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Report: Rangers appear hesitant to give Brandon Dubinsky $5M per year

Jul 20, 2011, 2:46 PM EDT

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Four Getty Images

When you consider the absolutely bonkers money that the New York Rangers hand out to unrestricted free agents, it seems a bit odd that they end up using unthinkable measures such as “care” and “discretion” with their restricted guys. Wouldn’t you expect them to spend more on guys they know rather than blind gambles … or are they instead seduced by hypothetical gains?

Either way, the Rangers still have two crucial restricted free agents headed for possible salary arbitration hearings: Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. If GM Glen Sather cannot come to terms with Dubinsky soon, he might be the first NHL player “on trial” this summer; the two-way forward’s hearing is set for Thursday, July 21.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post breaks down the impasse in the simplest of terms: it’s all about money. Simply put, the Rangers aren’t totally comfortable with giving Dubinsky the a five or six-year contract worth $5 million per year. Brooks reports that they’re offering a $4.5 million average annual salary.

The 25-year-old winger is two years away from the unrestricted age of 27, although Brooks points out that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could change that scenario. Brooks makes an interesting comparison to two other restricted free agents who recently signed deals.

For the sake of comparison, Winnipeg winger Andrew Ladd just signed a five-year deal worth $4.4 million per year. The Rangers would not trade Dubinsky for Ladd. On the other hand, Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan is entering the second year of a five-year deal worth $5.1 million per. The Ducks would not consider dealing Ryan for Dubinsky.

Brooks notes that fellow heart-and-soul winger Callahan might make the discussions a bit more complicated, too. While Callahan isn’t quite as prolific as Dubinsky, he’s considered nearly as valuable because both players impact games in ways that go beyond traditional box score numbers.

Brooks provides an estimate of what Dubinsky might receive in arbitration and some of the other effects.

The Rangers, whose case will be presented by newly installed assistant general manager Jeff Gorton, should be careful not to make their presentation an attack on Dubinsky. Indeed, the best plan would be to submit their numbers and comparables while otherwise remaining silent. The 25-year-old winger is, after all, an integral part of the team and the program.

It is believed Dubinsky will earn between $3.8 million to $4.4 million through arbitration in a system where the arbitrator generally comes as close as possible to splitting the difference between the team’s and player’s submissions. The absence of either/or baseball-style arbitration allows the respective parties to be unrealistic in their submissions. Neither side should take it personally.

The Rangers have the option of electing a two-year award, but there is a sense the club may go for a one-year award, though it is unclear what advantages this strategy would yield.

Obviously, that $3.8-$4.4 million range would provide short-term savings for the Rangers, but they might risk losing Dubinsky for nothing if he becomes an unrestricted free agent once the shorter deal expires.

Perhaps this is an example of oversimplification, but would the two sides be satisfied if they took the “King Solomon” approach and split the difference? Maybe a six-year, $28.5 million deal with a $4.75 million per year cap hit would do the trick.

For all the hubbub about adding Brad Richards (and how he might resurrect Marian Gaborik’s career), Dubinsky and Callahan were the team’s most valuable forwards in 2010-11. If the Rangers hope to be a contender, they need to keep both of those spirited wingers in the fold.

If all else fails, maybe someone can hypnotize Sather into thinking that they’re both unrestricted free agents with a ton of hype. My guess is that they’d have new contracts by the end of the business day if that happened …

  1. stakex - Jul 20, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Actually last year Callahan had a better season then Dubinsky did. Dubinsky had 6 more points, but he played 17 more games… so from a PPG (and GPP) standpoint, Callahan was actually the bigger producer.

    As a Rangers fan it boggles my mind that these two aren’t signed yet. Sather threw BIG bucks at the aging Richards whos numbers aren’t all that special, and who suffered a nasty concusion last year from which no one is sure he will ever be 100% again. Yet hes playing hardball with two young players who grew up in your system, who put up very solid numbers last year, and who are getting better every year? What sense does that make? If Cally and Dubinsky continue to improve, and even better yet get a boost from Richards being on the team… they could probably both be pretty close to point a game players. Its really sad to see Sather throwing such big money at so many players who don’t deserve it, and then play hardball with a couple heart and soul guys who are actually worth a little bit more money.

    I say it alot, but Sather should be fired.

    • bcjim - Jul 21, 2011 at 7:59 AM

      Dubinsky isn’t worth $5M. The Caps gave Laich $4.5 (and that was high) and Laich is superior on paper and in reality than Dubinsky. Still you’re right Sather is a clown.

      • stakex - Jul 21, 2011 at 12:02 PM

        Laich really isn’t all that superior on paper, or in reality. First of all, Laich has had the advantage of playing on a team with one of the best offenses the last few seasons… while Dubinsky has played for a team with one of the worst offenses the last few years. You would expect Laich to put up better numbers. Laich is also older, and has more NHL seasons under his belt. When you look at his first four full seasons, compared with Dubinsky’s first four … Dubinsky actually has a pretty big edge, and his numbers are growing each year (he would have had a lot more points over the last couple years if not for injury). Hell, last year Dubinsky had 54 pts, to Laichs 48… and Dubinsky missed six games. So I really don’t understand how you think Laichs numbers are better on paper… because there not.

        So really, I think your completely wrong with your statement about Laich. His numbers actually aren’t any better (he has more points/goals only because hes played far more games), and hes played on an all start team with the top offense in the NHL over the last 5 years.

        The Rangers should be thinking what will Dubinsky be worth in a couple years (since they want a one or two year deal). He might be a 70-90 point player in a couple years… and if they could lock him up for $5 million a year for 5-6 years that would be a steal. Sure its a bit of a gamble, but there is no reason to think Dubinsky has hit his peak yet… and the Rangers are likely to be a better offensive team this year which is certainly going to help him.

  2. bcjim - Jul 21, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    Laich usually is doing the dirty work, not playing on the top line and he still gets it done. On the Rangers Laich would see much more ice time than he sees in dc

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