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Expect another year of heavy contract talks in New York

Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Three Getty Images

Entering the 2013-14 season, the New York Rangers boasted some huge names who were entering the last seasons of their contracts. The franchise resolved many of those issues (or, in the case of Ryan Callahan, traded those deals away) on their way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final… yet still finds itself in a similar spot as next season approaches.

Granted, nothing will really top the drama of last season — re-signing Henrik Lundqvist, opting against the same for Callahan, buying out Brad Richards — but a lot of money will still be at stake this year.

Naturally, a contract extension or two could happen in the early stages, but let’s look at the most prominent players (sorry, Mike Kostka and Matt Hunwick) entering contract years with current cap hits in parenthesis:

Martin St. Louis ($5.625 million, UFA)
Marc Staal ($3.975 million, UFA)
Mats Zuccarello ($3.5 million, UFA)
Derek Stepan ($3.075 million, RFA)
Carl Hagelin ($2.25 million, RFA)
Cam Talbot ($562K, UFA)

That’s quite the list of prominent players. St. Louis has been (relatively) underpaid for years and may very well want to “cash-in” on what be his last NHL contract (or at least close to his last one).

The rest of the list features players in their primes who are probably all being paid below market value. Staal’s had his troubles, yet defensemen are so hard to come by that a nice season could mean a huge contract. Zuccarello topped all Rangers regular season scorers, Hagelin’s a speedy gem who could easily enjoy a big jump in production and Talbot was quietly brilliant backing Lundqvist up last season.

Stepan might be the most interesting, though. He’s been a steady performer (never missed one game since hitting the league in 2010-11) with two 50-point seasons and no less than 44 points in any campaign. He’s already pretty accomplished for a guy who’s only 24. With Brad Richards gone, Stepan’s status as the team’s No. 1 center seems as secure as ever, and the American-born forward is likely to play with St. Louis and/or Rick Nash next season. Could we see a 20+ goal season in which Stepan flirts with 70 points? It’s not outrageous to ponder, and such a leap would cost the Blueshirts some serious cash, even considering the fact that Stepan will be an RFA.

***

This talk might leave Rangers fans a little nervous, but sometimes a little added motivation can be a good thing. Even with the likes of Lundqvist and Dan Girardi re-signed, New York benefited greatly from best-of-their-career moments from pending free agents during an impressive playoff run in 2013-14.

In other words, greed can be good … at least in the short term.

  1. lowenni - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    It’s gonna be tough to get all of them signed. I don’t think St Louis will try to cash in too much and id expect him to take something similar to what he has now, plus I think his production will be down from his Tampa days and so therefore so will his value. Zuccarello will look to get paid after a great season last year plus after taking a cheap one year contract. Hagelin shouldn’t be too outrageous and neither should Talbot, but I think the biggest question mark is Staal. Sometimes he looks like a top-2 defender and other times he’s sort of just “eh”–we’ll see what type of season he has. I wonder if he’d go to free agency to sign in Carolina and reunite with his brothers, that’d be pretty cool and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it even if Carolina is still struggling. Anyways, I expect at least one of those guys will not be on the roster after next season.

  2. homerx - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Let St. Louis, he’s too old. Try and get something this year for Talbot, he is too good and he will be highly saught after.The rest I hope they can find a way to keep but unless Staal has a better season he may not be worth what the market will offer.

    • homerx - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:00 PM

      Sorry, that’s let St. Louis walk…

    • stakex - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:05 PM

      No one is going to pay all that much for Talbot. He might have had a solid season behind Lundqvist, but it was only 21 games. Hardly proof that he will be an NHL star, and teams will require more evidence before they are willing to give up anything significant to get him.

  3. 19to77 - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    The salary cap, much like the devil, always gets its due in the end. The ‘Hawks couldn’t keep the 2010 roster together. The Canucks couldn’t keep the team they built in 2011. And the price of success is finally catching up to the Bruins as well, forcing them to shed Iggy and probably one of their veteran D before the summer’s done. The Rangers bet the farm and lost. They’ve probably got one more window for a deep run before their cap situation forces a significant restructure. I can see them retaining the bulk of their core guys, but at the cost of a major loss of depth. We’ve already seen them forced to cut guys I’m sure they’d have preferred to keep – Stralman and Boyle especially – and next summer’s only going to consist of more losses.

  4. ianlozada - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    I’ll be really surprised if Cam Talbot is a New York Ranger after the trade deadline passes this season.

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