With free agency right around the corner, one thing to keep tabs on during that time is contract negotiations between the Rangers and their upcoming restricted free agents. Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Mats Zuccarello are all scheduled to become RFA's starting at noon on Friday, barring any contract agreements prior to that date.
For the most part, things have been quiet on that front, and the only real news that we have heard is that both sides were in preliminary talks. Out of the four pending RFA's, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan are due for pretty hefty pay raises in their next contract. Stepan has emerged as the team's number one center, and McDonagh has taken an immense step in his progression, while earning top-pairing minutes at the same time.
Both of these players are an integral part to the Rangers competing for a Stanley Cup, and it's no surprise that they will likely be the main focal points heading into this weekend, aside from Henrik Lundqvist. But, that's not to discount Carl Hagelin or Mats Zuccarello either, as they each play their respectively important roles with the Rangers as well.
With that said, we finally received a very small update on McDonagh's contract negotiations, and how they are progressing along. According to McDonagh's agent, while talks are continuing to progress, there is "still some work to be done" before they can officially sign off on the contract.
Glen Sather has expressed his interest in re-signing all of their current RFA's, so there shouldn't be any doubt that he would let any of them walk away. However, Sather is known to play hardball with his restricted free agents, especially the ones that are coming off of their entry-level contracts. Just look at how Ryan Callahan's and ex-Ranger Brandon Dubinsky's contract negotiations progressed previously. Both players wound up filing for arbitration, and settled just minutes before their scheduled hearings.
I'd expect a similar "down to the wire" approach with both Stepan and McDonagh, as they will be receiving the biggest pay raises out of the four. But in the end, all we really have to do is wait and let the process play itself out.