Each Monday, we’ll wrap up three of the biggest stories from the weekend and how they’ll play into the coming week.
Rangers Earn an A, May Lose Their C
The Rangers returned to indoor hockey this weekend, beating the Islanders at MSG on Friday to finish off a successful week that also saw them sweep a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. It was another strong performance from the Rangers, as they blitzed the Islanders early and then rode three third-period goals and near-perfect goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist to a 4-1 victory.
The win was the Rangers’ third straight and ninth in their last 12. That has moved them into sole possession of second place in the Metro, and while they won’t be catching the Penguins for the top spot, they’ve at least built a four-point gap over the non-playoff teams. That’s far from a comfortable lead, but as a team that’s been on the outside of the race looking in for most of the season, they’ll take it.
So given all that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that times are good in Ranger-land. Instead, the big news around the team these days is the status of captain Ryan Callahan. A pending unrestricted free agent, Callahan is reportedly looking for a seven-year deal that will pay him in the $6 million range annually. That might be too rich for even the big-spending Rangers, who could end up having to trade Callahan before next month’s deadline.
In fact, a deal could come even earlier, given the reports that Rangers GM Glen Sather wants to know where he stands with his captain by Friday’s Olympic roster freeze. That doesn’t mean a trade would need to be completed by then, but it’s worth noting that the Rangers have apparently already taken the unusual step of allowing other teams to contact Callahan’s camp directly to discuss a contract.
It’s possible this is all a bluff to drive down Callahan’s asking price (or, more likely, the number of years he’s looking for). But the Rangers have already dealt Michael Del Zotto rather than extend him, and are also rumored to be shopping pending UFA Dan Girardi.
The Rangers entered the season with a roster full of expiring contracts and expectations of Cup contention. The latter half of that equation hasn’t held up for most of the year, though their recent hot streak makes you wonder. At this point, it looks like Sather is willing to blow it all up rather than let valuable assets walk away for nothing. Every Ranger win between now and the deadline will make that call even tougher.