With the offseason rapidly ramping up and contract rumors starting to fly, it marks a good time to look at some of the most intriguing deals to be dealt with this summer. Here are the five most interesting in my humble opinion.
5. Brandon Dubinsky, LW, Age 24 - Based on Dubinsky's comments to the Daily News, it sounds like an extension could get done pretty quickly. The fit is good and the desire for both sides to make a deal seems strong. The only hiccup could be if Dubinsky is looking for a megadeal of some kind. I would think he’s not looking to hold up the bank though, especially since he should see a nice raise on his $1.85M salary from this past season anyway.
4. Brian Boyle, C, 26 - Boyle presents a very interesting case as a restricted free agent. He will absolutely get a raise off his $525K contract from a season ago. But how big will that raise be? With 21 goals and 14 assists this season, Boyle produced one of the biggest breakout seasons in the NHL. And while he didn’t put up a point in the Rangers’ playoff series against the Washington Capitals, he was arguably the team’s most consistent forward over the course of the series. Now … were the 21 goals a fluke or something he can reproduce in future seasons? His shooting percentage of 9.6 percent, right around the league average, suggests that he wasn’t just lucky. Couple that with the fact he does most of his work around the opponent’s crease and it seems like 20-goal seasons are not unrealistic expectations, even though Boyle’s previous career best for goals was four.
3. Ryan Callahan, RW, 26 - Callahan has been described many times as the Rangers’ captain in waiting. He plays exactly the style of hockey endorsed by head coach John Tortorella and contributes in all aspects of the game. Players like that are rare and highly coveted in today’s NHL. So, how big a bump will Callahan, a restricted free agent, get from his $2.3M salary of 2010-11? He produced career bests in both goals and assists in just 60 games this season. If I had to guess, I would think that Callahan could see a long-term deal to help keep his cap hit manageable but still get him the bucks he deserves.
2. Derek Boogaard, LW/Penalty Box, 28 - Boogaard won’t be a free agent until 2014-15 ... which is precisely why I’m putting him and his $1.65M per-season deal on this list. Tortorella dressed Boogaard in 22 games during an injury-shortened season that ended after he sustained a concussion on Dec. 9. His recovery from that concussion is still in question. But also, when he's not dropping the gloves his contributions are limited, at best, on the ice. There have been rumors connecting him to the KHL, but it seems very possible the Rangers will try to offload Boogaard in some way, shape or form. I certainly don’t fault Boogaard for signing the deal and taking the money, but Wade Redden and Co. might need to make room for the Boogie Man on the Connecticut Whale team bus. And that could be the best-case scenario for the banged-up brawler.
1. Chris Drury, C, 34 - Faceoffs. Right now, it seems that winning draws is Drury’s biggest on-ice contribution to the Rangers. That’s a rather short list considering the team’s current captain is set to draw a salary of $7.05M next season. Tortorella’s comments Monday seem to indicate that the team will seriously consider buying out Drury’s contract after he battled a string of injuries and averaged about 7:30 of ice time in the playoffs. With a no-movement clause in his contract, Drury won’t face the same fate as Redden, but the Rangers probably value the $3.5M-plus of cap space they can free up by buying him out more than a fourth-line and situational center, the role Drury mainly filled this season.
There’s a perception issue as well though. Will future free agents look at the Rangers’ offers skeptically if the players accepting their lucrative money -- Redden and perhaps Drury and Boogaard -- don’t get to reach the end of their deals in New York? Will they start to demand no-movement clauses -- which have severely hindered the Devils across the Hudson -- limiting the Rangers’ options when it comes to roster management?
So, if you’re the Rangers, do you try to buy out Drury, knowing he’d count just $3.3M against the cap next season and $1.67M against the 2012-13 cap, thereby freeing up space for a high-skill scorer the Blueshirts badly need? Or do you ride it out knowing you have a high character guy to help lead a young roster and hope that he can rebound in the production department as he returns to good health?