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.

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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.

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.

Chris Kreider: Class Act

Pretty interesting post from BockeyBuzz’s Julie Robenhymer today about the Big Assist Charity event, generally, and Chris Kreider specifically:

After the game, the players posed for a team picture and then headed towards the locker rooms to shower and change….except for one. Chris Kreider saw a kid along the boards waving a pen at him. He skated over and went up and down that side of the rink signing everything handed to him with the exception of a Notre Dame hat and a Hockey Canada hat to which he politely smiled and shook his head while handing it back over the glass.

The post goes on to discuss how Kreider stayed long after any other participant to sign autographs and engage with the fans.  Really good stuff from a kid that really didn’t have to, but wanted to.

Sauer Sidelined Indefinitely (Again), Now What?

Michael Sauer has been shut down by trainer Jim Ramsay again after having concussion-like symptoms.  Sauer had worked out with the team in a non-contact jersey last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  From the Daily News’s Pat Leonard:

Tortorella said trainer Jim Ramsay has “backed (Sauer) off” from activity both on and off the ice, after Sauer skated from Monday to Wednesday last week for the first time since Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf laid him out Dec. 5 at the Garden.

“He hasn’t really felt that great after a few days on the ice, so Rammer’s backed him off,” Tortorella said. “I’m just waiting for a yes or a no, and right now it’s a no.”

So, yeah.  That’s not good news.

What it does mean until Sauer can resume working out with the team is that the Fab Five (Girardi, McD, Staal, DZ and Sauer) is now the Core Four, leaving two spots open in the rotation for 4 defensemen (Stralman, Bickel, Woywitka and Eminger).

Right now, with Eminger a couple of weeks away, it looks like Woywitka’s going to be the odd man out until someone falters (he’s a healthy scratch again for tonight’s game against the Jets).  When Eminger returns, however, Torts is going to have a couple of decisions to make.  Each of these guys has performed pretty well when asked to step in.

I think it’s far more likely that one of these guys gets moved for some scoring, if possible.  But if they’re not moved, here’s how I see these four guys, from top to bottom:

1)  Eminger – One of these spots is his to lose.  Torts loves him.  He’s a steady, solid third-pair defenseman.  The two best things about Eminger are that he’s relatively young (28) and pretty cheap ($800,000).  he’s got 4 points (2-2) in his 32 games this year and averages about 13 minutes on the ice.  That’s reasonably solid production.  What’s more, he’s got great fundamentals.  He may not make all the plays, but he definitely doesn’t make too many stupid ones.

2)  Bickel – Hear me out on this one.  I think the Rangers would love to stash him in Hartford for the rest of the season, once Eminger is healthy, and have him play out the season there and potentially compete for a spot next year.  There’s just absolutely no chance that he’ll clear waivers after he’s shown that he can compete at this level.  Everyone is hungry for defensive help.  I think he’s acquitted himself nicely and he’s still learning.  Plus, I love the fight this guy has in him.

3)  Stralman – I think they keep him with the big club just to keep Bickel motivated to keep growing.

4)  Woywitka – I think he’s the oddest man out, assuming that there’s no trade brewing.  I also think he’s probably the most likely to be traded.

Will The Rangers Fall-Off In The Second Half?

In writing for ESPN.com today, Rob Vollman from Hockey Prospectus looks at the numbers and the advanced stats and comes up with four teams that are likely to fall-off in the second half.  Not surprisingly, the Rangers are the first team on his list:

Overall, the Rangers will be down 15 goals for and 15 goals against when the percentages regress, and that would lead to a 10-point drop in the standings. So what accounts for the other two points? Given that their puck luck could change, their 9-2-4 record in one-goal games figures to dip a little — in this case, costing them at least one win.

I say “not surprisingly” because, well, I think we all knew this, right?  Even anecdotally, without even glancing at the numbers, the Rangers just look to be playing with fire all the time.  The D is stout, but Lundqvist (or Biron) seems to have to make a few amazing saves every game.  The power play is nothing short of atrocious.  And it seems like the offense, particularly Richards and Gabby, have stagnated.  This seems like a classic case of regression to the mean.  Leveling off, as they say.

However, I’m not sending the panic flag up the pole just yet.  Puck possession, one of the big stats that Vollman sites, is improving every game.  Instead of looking at the first half of the season, what if we looked at the second third of the season, the last 20 games or so?  I think we’d see markedly improved numbers that are being dragged down by some ugly play early in the season.  I suspect we’d see the same thing manifest itself in their shots on goal number.

I’m not familiar enough with these metrics generally, so I can’t really say what is and isn’t sustainable, but we’ve seen a bunch of articles written about how Hank is in his prime as a goalie and might possibly be having the best season of career because he’s at the point in his career where it’s not uncommon to have the best season of his career.

Even if this scenario is correct and the Rangers regress to 46 points in the their final 41 games, I think we’re all comfortable with a 104 point season in a division that’s eminently winnable with a very banged up Penguins team and an inconsistent Flyers team.