Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Over Length Not The Dollars Makes No Sense

Back in the fall of 2004, I was introduced to a then 2004 2nd round pick of the New York Rangers by the name of Brandon Dubinsky. If first impressions were worth anything then this "too small, too slow" kid was never going to make the Rangers.

But the first words he told me was "I will be a Ranger" and I looked at him as if he was crazy. He was the 3rd of 3 second round picks in the 2004 and nobody not me or anyone else thought he had a chance.

The more I watched Dubinsky play then the more I liked and I realized that he would make the Rangers or die trying. I was also lucky enough to make friends with Bill Dubinsky, Brandon's father who is a man after my own heart when it comes to the rulebook (meaning if it ain't in the rulebook then it is not breaking the rules)

I will never deny it nor will I try that my most prized possession from this job of covering Ranger prospects is an autographed Brandon Dubinsky New York Ranger jersey. It simply says "I am a Ranger, Brandon Dubinsky."

No Ranger prospect not Callahan not Staal not even Henrik Lundqvist bleeds Ranger blue like Dubinsky does. Which is why when I heard that the snag in the contract talks between Dubi and Glen Sather was about contract length not money then I understood why.

It is about staying a Ranger for Dubinsky as long as he could and if this deal is not about money then the Rangers should take advantage of locking up Dubinsky for as long as they can. The CBA is going to expire after next season and when it does there will be changes.

Depending on who you listen to the changes will be different but one thing people do agree on is that the NHL will once again extract a salary reduction from the players. In the next CBA you can bank on it that Gary Bettman is going to close every single loophole he can find (so his GMs can find a bunch of new ones too)

Right now Dubi is 25 and remembering Don Fehr's history in leading the baseball player's union that the one area that they will not given in on will be free agent eligibility. It is believed that because of how weak restricted free agency that the NHLPA will not give up when a player becomes a UFA.

Not when the NHL is going to demand changes in every other possible area of the CBA so lock Dubinsky in for 5-6 years while you can. The Rangers are going to have a hard time explaining how a player who wants to stay a Ranger and not money is why they wound up in arbitration.

5 years is what Marc Staal was given and I seriously doubt that Dubinsky is asking for more than 4.5 a year right now but if this goes to arbitration then yes Dubinsky will ask for the moon because it will be the best way to wind up with what he was seeking.

Most arbitration cases are splitting the difference so you better believe as long as both sides are not asking for an insane amount then expect an award almost right down the middle. But the Rangers are not in a position where anything close to 5 million puts them in a problem area cap wise.

Do the Rangers really want to gamble on arbitration especially with Ryan Callahan sitting there like a cat on an unsuspecting bird? What if the Rangers roll the dice and Dubi is awarded a 2 year deal at 5 million as no way does Callahan not go into his hearing asking for less.

Forget my acknowledged biased here and ask how can the Rangers after giving nice fat raises to Anisimov, Boyle, and Sauer not give Dubi (or Callahan) fat raises as well? How does a team that just gave a 9 year deal to Brad Richards justify playing games with the guy who over the last 2 years has kept getting better for them?

How do you explain how you are playing games with the 2 leading scorers on last year's team? As important as Brad Richards was being added then the last thing the Rangers need is to play games with Dubinsky or even Callahan.

I have said this already to folks on Facebook but if the Rangers and Dubinsky go to arbitration because of contract length then trade him while you still can. You can not have 2 separate contract disputes with the same player then expect him to show loyalty when he has a chance at unrestricted free agency.

As badly as Dubinsky wants to remain a Ranger; you are looking at a sour relationship between team and player that will do neither side any good. Dubinsky was trashed by both Sather and Tortorella in the first contract dispute and even though it will be Jeff Gorton representing the Ranger; it will be Gorton's first task in his new role.

Gorton has to do his job which is represent the Rangers so while it will not be personal how can anyone ask Dubinsky not to be angered of what happens? If this was about money then that would be one thing but contract length when you had a chance to lock up a part of "the core foundation" it is hard to understand.

And remember all this is going to take place in full view of Ryan Callahan who will know by Friday what happens with Dubinsky. Going to arbitration with Dubinsky really when you look at the biggest of pictures is no-win for the Rangers.

Say the Rangers win and get a 2 year deal with Dubinsky but now have to deal with Ryan Callahan. What if Dubinsky walks out with a 2 year 5.5 million per season deal then how do you not offer Callahan the same money?

Or how do you look at Dubinsky after you gave Callahan a nice fat contract rather than arbitration? This off-season was just going way too smoothly one supposes for the Rangers to not wind up in a messy situation.

If you are the Rangers and you are rolling the dice on what the next CBA may or may not bring then it is a risky move that can undo all the good things that you have done during this off-season.

And worst case scenario is what if Dubinsky does get for argument's sake that 2 year 5.5 million deal? How can you afford to fit that in the salary cap when you have a verbal deal with Steve Eminger, qualifying offers to Stu Bickel and Chad Johnson ** and then Ryan Callaan the player who most Ranger fans expect to be wearing a "C" on his uniform

**(Because the Rangers made qualifying offers to Bickel and Johnson, they have to be added to the Ranger roster and their QOs added into the cap number by rule) **

Now you have go work out a deal with Ryan Callahan but have to do so in a way that does not leave any bitter feelings with Dubinsky.

For both Ranger and Dubinsky's sake one has to hope that both sides realize that going to arbitration hurts both sides not just one. For Dubi I would say remember what being a Ranger means to you and for the Rangers I will simply say 47-55-102 that you do not have the means or assets to replace in your lineup.

Those numbers were the combined efforts of Dubinsky and Callahan as Brad Richard or not take either of those 2 out of the lineup then the Rangers will have wasted an off-season of optimism for nothing.

And that makes the least of any sense.

(Dubinsky courtesy of the New York Rangers)


Zen said...

How do you figure that Dubi could get anything close to $5M in arbitration. Isn't Andrew Ladd his closest comparable at $4.4M?

Larry Brooks states that Dubi is looking for $5M+. Does it sound right to you that he asking for that much? It seems to me that you are clearly biased in the case of Dubi and it clouding your judgment.

Jay said...

Mentioning Glen Sather and common sense in the same story is a joke.

Jess Rubenstein said...


Sorry your comment was deleted by accident but I was able to copy it

Arbitration awards do not work this way; the arbitrator picks one party's number and that's the awarded salary.

Sorry but even Larry Brooks has it as such:

Arbitration is part of the process and the league's business model. 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.

Sorry Duncan but under NHL arbitration some of the strange numbers can happen

Jess Rubenstein said...


I believe if it comes down to arbitration that Dubinsky would ask for something in the 5-5.5 million range to be able to get the top end of that salary.

But I also wrote this

5 years is what Marc Staal was given and I seriously doubt that Dubinsky is asking for more than 4.5 a year right now but if this goes to arbitration then yes Dubinsky will ask for the moon because it will be the best way to wind up with what he was seeking.

I did not hide my bias towards Dubi but I also did not allow it to cloud my thinking.


Sorry but one has to acknowledge the good moves that Sather has made so far this off-season.

Duncan said...


I did some research and found out that in the NHL (unlike MLB),the arbitrator is able to come up with their own salary figures based on the comparable supplied by both sides.