This season, Ranger fans watched as the young players matured & developed before our eyes on the Garden ice. But now that the season has come to a close, it's time to face a somewhat-troubling reality: Not ALL of these kids will be back for 2011-2012.
Our top-line trio of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan will ALL be in need of new contracts, and will be requesting (and deserving of) some hefty raises. Captain Callahan is set to take the reigns as the Rangers leader for years to come, and Dubi has improved steadily over the last few years, showing tons of promise, heart, and Ranger pride. With both of them in need of new deals, part of me wonders if Anisimov might be the odd man out when raises are dealt…
More breakdown after the jump…
Along with the 3 above-mentioned players... Frolov, Prospal, Boyle, Sauer, Fedotenko, Gilroy, & Eminger are all free agents as well.
I'm sure we're all in agreement that Frolov will not be welcomed back. So that frees up 3 million from the cap.
But what Vinny Prospal provided upon his return to the team was immeasurable. I doubt anyone expected much productivity out of the aging vet after the constant setbacks with his leg injury, but Prospal added tons of energy and offense upon his return to the lineup, and it would be great to keep him around for another season. Realistically, a similar 1-year deal is an option, which was a 2.1 million cap hit (a bargain considering he easily has 20-goal potential if healthy).
Brian Boyle will likely look for more than a slight bump in pay after his 20-plus goal season. However, one big season should not warrant him big bucks. Who remembers Petr Prucha’s 30+ goal outing? The team needs to be very careful with handing out these lucrative contracts, and hopefully can ink Boyle to a 2 or 3 year contract while keeping the cap hit at around 2 million. His restricted status makes it slightly less dangerous, but the last thing the team needs is more drawn-out contract disputes ala Dubi & Staal in previous years.
Michael Sauer played every game for the Rangers this year, and lead the team in plus/minus. He was the true breakout performer of the year in my eyes, and should be locked up for the long-term. Considering the games, minutes, +/-, and overall growth, I expect Sauer to get a decent contract with a huge increase. Solid shutdown defensemen are becoming increasingly valuable in the post-lockout world.
Fedotenko was the steal of the year. At a mere one million dollars, Feds was a workhorse & a staple of the team. Hopefully his relationship with Torts keeps him around at a decent pay level, because I’m sure other teams will be looking for a solid third line veteran.
Matt Gilroy is currently a cap hit of 1.75 per year. As a restricted free agent, the Rangers will need to offer him a slight increase on that amount in order to qualify him. Part of me wonders if Gilroy is really worth that investment. Sure, he’s young and shows tons of potential, but that’s a steep price to pay for “potential” that’s yet to be reached. With both he and Eminger’s contracts set to expire, surely one will need to be let go. At 1.2 million, Eminger was a solid pickup. I doubt anyone expected much out of him, but he hit everything that moved, and truly brought a physical presence when he was on the ice. I think the team will likely lean towards Gilroy, but the decision will be a lot tougher than most people realize.
Coming back full-circle… that brings me to Artem Anisimov. With all the increases in pay to the rest of the team, I seriously question whether or not Anisimov will be part of the Rangers organization come the Fall. Dubinsky and Callahan will definitely see nice raises/extensions, but something tells me Anisimov will likely ask for more than his value. Sure, he pulls off a nice move here and there, snipes one home occasionally. But how much is that really worth? Personally, I don’t feel that Anisimov is worth more than 2-2.5 million, and if he’d be willing to accept that, wonderful. But with all the big-time raises and contracts being handed out around him, Artem might be this year’s big holdout story, expecting much more than he’ll be offered. I think the team will likely put the extra money towards the two true franchise players (#17 & #24), as well as retaining some pieces (#19, #20, #22), and adding at least one more top player with true scoring ability on the day of free agency.
Any other thoughts on who should stay and who should go? I'd love to see them all stay, but if the team is serious about acquiring at least one more scoring talent, someone will need to be sacrificed.