The Rangers haven’t participated in an arbitration hearing since 2009, when the team wound up walking away from Nikolay Zherdev but that stretch of more than a decade is likely to end next Tuesday.
That’s the date — Oct. 20 — on which Tony DeAngelo’s hearing has been scheduled as the first of four potential cases confronting the Blueshirts. Alex Georgiev’s hearing is set for Oct. 31, Ryan Strome’s for Nov. 5 and Brendan Lemieux’s for the following day.
Management might be able to reach agreements with Lemieux and Georgiev prior to scheduled hearings, but it seems a stretch that DeAngelo or Strome would settle when the arbitration award is all but certain to exceed a negotiated number.
The Rangers enter the arb portion of the offseason with approximately $16.3 million of available cap space. That calculation contemplates a shadow 20-man roster featuring two goaltenders (Igor Shesterkin and Georgiev); six defensemen (Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jack Johnson, Brendan Smith and DeAngelo); and 12 forwards (Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, Brett Howden, Julien Gauthier, Phil DiGiuseppe, Strome and Lemieux).
DeAngelo (15-38-53) was tied for third in scoring by defensemen last year. The only defenseman in the NHL to record as many goals and points were Norris winner Roman Josi and runner-up John Carlson. The only defensemen to have scored as many goals were Zach Werenski, Josi, Alex Pietrangelo, Carlson, Shea Weber and Kris Letang. That is a Who’s Who list of elite offensive blue liners.
And while management will augment its case by pointing out deficiencies in coverage and play away from the puck, DeAngelo was a plus-14 playing five-on-five, on for 56 goals for and 42 against, per Natural Stat Trick.
So, what; $5 million, maybe, give or take? The Rangers presumably budgeted at least that much in their payroll projections.
The Rangers should be able to negotiate two-year contracts with Georgiev and Lemieux, the latter of whose primary stats (6-12-18) aren’t going to especially impress an arbiter. Say around $2 million per for the goalie and between $1.4M and $1.8M for the winger?
And, of course, then will come Strome, who did not receive his Qualifying Offer until hours before the deadline and resisted management’s attempts to sign him for a number lower than his expected arbitration award.
Strome is coming off a career year in which he recorded 59 points (18-41) as Panarin’s center, and finished 18th among NHL pivots in assists per game and 25th in points per game. Yes, management will cite deficiencies away from the puck and at the dots, but the offensive numbers will probably carry more weight in a hearing.
Again, you probably have to figure an award that’s going to be at least $4.5 million and perhaps up to the low $5’s.
Yes, the Rangers could walk away from a Strome award if it is greater than $4,538,958. But in that case, Strome would have the right to walk back to the Blueshirts for the team’s arbitration offer within four days of being informed of the walkway. This stipulation was agreed to for 2020 only in the CBA negotiations as PA protection against players being dumped late into the free agent market.
For example, if the Rangers’ bid is $4 million and the arbiter’s award is $5.25 million, the team could walk away from it. Strome would then have four days to shop himself on the market, after which he could sign with the Blueshirts for that $4 million.
Of course, Strome at that kind of number could become more attractive in a trade, but that is a different story for a different time.
Now, it is arbitration, and DeAngelo is in the leadoff spot.
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