One By One
That's one thing about the New York Rangers - they're never, ever afraid to overpay.
They overpaid for Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, and wildly overpaid for Wade Redden to the tune of $6.5 million per season. The Rangers paid Michal Rozsival $6 million and $7 million the last two years, although, to be fair, his cap hit is somewhat less at $5 million per campaign because he gets $7 million in total the next two seasons. Still, fabulous numbers for a stay-at-home blueliner who has never topped 40 points in an NHL season and had three goals and 20 assists a year ago.
Now comes the news that restricted free agent Marc Staal has agreed to terms on a five-year, $19.875 million deal, one that will take him one year into unrestricted free agency before he can negotiate again.
Too much for your basic stay-at-home defenceman? A smart deal to lock up a 23-year-old core asset? A deal that should scare the heck out of the Maple Leafs, with Luke Schenn likely to be comparing himself to Staal when his contract expires in July?
With the NHL, it's always difficult trying to compare apples and apples, let alone apples and oranges. Anaheim signs Bobby Ryan to a deal that's roughly 25 per cent more than Staal's, but Ryan is a 30-goal scorer with potential to score 50. There are so few of those kinds of scorers that its hard not to imagine that the price differential between the players should be greater.
Moreover, Staal had no real leverage with the Rangers. No offer sheet or a realistic expectation of one. No rival league. No arbitration rights.
But they paid up anyway, ostensibly to lock Staal up and obviously believing there's greater upside to his game, particularly his offensive game, than has been demonstrated so far.
Hey, he may have Rozsival-like potential.
Out of all the restricted types that were still unsigned into late August, you could argue that Staal made out the best based on his numbers and game. One by one, almost all have trickled in. Sam Gagner. Andrew Cogliano, Peter Mueller. Chris Stewart. Carey Price. Niclas Bergfors.
Only James Neal and Matt Niskanen of the Dallas Stars are left, and while GM Joe Nieuwendyk says deals are "close" with both players, its possible neither will be on the ice when the Stars open camp in Prince Edward Island on Saturday. Both made less than $900,000 last season, and if the Stars were inclined, they could play hardball with the twosome just as Edmonton did with Cogliano in giving him only a $1 million deal.and Atlanta did with Bergfors, who will make $900,000 on a one-year deal.
Or the Stars could go the other way and demonstrate the largesse (optimism?) of the Rangers. (Ed. Note: Thursday evening the Stars signed both Neal and Niskanen to two-year-deals.)