Del Zotto Re-Signs

Here’s something that I missed while I was away.  Del Zotto re-signed.  From ESPN’s Matt Ehalt:

As a restricted free agent, he had declined to sign a qualifying offer and had no arbitration rights, giving him little leverage in negotiations. A source told ESPNNewYork.com that Del Zotto had a physical Sunday, and he practiced with the team. He wasn’t nervous that the two sides would be able to come to an agreement before the Rangers had their first practice.

“Both sides, once we first talked, said we wanted to get something done as soon as possible, we didn’t want to miss any more time than the lockout has done,” Del Zotto said. “I wasn’t worried at all, it was a matter of timing and I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

The 22-year-old is coming off the finest season of his young career. He led the team’s defensemen with 41 points, a career-high, and posted a plus-20 plus/minus mark on the season. Del Zotto also notched career-highs in goals and assists, and tallied 10 points in the playoffs, including two goals.

I quibble with just one thing in this article.  OK, two things.  First, I think saying that he had “no leverage” misses the mark a little bit.  I think that the case for his leverage was made in the last part that I clipped out there.  He’s coming off of his best season, and when that happens, you’re always going to pay peak value for someone.  This happens ALL THE TIME in professional sports.  It happens so often, I probably don’t even need to name anyone.  You’re probably already thinking of 5 people that signed contracts well above their true value because they were coming off of a big season.  This leads me to the second bit I’d quibble with.

I think $2.55 million for 2 years is way too much, even if his agent was asking for closer to $3MM.  He should be closer to $2MM, I think.  With the Redden buyout coming (more on this later), maybe they’re not as concerned about the cap next year as they maybe should be.  I’m not certain about that, because I’m not in the room, but let’s say they want to add a piece at the deadline next year.  Does this $500K hamstring them next year?  Probably not, but maybe.  Maybe they need a 3rd liner and need room to add the salary.  That $500K could make the difference.

Overall, of course this signing is great.  The stability that he provides on the back line is huge.  The Rangers defensive depth is insane.  Girardi, Staal, McD, MDZ and Stralman is a pretty stacked top 5.  The #6 guy is either Eminger or Bickel, or perhaps both of them on a matchups basis, plus Gilroy (news of his signing also in the article above)  if you need him.

Things Coming Soon

I was away for a few days and looks like there’s some good stuff going on.  Look for posts on the following over the next day or two:

- Redden buyout

- Rangers season prediction

- why I think the Hockey News needs to do a better job

Lockout Breaker: Shane Doan?

Extremely interesting tidbit toward the end of this column from the NY Post’s Larry Brooks:

The Post has learned that Bettman’s ultimate willingness to listen on the final day of the lockout was the key to ending the stalemate.

Sources report it was a one-hour meeting last Saturday attended by only Bettman, NHL attorney Bob Batterman and the Coyotes’ universally respected Shane Doan that broke the logjam over the critical issue regarding the 2013-14 cap number.

Doan, who left money on the table as a free agent this summer to remain in Phoenix, explained that the league’s proposed $62.5M — increased at that point from the original $60M — would disrupt the lives of players and their families who would be forced to move because of trades and buyouts that would not otherwise take place under the union’s more forgiving $64.3M transition number.

The column is primarily about how cowardly and ridiculous Bettman sounded at his press conference yesterday, a press conference at which he took no questions.  And I agree with all of that.

However, if it’s really the case that the lockout was basically settled because of a short conversation between Bettman and Shane Doan about basically nothing, I’m not sure that I have anything intelligent to say about that.  I think I might even have less respect for Bettman than I did 5 minutes ago.  What kind of a megalomanical asshole has to have a player basically come and plead to him to listen, before he’s willing to budge on something so trivial that’s holding the entire process hostage.  Is this really what took so long?  I’ve been arguing for weeks that this is billionaires and millionaires arguing over the fringes, a rounding error to both parties.  If this was really the last big thing, then I was right all along.  If it’s truly that the last major stumbling block was $1.8 million and Doan had to sit down and walk Bettman through how unbelievably shortsighted and selfish it is to hold up the whole process over that number, then Bettman is truly a bigger jerk than I thought.

