The New York Rangers need to get moving.
Not on the ice. There will be time for that in a month.
It's time for Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather to get to work on signing his free agents. Sather doesn't have to worry about players who are currently free to sign with other teams. But he has to get moving when it comes to Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi, all of whom will be free agents next year if the Rangers don't get them signed before the end of the 2013-14 season.
While Sather and the Rangers have many months to get this done before they are in danger of losing those three mainstays, there is little to be gained by waiting around and much that could be lost.
The longer the Rangers wait before signing their trio of stars, the more complicated the situation will grow. If they are not signed by the start of training camp or perhaps the regular season, will any of the players shut down the negotiation process?
Perhaps Lundqvist, Callahan or Girardi won't want to negotiate during the season. Perhaps they are already somewhat miffed that contract extensions have not been offered.
Salary-cap issues should not be a problem. While the Rangers are committed to spending $65.2 millon in 2013-14 (according to CapGeek.com) and must get down to $64.3 million, they have $32.2 million on the books for 2014-15. There is room to pay their star players.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post said the Rangers have not started negotiating with any of the players. While playing for the Rangers presents opportunities and advantages that can't be found in smaller markets, not all players love the bright lights of the city.
Lundqvist and Callahan have certainly thrived there and appear to embrace living and playing in New York. But who knows what their true desires are?
When a top-level player hits free agency, he can usually find the deal he wants from the team he wants to play for. If a player is given the opportunity to at least consider free agency, he may want to take advantage of it by not signing a last-minute contract offered by his employer.
The team will be distracted by the issue as the season moves forward. If just one player wasn't under contract, that would be standard business in the NHL, and teammates and fans would find a way to cope.
But that's not the case here. If October turns into November and November turns into December and the Rangers have not signed Lundqvist, Callahan and Girardi, the rest of the team will start to wonder what's going on.
That will make it hard for players to concentrate and give committed efforts during games.
Distractions will set in. If players are not signed in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, media members and fans will ask questions. Reporters will ask questions—the kinds of questions that would have angered former Rangers head coach John Tortorella and sent him into a tizzy.
While Tortorella has taken his act to Vancouver, it seems highly doubtful new Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will want to answer questions about trade possibilities. More than that, he won't want Lundqvist, Callahan or Girardi answering questions about moving away from the Rangers either.
Lundqvist is scheduled to earn $6.875 million this season, according to CapGeek.com. A new contract is likely to be in the $9 million per year neighborhood, and Lundqvist will undoubtedly want six years or more.
Callahan is hardworking, and he's one of the most important Rangers. His $4.275 million contract should increase to at least $6 million, considering San Jose's Joe Pavelski just signed a five-year contract for $30 million.
Girardi is a consistent defenseman with a hard right-handed shot. He earns $3.325 million and will be a hot commodity if he makes it to free agency.
There is is little to be gained by waiting. Lundqvist and Callahan are the foundation of the Rangers franchise. Girardi is not far behind.
The longer the Rangers go without signing them, the more questionable their position becomes.
Sather knows this. What's he waiting for?
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