New York, NY – Now that hockey’s second season is over (at least around here) we can look forward to the third season in the NHL. And unlike the regular season and the playoffs, the third season is extremely short. I’m talking, of course, about the start of free agency, which begins July 1st. And, for all intents and purposes, ends July 2nd.
Unlike other sports like baseball, where players sign contracts throughout the offseason, the NHL prefers to get just about everything sorted in one day. Unrestricted free agents that haven’t signed a deal by the morning of July 2nd know they’re going to have sign a cut-rate deal somewhere and fight for a spot on an NHL roster. July 1st is one of the most fascinating days in hockey. It’s amazing to see the number of contracts that are signed on the day. It is a nonstop news stream that has Barry Melrose’s mullet going a bit more grey. Lets take a look at some of the decisions the Rangers will have to make as we approach the beginning and end of hockey’s third season.
The Rangers were pretty smart in locking up a couple of their potential unrestricted free agents during the regular season. Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello both signed juicy extensions that will keep them at the Garden for the foreseeable future. Now the Blueshirts will have to lock up a couple of restricted free agents with the money they have left.
Martin St. Louis is an unrestricted free agent and the Rangers should let him walk. If it wasn’t clear that MSL couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Alain Vigneault system during the regular season, it became abundantly clear during the playoffs. AV has a hard on for old useless players, but I’d like to think that Glen Sather will be smarter than to throw any money at Marty.
Derek Stepan is a restricted free agent and he should get a long term deal this offseason. With Derek Brassard making $5 million a season, expect Step’s contract to be north of $6 million a season. And I say he’s worth it. The Blueshirts will be helped by the salary cap increasing by a couple of million dollars so look for Stepan to cash in.
Carl Hagelin is another restricted free agent looking for a contract. I like Hags and I think he’s a good player, but I have no idea what kind of contract he’ll be offered. He may go to arbitration to get a new deal, or he may take the qualifying offer of $2.5-3 million that the Rangers will dangle in front of him.
JT Miller and Jesper Fast are two more restricted free agents that are due a bump in pay this offseason. The Rangers will hopefully keep both of the youngsters around. James Sheppard and Matt Hunwick will probably not be around next season. It’s a shame the Rangers traded away a young NHL-ready player and a first round pick this season, but sometimes you have to gamble. The Blueshirts may look to pick up another unsigned draft pick like how they acquired Kevin Hayes last year.
The Rangers have a lot of decisions to make in the coming weeks. The picture should be a lot clearer on the morning of July 2nd. Come back tomorrow for Junoir Blaber.