Brandon Dubinsky's(notes) restricted free-agent negotiation and subsequent holdout from the New York Rangers last year made life miserable for all parties. So it's not exactly sunny news to hear Glen Sather reference that stalemate in speaking about the contract talks with defenseman Marc Staal(notes), who led the Rangers blue line at a plus-11 last season.
In fact, Sather considers the difference "a chasm." From the NY Daily News:
"I'd like to have it done," Sather said. "In Staal's situation, he's in exactly the same position Dubinsky was in last year. Where that's going to end up is anyone's imagination. He's a good player, we like him — just like Dubinsky: we'd like to have him back, we think he's got a long future, we're going to treat him fairly. Sometimes agents don't recognize that — leverage works both ways."
The agent in this case is an ex-defenseman himself, a guy named Bobby Orr, whose only leverage here can come after Thursday if Staal, a restricted free agent, can attract an offer sheet from a club willing to package top picks as compensation. The 23-year-old, like Dubinsky last summer, is not eligible for arbitration.
If most NHL general managers weren't cuckolded by the old boys' club rule that RFAs were off-limits, Staal would be an ideal candidate for poaching. He led the Rangers in ice average time (23:07) and was one second behind Dan Girardi for top average shorthanded time. (Girardi's also an RFA, just to complicate matters.) He's 23, and on the way to becoming one of the better shutdown D-men in the NHL.
Staal made $826,667 against the cap last season. For comparison's sake, the Los Angeles Kings' Jack Johnson(notes), who was taken before Staal in the 2005 draft, is in the final year of a two-year deal worth $1.425 million against the cap. But that deal was signed under different circumstances. Bob McKenzie, on NHL Live on Monday, thought the Staal deal could rise as high as a $4 million hit.
Glen Sather has a history of not wanting to pay restricted free agents the money that they ask (i.e. Brandon Dubinsky) because he knows he has the upper hand in the negotiation and uses that to his advantage. There is a reason that most players who become unrestricted free agents end up leaving the Rangers every year; Slats does not have the advantage, he isn't willing to pay the bucks, so the player takes off and gets that money elsewhere.
Staal is a whole different story, though. Sather may be on top here, but Staal has a legitimate reason to argue. Sather should give in here and give Marc the money he wants. That is what I see happening in the end, otherwise this will turn ugly.
If it hasn't already.