Taking a look ahead to the end of the New York Rangers 2015 season it is safe to say that general manger Glenn Sather’s job will not be easy. The contracts of key members of the current roster are due to expire. Soon to become unrestricted free agents are: Mats Zuccarello, and Martin St. Louis. While soon to become restricted free agents are: Derek Stepan, and Carl Hagelin.
All potential acquisitions, all potential trade fodder, all potentially replaceable. Of the unrestricted free agents, Martin St. Louis’ situation has the potential to be the most painful. At the age of 39, and possibly reaching the twilight of his career St. Louis this season has scored 16 goals in 56 appearances. His been play has been streaky; scoring in bunches while going through fairly long goal droughts.
His general play however has contributed greatly to the Ranger success this season as he has 25 assists with a +/- of 5. Ranger fans are not quick to forget how, during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals last season, St. Louis, after losing his mother suddenly to a heart attack chose to return to the Rangers to continue the series against the Pittsburg Penguins on Mothers Day scoring a goal.
Galvanized by his return, the team rallied to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, and ultimately their first Eastern Conference Championship in 20 years.
St. Louis’ cap hit is $5,625,000 meaning if he is likely to stay with the Rangers he would have to consider taking less money. A tough pill to swallow as when he is on his game Martin St. Louis is pure class. His leadership is unquestionable, and his experience is undeniable needless to say it will be interesting how Sather plays it.
A Ranger absolutely deserving of a new contract as well as a bump in pay is left winger Mats Zuccarello. Last year was Zuccarello’s coming out season as he tallied 59 Points (19 goals, 40 assists). His quick hands have helped to put away a number of shootouts for the Rangers.
Zuccarello’s 2013-2014 playoff performance was crucial in aiding the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals as he contributed 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) to the run. As well his speed is crucial to the type of game the Rangers want to play. Notably his play has carried over from last season to this season as well racking up 33 points in 54 appearances.
Considering that every time Zucarello touches the puck at Madison Square Garden the chant, “ZUUUC!” is heard raining down from the stands, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t get a new contract. The decisions of a general manager are not easy to make. You must evaluate the members of the team and consider which pieces to keep, and which to change to attempt to make the best possible squad.
Of the restricted free agents who’s contracts are due to expire at the end of the 2014-2015 season two figure heads of the current Rangers will be evaluated.
The first is Derek Stepan. By and far the most consistent center for the rangers in the last three years, Stepan has been a steady hand for the Rangers who currently are fairly shallow at center. Stepan has been playing like a man possessed on lines with Rick Nash, and Chris Kreider seemingly aiding them to improved seasons over last year.
Stepping up in support of a slacking Dominic Moore, and the young J.T. Miller, Stepan has tallied 41 points in 42 games played.
The assistant captain missed 14 games earlier this season due to injury, yet is on pace to have his best season ever. Crucial to the Rangers identity, and brilliant with the puck Stepan, who played during the Rangers playoff run with a broken jaw will not be so easily forgotten come this offseason.
Last, but certainly not least is the flash, left-winger Carl Hagelin. The speedy Swede has hovered around the brink of breaking out in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers. Inconsistent at times his will to play, and contribute is undeniable showing moments of brilliance handling the puck, and crashing the net. One of the fastest players in the NHL, Hagelin is certainly a player to watch carefully during the offseason.
It would appear that Hagelin is finding his groove this year having recently developed a decent chemistry with young right-winger Kevin Hayes. It is this reporters opinion that he is deserving of at least a contract extension as he is still very young, and may just now be reaching his potential. With 4 points in his last 5 games, including a game winner against the Colorado Avalanche, Hagelin seems to be heating up.
Hagelin’s overall statistics this season also appear to be on an upswing as he is on pace to do better than last season. Having scored 13 goals and putting up 13 assists so far this year his contributions have been distinctly above average. Of the crucial components who’s contracts expire at the end of the season the future of Carl Hagelin is more of a mystery. If the young man can shine down the stretch, we may see him with the Rangers next season.