It's been over 11 years since the Rangers last went to arbitration, ultimately walking away from an award to Nikolai Zherdev, who became an unrestricted free agent after the decision. This year the team faces the daunting prospect of reaching deals with four players, with first up Tony DeAngelo on October 20th, perhaps being the most difficult.
Discuss in the forums: Arbitration Dates Set
The 24 year old - who will turn 25 four days after his hearing - is due a big raise due to his 53 points in 68 games last season. Coming off a three year contract that averaged around $1.2M - a third of that in bonuses - DeAngelo could be awarded as much as $5M a year, a number that the Rangers can accommodate. With three more seasons before he hits UFA status, a one-year award term would not be the end of the world, and would give them flexibility going forward to provide room for the likes of prospect Nils Lundkvist should he continue to perform at a high level.
On the downside, if DeAngelo has another high performing year, then the Rangers could be facing an even bigger number next season, and perhaps will be forced to think long and hard as to whether they want to keep him part of the team over the next few years.
Next up would be center Ryan Strome. It seemed pretty clear that the Rangers were looking at other options, holding off sending a qualifying offer until hours before the October 7th deadline. As it turned out, nothing eventuated and the team did indeed retain the rights to Strome, setting up the October 31st arbitration hearing and some long work ahead of the team and player's agent to try and craft a deal.
Perhaps moreso than DeAngelo, there are definite questions about how Strome fits into the team. He clearly benefited from playing with Panarin, though his own contributions tended to be very streaky. When it came to crunch time, Strome proved to be more a supporting player than one who could generate things on his own, and as such has a cap of vaue to the team. Certainly Strome has outperformed the expectations since being acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Spooner, though he remains perhaps in the middle of pack league-wise as a comparative.
With just 16 days remaining, it could well be another decision that is best served by an arbitration award and the associated one-year contract.
For the remaining two players, Alexandar Georgiev - November 5th and Brenadn Lemieux - November 6th, the Rangers have a bit more room in which to operate - there's more room and less money at stake, and unless the player and their agent force the issue, it's likely the deals get done.
The fifth arbitration eligible RFA Phillip Di Giuseppe resigned over the weekend for 1 year - $700k, and did not file for arbitration.
In other free agent news, several of the Rangers depth players have moved on:
Vinni Lettieri - Los Angeles
Greg Mckegg - Boston
Daniel O'Regan - Las Vegas