Redden The Face

I went over in some detail last year the big wins that Glen Sather has put together in the past 6-7 years in the draft.  He’s also presided over what I consider to be one of the best trades in franchise history (hint: it involved someone whose name rhymes with Pot Komez).  I’m not going to retread that ground here.  We’re here now to talk about one giant miss and the implications of that miss in the new CBA.  This is one of the major differences between the current CBA and the old one.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

In the old CBA, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Because a player could be “buried” in the minors and not count against the team’s NHL salary cap, sending Redden to the AHL farm team in Hartford was simple and easy.

Out of sight, out of mind, off the salary cap.

But there’s a provision in the new CBA that doesn’t allow the hiding of NHL contracts in the minors, save the first $900,000. So Redden, with a cap hit of $6.5 million in each of this season and next, means the Rangers are now faced with using valuable cap space on a player who is not remotely part of coach John Tortorella’s plans.

So now what?

To Redden’s credit, he’s been a good soldier through all this.  He’s come to work in Hartford (when healthy) and collected his paycheck (regardless of health), with nary a negative word for the franchise.  In fact, most of the stories that I’ve read have him portrayed as a great leader down there.  I have a good deal of respect for that, though I suspect $6.5 million makes it a bit easier to swallow a stint in the minors.  It’s easy to forget now as well, but the guy was one of the better defensemen in the league for few years in the late-1990s/early-2000s.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me right now, but I think it’s fair to say that he was a top-10, if not top-5 defenseman.

McKenzie describes three scenarios, which I’ll boil down here:

1)  Dump him on a team that would take him, plus draft picks, players or both

2)  Send him back to the AHL and absorb the cap hit.  Let him play and risk him getting injured, and lose the ability to buy him out in the offseason

3)  Take the cap hit but don’t let him play at all, so he doesn’t get injured and then buy him out in the offseason

McKenzie says, without directly saying it, that the only sensible option is the third one.  Take the hit now, buy him out and rid yourself of the cap hit next year when the cap goes down.  If these are the only options, then yeah, I’ll agree.  It’s probably the right thing to do.

I would suggest, however, that there’s a 4th option at play here.  Numerous local outlets (Andrew Gross, Steve Zipay) are reporting that Redden really would like to catch on with another team to finish his career at the NHL level.  I’ve read a number of different places that there’s a movement to bring Redden into the Garden now to talk to Sather about a graceful exit before the season even starts, with the Rangers absorbing a cap hit of some kind (the CBA buyouts that start after the season are full amnesty.  No cap hit) over one or both of the next two seasons.

To me, this is the fairest way to resolve this.  For the Rangers, it allows them to finally move the figurative 800-pound gorilla out of Hartford once and for all.  For Redden, it allows him another shot to catch on somewhere.  He’d be a good fit for someone, just not at the price that the Rangers are paying.  Put him in a small market and I bet he holds his one.  It won’t be nearly the disaster he was here.

And to be honest, that’s probably all that some teams need.

Upside/Downside: Rick Nash

Today, I introduce a new feature, in which I take a topic and examine both the upside and the downside of the given topic.  As I am extremely clever, I have decided to name this feature “Upside/Downside.”  Today:  Rick Nash

Upside:

Rick Nash, on paper, is the pure goal scoring/power forward threat that the Rangers have needed for a long time.  We all know that Madison Square Garden is the place that goal scorers come to die.  In the history of the franchise, only three players have scored more than 50 goals.  No one’s done it twice.

Let’s be very clear: the Rangers do not need Rick Nash for assists.  He is not here to pass.  He’s here to score.  And I think he’s going to be amped and energized to do it.  I believe that he’s among the most terrifying images to an NHL goalie when he’s skating up the right boards with time to wind up.  If he gets any space, look out.  Thinking broadly, imagine him on a line with Kreider on the right and centered by Step.  Think about that line skating behind Gabby and Hags, centered by Big Time Bradley.  I think I just had an episode here at my desk.  And really, you could play with those 6 in any number of ways.  Nash makes a lot of different things possible.

