Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Questions without answers

New York Rangers
July has turned into August and even I have to admit that seeing the New York Rangers having this quiet an off-season is a strange feeling. I can't recall the last time when the New York Rangers were this quiet during the off-season.

Other than the Rick Nash trade the New York Rangers look almost like they don't want to spend any money. Rather strange for a team that has traditionally spent almost to the last available dollar that the salary cap allows and more.

The only player that the Rangers still need to come to contract terms with is Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto is in a very awkward situation being just 22 and having no leverage when it comes to contract negotiations. His agent is former NHL great Bobby Orr and as an agent Orr is not the type who winds up in nasty negotiations.

If the reported rumors regarding what the NHL owners are asking for in their collective bargaining agreement talks with the NHLPA are true, then Del Zotto won't have any bargaining leverage until he turns 28.

That has to be a very awkward bargaining position for Del Zotto as it is a no-win position. If you are in his position what kind of contract can you be asking for?

In Del Zotto's case, he lost over $1 million in salary and bonus money when he was demoted in the second year of his entry-level contract. Because Del Zotto suffered a season-ending injury while in the AHL then he lost any chance at returning to the Rangers and the NHL level salary.

If you were in his shoes right now you might not know what to do.

Under the old CBA, Del Zotto is still at least two years away from being eligible for salary arbitration. So what would you do?

Would you sign a three-year deal which would more than likely also be a two-way deal similar to what you had in your entry-level contract? Or do you look at what Anton Stralman got from the Rangers in his two-year deal and say you want that kind of contract?

In a strange way, what happened to Del Zotto also happened to Stralman. Stralman made $1.95 million while a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010-11 but was allowed to become an unrestricted free agent.

When the Rangers signed Stralman it was for $900,000 so Del Zotto may look at what Stralman got from the Rangers. It doesn't mean that the Rangers will want to give him that much.

In Del Zotto's favor is that he played well over the entire season while Stralman really didn't find his "niche" until late in the season. Forget that Stralman is 4 years older and remember that Stralman will be a 3rd pair defender which is another consideration to take into account.

It is easy for us to sit here and pass judgment on what either the Rangers or Michael Dell Zotto should do. It's not our career, it's not our money and it's not an easy question to answer.

Another question that I keep getting asked is, do I think Glen Sather has finished shaping the Ranger roster for the 2012-13 season?

The Rangers have 21 NHL level players under contract for next season. So you would like to think that the answer would be yes, this is the team that the Rangers will go into training camp with.

But then you look up and see that the Rangers still have $11,691,666 in open salary cap space. The Rangers are still in a position where they can make not just one good move but depending on how they spend the money two maybe three moves.

The question now has to be which direction the New York Rangers would take if they were to make a move. While Michael Sauer has shown progress with his health; it still might be a wise move to consider adding a solid top four defender.

Just as people like to point out that you never have enough offense; my fear is that if Sauer is unable to play or the Rangers suffer an injury to any other defender that their options are very limited.

I would rather pay today for a quality player to be an insurance policy then risk getting caught short and forced to look at the waiver wire. The Rangers were able to find decent waiver wire pickups last year but if you can deal from a position of strength then why not consider another defenseman?

At the same time while you're adding Rick Nash as others have pointed out, there are rightful concerns regarding the Rangers bottom six. Again it wouldn't hurt to add somebody who would improve the Rangers checking unit.

I have said it before that I am not sold on having Taylor Pyatt as one of the Ranger checking unit because I don't think he plays a Tortorella style game. At the same time if you are saying he can be used as a fourth liner that makes me feel even worse because the Rangers would have the most overpaid 4th line in the NHL.

As much as I would rather see Christian Thomas or Ryan Bourque be given the first shot, I doubt John Tortorella would considering their size. There has to be better options out there than Pyatt.

The biggest question of them all has to be will there be an NHL season? I believe there will be a labor stoppage of some sort when the current CBA expires on September 15th.

Will it wipe out an entire season as it did in 2004? I think the answer to that question will be it depends on whether it's a lockout or strike.

If it's a lockout that yes I do believe the NHL owners are stupid enough (I tried diplomacy but I couldn't find a nicer word)to wipe another season out. They're getting their money from TV so I don't see them with any sense of urgency to get a deal done.

If it is a strike then I think that will take at least a third to half the season to resolve. Unlike previous years, the star players are united with the fourth liners and this is a more organized NHLPA.

It doesn't really matter who starts the labor war as in either case, the fans and the game will be the losers. Even with labor peace it is doubtful that the fans will see any kind of relief from high ticket prices no matter which side claims they're doing this for the fans.

That's one question I am sure of the answer.

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