays and seeing what toll the next three seasons will take on his ability to sustain his level. 

Ryan Callahan defines what coach John Tortorella wants form every player in the organization in how he sacrifices for the team.  The blocked shots, hits, energy and complete disregard for his own body is what makes Callahan the player he is, but it also has costs.  Callahan is never going to be a player that can rely mainly on natural skill to succeed at the NHL level, so he needs to continue to play the same style that has gotten him to this point.  The problem is that the physical abuse his body takes on a nightly basis has a cumulative toll down the road even beyond the injuries he may sustain in a season.  Three years allows the Rangers to somewhat hedge against any decline caused by that cumulative effect and makes Callahan continue to earn his money each season.

From Callahan’s perspective, going for three years is a move that allows him to get paid now and still be young enough, 29, to garner significant dollars in unrestricted free agency at the end of his term.  If Callahan can continue to play the style that made him an NHL regular and show the same level of offense he did last season, then there is no denying he will another big contract when this one expires.  First in line will be the Rangers as they will have plenty of cap space and a keen desire to continue have him in a Blueshirt sweater.

Callahan could have gotten more money both in sheer dollars and average salary and the Rangers could have gotten more years guaranteed with a key contributor to their championship hopes, but each side weighed the costs and benefits of both.  In the end, the two sides settle on a medium term of three years and that is perfect length  for both as the Rangers hedge against decline while Callahan gives himself even more chances to prove it and earn another lucrative contract..