From a goal scoring number, the upside is tremendous.  Step is a great passer and if Kreider continues to move forward, I could see Nash clearing 40 goals pretty easily in a full season, with 50 realistic..  Given what’s looking like a 48 game schedule, I think 20 is a gimme, 25 a possibility and 30 an outside chance.  Nash is anxious to restore his reputation as one of the league’s top goal scorers and to prove to everyone that he can play in New York, after being in Columbus for a gazillion years.  He’s motivated and he’s coming into a system that will play to his strengths:  big and physical.

Downside:

Jeez, if there’s one downside that I can see, it’s the defensive side.  Nash is a career -71.  That’s absolutely atrocious.  Yes, he’s been playing in Columbus, and -19 of that was last season.  But he’s only been a plus-player 3 times in his 9 seasons, and never more than +5.  If he’s going to succeed in New York and stay out of Torts’ doghouse, he’s going to have to commit defensively.  Nash isn’t going to win a Selke any time soon, but I have to think he’ll make an effort to put it together.  If he’s anything near a -5 this year, I think we have to consider this a win.

When discussing downsied, we have to at least touch on what the Rangers gave up in order to bring him here.  The trade was worth it, in my opinion, but there were a lot of pieces.  The big one was Dubi, of course.  He was a fan favorite, a hard worker, but he seemed to have leveled off a bit.  If his upside was “solid 3rd liner and 20 goals a season,” he was expendable.  To me, the biggest loss was Artie.  There’s no guarantee he would have ever done this, but he seems like he could have grown into a poor man’s Rick Nash.  Not as many goals, and probably not as physical, but he has the size and he has the skill.  Finally, Timmy Erixon.  That guy is going to be a hell of a D-man, but if there’s one things the Rangers have no shortage of, it’s D-men, and Exison got the deal done.

All in, I think the upside far outweighs the downside here.  If things fall out right, we’re looking a really nice debut campaign for Nash, who I will be calling Nasher from now on.

Ex-Ranger Moore Loses Wife To Cancer

UPDATE:  1/10/2013, 4:16pm  Dominic Moore and his family have released a statement

“On behalf of my family, I’d like to express our deep appreciation for the overwhelming care and sympathy we have received since my wife’s passing on Monday. The example Katie displayed throughout her life and in particular during her illness is a source of continued strength and inspiration for us all, as is the love and support of those around us. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the future Katie Moore foundation at katiemoore.org.”

 

Amidst all of the optimistic talk of the last few days comes the very sad news of former New York Rangers and current class act Dominic Moore’s wife Katie passing away from liver cancer.  From Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford:

Some sad news to report — Katie Moore, wife of veteran NHLer Dominic Moore, has passed away after a battle with liver cancer.

The hockey world first learned of Katie’s illness shortly after Dominic missed the final two games of San Jose’s opening-round playoff loss to St. Louis.

These types of stories are hard when you’re talking about someone who’s lived 50 or 60 years.  They’re simply heartbreaking when talking about someone so young.

The Del Zotto Watch

The Rangers did get the bulk of their work done prior to the lockout.  There was the big Rick Nash acquisition, of course.  There were some other signings of note (Biron, Stralman, etc.).  Of course, there was Arron Asham joining the squad.

However, the one big thing that still sits out there is the re-signing of RFA Michael Del Zotto.  Kevin DeLury over at the New York Rangers blog picked up Katie Strang’s tweet that the Rangers and Del Zotto’s agent are set to talk almost immediately.  Kevin says he wouldn’t be surprised (nor would I) if this was done before the ink dries on the new CBA.  A couple of things to remember about DZ:

1)  He was injured playing over in Europe.  I haven’t heard much about the status of that injury since it happened, even then it was simply called “back stiffness”, but I’m just generally curious to hear about that.

2)  The Rangers are about $10 million under the cap right now, but still need 3 forwards.  It’s not so troubling this year, as it is next year when Step and Hags are due for raises.  It’ll be interesting to see where the Rangers set the market on DZ.

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