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With Dubinsky signed, the Rangers can turn their full attention to Ryan Callahan

Jul 25, 2011, 9:00 AM EST

Florida Panthers v New York Rangers Getty Images

The New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan have an arbitration hearing scheduled this Thursday to determine Callahan’s salary for next season. If the team and player can control the negotiations, there’s no way an arbitrator will ever hear both sides of the argument. The Rangers will negotiate with Callahan and hopefully avoid a hearing just like they were able to do with Brandon Dubinsky as they reached a 4-year deal, $16.8 million deal at the very last minute. Callahan’s agent, Steve Bartlett, acknowledged that there was “a pecking order” and once Dubinsky’s deal was finalized, he and the team would be able to get down to business. Well, the time has come.

The two players have been linked at the hip during their tenure in New York—so it’s no surprise that their contract negotiations should affect one another as well. Blueshirt Banter’s Joe Fortunato notes that Callahan’s deal could be just as much—if not more than Dubinsky’s recent contract:

“The two deals have always expected to be similar. Both players play key roles on the team, although Callahan has the advantage of being the top candidate to be the next captain of the team. Callahan also has another advantage, his numbers last season are comparable to Dubinsky’s (Callahan finished the year with 48 points to Dubinsky’s 54) but Callahan missed 17 more games than Dubinsky did.”

Again, it makes sense that the players who are so often linked on the ice would command similar salaries off the ice. Unfortunately for GM Glen Sather and the Rangers, the contracts and negotiations won’t happen in a vacuum. Circumstances change with each and every deal; and after Dubinsky’s deal worth $4.2 million per season, the Rangers are inching closer to the salary cap. It’s a familiar position on Broadway, but then again, they aren’t usually staring at arbitration with a guy who could be their future captain (as early as next year). Houses of the Hockey explain the financial problems of signing Callahan:

“The problem with signing Callahan to the long-term deal in the range of $4-5 million that he rightfully desires is that the Rangers can afford his salary, but barely. Sather has $5.8 million in cap space, leaving minimal wiggle room throughout the season to possible acquire depth at the trade deadline during a playoff push.”

The importance of both Dubinsky and Callahan to the New York Rangers and their future can’t be overstated. Callahan’s 48 points were tied for 2nd on the team behind Dubinsky. Likewise, Callahan’s 23 goals were also second on the team—also behind Dubinsky. Now just imagine if Callahan was able to avoid the broken leg that prematurely ended his season after only 60 games. But it’s not just obvious points that Callahan brings to the table. He lead the Rangers forwards in shorthanded ice time, power play ice time, power play goals, game winning goals—all while facing the toughest competition over the course of the season.

There’s no way the Rangers want to go to arbitration, risk a one-year contract, and unrestricted free agency next season with a player who has the potential to be their next leader. Callahan brings everything to the table that a team would want—he throws his body around to create energy for his team, scores on the power play, kills penalties, and leads in the locker room. Since Brandon Dubinsky was able to land a 4-year deal worth $4.2 million per season, that’s the starting point for any negotiations from the Callahan camp. It’s tough to separate the two players—but once they are viewed on their individual merits, Callahan is the slightly more valuable player.

If the Rangers can get him in the $4.5 million range, they should happily take the deal and run. Whatever they agree to—it’s a safe bet that they’ll do everything in their power to lock-up the 26-year-old for more than a single season. If the dispute goes to arbitration for some reason, you’ll be able to hear the audible cheer from 29 front offices around the NHL. There’s no way the Rangers would want Callahan hitting the open market as he enters his prime next season. It’s their job to handle their business with Callahan like they did with Dubinsky before the two sides enter an arbitration hearing on Thursday. Like just about every other potential arbitration dispute, the two sides will likely reach a resolution before a third party has to get involved. The only questions for Callahan and the Rangers are: how long and how much?

Let’s throw this one out to the readers: after seeing Brandon Dubinsky get his 4-year contract worth $16.8 million, what do you think Ryan Callahan’s contract will look like?

  1. bwayblues79 - Jul 25, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Callahan’s value is higher in most ways than Dubinsky. Even in seasons when Dubi may outscore Callahan, it’s the intangibles that will give the edge to Callahan every year. It’s why most Rangers fans would agree that Callahan stands a much better chance at getting the C. Just look at the number of shots he blocks (can’t find a hard stat online) and the fact that he’d lay down in front of a Chara slapper. That’s commitment.

    I think he’ll pull closer to the $5M per year range. A buyout of Wolski’s contract will help give the Rangers a little breathing room to fit in a final D-man before the start of the season.

  2. garryfish - Jul 25, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Four year, 17 mill

  3. logiciskey - Jul 25, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Callahan’s contract should be at least a year longer than Dubinsky’s so that the Rangers don’t run into this same problem 4 years from now. Losing both Dubinsky and Callahan in 2016 is something that could totally happen under Sather’s reign as GM. A 5 year, $4.5 mil per season would do Cally & the Rangers justice.

    Buying out Wolski’s contract would just put the Rangers down cap space next season. Let the guy play out the season and let him go next summer, or sign him for less money if he’s worth a roster spot. Perhaps trading Christensen or Avery would help clear out some cap space as the Rangers are now filled with depth guys; don’t forget Stepan and Zuccarello, who are only going to get better each season.

    • stakex - Jul 25, 2011 at 11:24 PM

      I also think your going to see a 5 year, $22.2 million contract for Callahan. Hes worth a bit more then Dubinsky, and the Rangers want him locked up as long as possible.

      With that said, I don’t agree with the second part of your post. I don’t really think the Rangers should buyout Wolski if it can be avoided, but I do think they should get rid of him any way they can. They are paying him WAYYY too much for the production they got last season (or any season that matter). He does have potential, but the Rangers don’t need another guy with potential who cost $4 million a year… they need cap space. A trade might well be possible here, and if its not he should be lost in the minors for a year.

      As for trading Christensen or Avery… both of those moves would be a huge mistake. The Rangers only pay Christense $950k a year, and his numbers last year were comperable to Wolski’s (and he played 10 games less). It makes little sense that you would trade him, yet keep someone with a much higher contract yet the same amount of production. As for Avery, he cost slightly less then $2 million and the Rangers are clearly a much better team when hes in the lineup. His numbers might not have been great last year, but hes pretty valuable for the Rangers and he was their best player in the playoffs. If Torts gave him a little more running room, Avery could be a solid 2nd or 3rd line player at half the cost of Wolski.

      In the end, Wolski is simply not worth what the Rangers have to pay him, and since they are heavy on forwards that alone makes him the odd man out. While you can try and make arguments for other players the Rangers should get rid off…. that $4 million weight around their neck is the pink elephant in the room.

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