Why Rangers Fans Should be Keeping a Close Eye on Ryane Clowe

Clowe's play isn't the only factor involved in whether or not he returns as a Blueshirt next season.

There are plenty of storylines to follow as the Rangers desperately try to make the playoffs with the season winding down. In my opinion, one of the most interesting storylines is whether or not Ryane Clowe can prove to Glen Sather and the Rangers that he is worth re-signing and surrendering a second second-round pick to the Sharks. I know that it may be early to start discussing whether or not the Rangers should bring Clowe back but it is important to keep in mind that Clowe is playing for the right to demand a long-term contract from the Rangers or another team in the offseason.

Clowe, who will turn 31 in September, is playing out the last year of his current four-year contract with a cap hit of $3.625 million per year. We all heard the rumors that Clowe was looking for a huge extension while he was in San Jose so I think it is safe to assume that Clowe will be looking for a long-term contract with New York or other suitors when he becomes a UFA at the end of the season. It is important to note that Clowe has suggested he wants to stay in New York and be more than just a "rental."

So what would be an acceptable salary cap hit number and contract length for the big forward that the Rangers gave (potentially) three draft picks for? Larry Brooks of the New York Post expressed the need for Glen Sather and the Rangers to exercise caution with Clowe because of his age and contract demands:

"For long-term investments in 31-year-old power forwards - and certainly in the $4-5 million per neighborhood that Clowe, who will turn that age in September, is likely to receive - are dicey propositions."

My own thoughts regarding investing long-term in Clowe echo Brooks'. We have all seen that Clowe isn't exactly fleet of foot and given his age I am not sure we are going to see that trending in the right direction over the next couple of years. It is also important to note that Clowe's best offensive season was in 2010-2011 when he scored just 62 points (24 goals and 38 assists). It seems to me that despite Clowe bringing a lot of intangibles to the table he isn't the kind of guy you want taking up $5 million of cap space, especially with the salary cap getting smaller next season.

Whether or not Clowe re-signs with the Rangers isn't solely dependent on his play. The Rangers have four important and interesting RFAs to sign this offseason, including Mats Zuccarello (the others are Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, and Derek Stepan). In my opinion, the Rangers might have to make a decision between Zuke and Clowe if cap space gets tight after coming to terms with the other three big RFAs. Both Zuccarello and Clowe are top-six players but that is where there similarities end. It is certainly possible for the club to find a way to hold on to both players as well as all the key RFAs but with the cap getting smaller things could get tight. If Clowe really wants to stay in New York he should look for a contract that keeps him in New York for four years or so at a cap hit between $3.25-4.25 million. As it stands now Clowe is the fourth-highest paid forward on the roster, it is my opinion that he shouldn't move up that list should he re-sign with the Rangers (Ryan Callahan, the team's captain, has a cap hit of $4.275 million).

There is also the question of whether or not the Rangers should yield another second round pick to the Sharks to retain Clowe's services (note: If the Rangers make it to the ECF they will yield next year's second round pick even if they do not re-sign Clowe). If Clowe can prove himself to be the player the Rangers traded for, a gritty power forward that adds desperately needed depth scoring to the team, than the Rangers should not hesitate to re-sign him if the contract is reasonable.

I hope that Clowe makes the decision to re-sign him difficult by playing like a man possessed as the season draws to a close and the Rangers look to make some noise in the playoffs. Clowe is the kind of guy who looks like he is built for playoff hockey, hopefully he can find his scoring touch and make the decision to bring him back to Broadway a difficult one for the Rangers. I am sure this is a discussion that is going to be ongoing throughout the remainder of the season, the playoffs, and at the conclusion of the season, it will be interesting to see how it evolves and what we hear regarding what kind of terms Clowe is looking for or what Sather is willing to give him.

Going on what we've seen so far from Clowe do you guys think the Rangers should re-sign him? What is an acceptable cap-hit and contract length in your eyes? What do you think of the Clowe trade now that we've seen ten games of Clowe as a Ranger?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Let's go Rangers.