2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four

As Usual Sather Playing Hardball With His Free Agents

If nothing else, you’ve got to give Glen Sather credit for being consistent. While he has no problem breaking the bank for other teams’ free agents (see Redden, Drury, Gomez, Gaborik & Richards), he continues to play hardball with his own (see past contract negotiations with Dubinsky, Staal, Del Zotto, Stepan & Callahan) as it’s looking more and more likely very few of the Rangers UFAs will be back, while some RFAs might be headed towards arbitration.

Here was Sather on his free agents after the draft on Saturday (via Blueshirts United)…

“We’d like to retain everybody, but it’s gonna be difficult because of the way the cap is today and probably because of the expectations of us being able to pay huge dollars since we got to the Finals. But we didn’t win. So I think realistically some of these guys probably have to pull their horns in a little bit.”

Sather then went on to call out a few of them individually:

Mats Zuccarello & Chris Kreider:

“Zuccarello had a great year. He played well, he did everything we wanted him to do. He sees the ice as well as anyone in the game. Did he start last season on the Rangers? (Reporter answers that he started 2013 lockout shortened season in Russia). So he really only had one good year here. And Kreider was in the minors. That’s what we’re going to talk about.”

Beniot Pouliot:

“He found a place where he was very comfortable, the coach liked him, his line was very good together, had a good structure, they had good chemistry. Now if he goes on to another place, he could be back in the same situation where he was two years ago.

“You have to decide yourself what you’re looking for. Is it money, a few more dollars or something like that? In my book, it’s always winning.”

…damn Sather is shrewd calling out all his free agents (some by name) in an effort to curry favor with the fan base. Bravo Mr. Sather, bravo.

…i can’t say anything Sather said was out of line either. Under the new salary cap, he can’t cave into ridiculous demands. The Rangers GM is right, guys like Pouliot, Stralman and Boyle need to make a choice, are they more interested in winning or further financial security (see Zuccarello). They’re all going to receive raises from the Rangers, but is it enough? That’s not for Sather to decide. 

…the one UFA I think Sather is making a mistake with is Dom Moore. While I’d rather not give him the three years he’s reportedly asking for, the dollar amount of between $1.6M to $1.85M seems beyond fair. So, I’m definitely miffed that Sather isn’t even talking with him at this point.

…as far as the restricted free agents go, that’s where Sather is at his best. He will not blink in negotiations where he has the upper hand. The one thing Sather does have going against him this summer (unlike with Stepan last offseason) is that all his RFAs, except for John Moore, are arbitration eligible. So if the players aren’t happy with the Rangers offers they’ll let the arbiter decide on a one-year deal that might be more than Sather is willing to give. They could also decide against arbitration and instead seek out a team willing to submit a rarely used offer sheet to force the Rangers GM’s hand. Because the RFAs have arbitration rights, it’s unlikely we’ll see a Stepan-like holdout from Kreider, Zuccarello and Brassard.

The Rangers top four UFAs (Pouliot, Stralman, Boyle & Moore) were all vital to the team’s success last season, but at the same time are nothing more than complimentary players, who can be replaced with younger, cheaper alternatives, which Sather seems very willing to do as he alluded to while discussing JT Miller…

“We expect Miller to come and play this year. He probably would’ve played throughout the playoffs if he hadn’t had his separated shoulder. He’s young. He fits into the price range. He’s going to develop into becoming a very good hockey player. He had a lot of growth this year, and did well.”

…from what I gather, Sather feels the success of his current UFAs are a byproduct of the system they play in and can easily be replaced with players willing to fill a specific role to help the team win. Throughout his draft day interview, Sather discussed playing within a team concept and structure. If Boyle wants a role that doesn’t fit into AV’s philosophy or Pouliot is looking for more money than Sather can sustain to keep the Rangers competitive in a salary cap NHL, it seems as though the Rangers GM has no problem going in a different direction.

I think this Sather quote says it best…

“When you start to look at the philosophy of the team and how it’s structured, whether you have first, second, third or fourth line players or whether they played 18 minutes or 10 minutes, they’re all important guys on the hockey team to get where you are. The reason we were able to get to where we got was because of a good coach, good coaching staff, a team philosophy and inside that philosophy you have roles for the different players to play in. If they’re going to accept them, you can have a good team. If you have players that aren’t willing to accept roles, then you have conflict all the time and that creates problems. And I’m not interested in problems. I want people that want to play within the team structure. That’s how you win.”

…BOOM! Listen, 3rd and 4th line players are replaceable as are second pairing defensemen. If Sather can bring in adequate fill-ins at bargain prices, then he’ll have more than enough money to upgrade the Rangers biggest need: a legit #1 center.

…where I think Sather will be hypocritical is if he ends up throwing a ton of cash at a Dan Boyle. What kind of message does that send? My free agents need to be loyal to me by taking less to stay, but if they don’t I’m going to recklessly open the vault for a 37-year old defenseman?

Meanwhile, Sather’s tough love hasn’t seemed to affect Brian Boyle’s willingness to test the market…

Also, the Rangers have submitted qualifying offers to all their RFAs accept for…

Last week, I discussed possible qualifying offers, which you can read here.


About Kevin

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