The jury might still be out on the biggest piece to Jeff Gorton's first summer puzzle, but so far the moves he has made have been very impressive.
That trend continued yesterday when the Rangers locked up a couple of (potentially) key RFAs. Let's take a look at both moves:
There are two aspects to this contract that are very interesting. The first is it's a one-way deal, which means Lindberg is going to get that $650K regardless of where he plays next year. The second is he signed a two-year deal worth less of an annual salary than his one-year qualifying offer (which would have been $705K).
This is going to be all speculation, but I'm under the impression the Rangers had to give Lindberg a pretty good pitch to make him take a deal worth less than his QO. Since Lindberg must pass through waivers if he does not stick with the big club this summer, the Rangers are essentially going to make the decision about whether or not they want to keep him in the organization -- there's virtually no chance Lindberg passes through waivers, especially at that contract.
Lindberg is a very, very good defensive player who is a shark at the faceoff dot. His offense was always a slight concern when he made the move to North America, but he's had back-to-back impressive years in the AHL, finishing last year with 56 points in 75 games and then notching 16 points in 15 AHL playoff games. You should be excited about Lindberg's potential addition to the organization next year, even if he starts things off on the fourth line.
Etem actually accepted his qualifying offer, which works for both the team and Etem himself in the short term. For the Rangers they're locking him down for a little cheaper than he probably could have demanded if he really pushed for it.
It makes a lot of sense for Etem to go this rout, though. His value really can't go much lower than it is right now. The Anaheim Ducks used him very similarly to the way the Rangers used J.T. Miller (until the back half of the playoffs) and with even a little bit of a real opportunity Etem is going to increase his own value beyond where he is right now. How much he does that remains to be seen, but there's really good incentive for Etem to work hard and have a breakout year. (Note: that's not to say he wouldn't have done that anyway.)
There's still work to be done for Goton, though. Jesper Fast, Miller and, of course, Derek Stepan all remain unsigned. I am a little surprised the Rangers are locking down their RFAs before taking care of Stepan, but with the deals both Lindberg and Etem accepted it's pretty easy to see why.
Gorton, for what it's worth, does deserve a lot of recognition for what he's done this summer, too.
Diaz, Raanta, Lindberg, and Etem at a combined $2.9M cap hit. All great fits for their role. That's asset management right there.— Adam Herman (@AdamHerman_BSB) July 14, 2015
The Rangers will have a hair under $9.5-million to maneuver Stepan, Miller and Fast under the cap -- assuming they don't make any moves.
Seeing Etem's deal does make me wonder a little about what Miller is going to get, though. If at all possible I would like to see Miller get a two or even three-year deal, since I really do think he's poised for a breakout season and keeping him on a nice contract would be beneficial for years to come.
Both the Etem and Lindberg deals were announced by the team, which proved the point I made on Monday. Just because we don't know anything about the Stepan negotiations doesn't mean it's a bad thing. The Rangers play these negotiations very close to their chest.
There's still work to be done, but so far Gorton is doing the type of work you would expect out of a GM so coveted by the rest of the league.