Limited options for Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux in Rangers contract standoffs
The scenario hasn’t changed since the July 31 buyout of Kevin Shattenkirk. Indeed, one might argue that the scenario hasn’t changed since the final week of June when the Rangers submitted one-year, $874,125 qualifying offers to Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux, who are restricted free agents without arbitration rights.
And who remain unsigned 22 days before the Blueshirts are due to report for medicals on Sept. 12 for the opening of training camp.
It is understandable that the youngsters might be a bit miffed at the offers that have not changed through a summer that began with the front office committing a combined $19,642,873 per to sign Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba to seven-year deals. But it is equally understandable for the Rangers to stand on the QOs while exercising their rights and leverage granted by the CBA.
This is not unique to DeAngelo and Lemieux. The team would not budge off their QO to J.T. Miller for $874,000 in 2015-16. Miller signed it that July 15 and has done quite well since, getting a two-year deal worth $2.75 million per the following summer before earning the five-year contract for $5.25 million per from the Lightning last summer following his trade to Tampa Bay.
DeAngelo’s agent, Pat Brisson, and Lemieux’s representative, Claude Lemieux, politely declined to provide updates on talks between their respective clients and the Rangers. The same holds true for New York management.
At this point, though, it does not appear that the Rangers are inclined to move off their initial bids. That means that DeAngelo and Lemieux, each of whom play with a necessary jagged edge not necessarily prevalent throughout the roster, have only two means of leverage.
One is to withhold service and not play, which wouldn’t seem to represent much of an option at all for two guys who have yet to make their mark in the NHL but are in line to get that opportunity this season. They could play in Europe but would face the exact same scenario upon returning. And though their absences would hurt the Rangers, it is far-fetched to expect management to cave as a consequence.
The players’ other alternative is to attempt to attract an offer sheet — or at least a credible threat of one — that would force general manager Jeff Gorton’s hand. Neither DeAngelo nor Lemieux is in especially prime position to cash in, but the compensation return for players at their respective pay grades is light, so that works in the players’ favor. The Rangers would receive no compensation as return on an unmatched offer sheet of $1,395,053 or below and only a third-rounder for an unmatched offer sheet of between $1,395,053.01 and $2,113,716.
Cap space of course would become a sticky issue if the Rangers were forced to match. The team currently has approximately $3.685 million with which to work off a shadow roster of two goaltenders, five defensemen and 12 forwards. The seventh defenseman would account for between $730,000 (Darren Raddysh) and $1.075 million (if it is Brendan Smith on the NHL rather than AHL roster). So management would have choices to make.
But if DeAngelo can post 30-to-40 points this year, he will be in line for upwards of $3 million per when he becomes arbitration eligible next summer. So why would he sign an offer sheet for around $2 million per? And Lemieux, though numbers do essentially all of the talking in arbitration, also could boost himself into a much higher pay grade next summer than he could via an immediate offer sheet now. He could become a very important Ranger this year.
It is tough on these two players, especially when they will be called upon to ride to the rescue if the Rangers’ finesse-oriented kids and much higher paid teammates are roughed up. It may not be terribly fair. That is understood. But this is reality under the CBA. Players exercise leverage when they have it. Teams have the right, if not obligation, to do the same.
Twenty two days until camp.
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