It's seemed like every single step in the John Moore contract negotiations have had built in excuses.
Before free agency opened up, the organization was obviously more focused on the players who were about to leave as UFAs rather than their RFAs. This was true, too, since the team only took care of Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider after they were done jumping into the July 1st pool.
Then when the Rangers did get around to negotiating new contracts for their RFAs the above three took priority because they were arbitration eligible. Which, again, made sense, since Moore wasn't on any deadline.
Once that was finished the team was expected to start negotiating with Moore until Kevin Hayes became available, which halted the process again as Glen Sather and co. pursued (and landed) the coveted rookie free agent.
Now? Well, there really aren't any excuses left. In its place there's tons of room for speculation and guesses. Maybe Moore feels slighted the team waited this long to take care of him and is now pushing for a show of faith from the team (aka: more money). Maybe the team doesn't have as much money to play with as they did before they brought in Hayes and they want to keep Moore's salary as low as possible so both sides are fighting over a few hundred thousand. Maybe Moore actually doesn't want a bridge deal and thinks he has enough leverage to force his way into a longer contract. Again, this is all speculation.
As it stands right now the Rangers have roughly $1.5-million worth of cap space. That's assuming both Hayes and J.T. Miller make the team out of camp, dropping Chris Mueller and Matt Hunwick to the minors and keeping Mike Kostka with the team as a 7th defenseman. Tanner Glass is also with the team as the 13th forward in that scenario.
That's more than enough money to make Moore work in a vacuum. I think everyone expected Moore to come in between $1.1 -$1.3-million. The problem -- which we've talked about before -- is teams like to give themselves as much breathing room as possible in terms of cap space going into the season. If the Rangers signed Moore to a $1.3-million deal they would have just a hair over $300K in salary cap space. That makes some organizations worry.
Of course, that's speculation, too. Last week assistant GM Jeff Gorton was positive about the negotiations:
"We like John a lot, just trying to get him signed," Gorton said. "I'm pretty sure we'll get him signed, and get him ready to go. He's a good player for us; he's been a good fit for us, he's a great kid, and we like his upside."
While Moore might not be a make or break player (in terms of finding a replacement) right now, I've always been a fan of his raw tools and I really think he has all the skills to make it in this league. Defenseman always take longer to develop, and at 23 he has time to figure some of the kinks in his game out.
For now the Rangers just need to worry about bringing him back. Until then, we'll keep guessing at what's holding things up.