If there is one thing this off-season has taught me is that teams, even with a salary cap, won't be afraid to throw big money around to get what they need. That being said the next off-season should be interesting for the New York Rangers. Unless he's signed to an extension at some point this year, Henrik Lundqvist will be a free agent next summer and how embarrassing will it be if the Rangers lose Lundqivst in a bidding war and have already dealt their number one prospect, Al
Montoya for some aging defender during the season?
Very embarrassing. Which is why the Rangers shouldn't even be thinking of trading Montoya until King Henrik is all sealed up to a long-term deal. Rarely do the Rangers lose a bidding war to any team, but look at the kind of money Kevin Lowe threw around at B level players. In two seasons, Lundqvist has proven himself to be a star goaltender, is extremely marketable, young, can take a heavy workload and has no problem dealing with the big city pressure. If Henrik hits the open market every team in the league will be offering the franchise to get him.
For security reasons only, the Rangers should keep Montoya. The former 1st round pick can play for any NHL team this year and while it's probably unfair to keep a young talented player tooling around in the minors, this is business and Montoya is currently the Rangers' biggest chip. Most fans might be thinking there is no way New York let's their star goalie reach free agency, but did anyone really expect the Rangers to sign Henrik to a $4.3 million dollar, one year deal? It means Henrik's representatives were playing hardball and they will play hardball again come extension time. It wouldn’t be a crazy to think that Henrik will ask for 7 million a year especially if he begins the 2007-08 season playing the way he finished last season. The Rangers have plenty of their own UFAs and RFAs next season, what happens when it's time to resign them? The most notable players are: Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery, Martin Straka and Michael Rozsival.
Can the Rangers really afford more than five players making over 5 million? That makes up more than half the salary cap with 19 other players they would have to budget for. So Montoya becomes more valuable to the Rangers than we really thought he would. Not just as trade bait, but also at the bargaining table in January when Henrik's reps meet with Sather and the higher ups at the Garden to work on a new deal. Having Montoya waiting in the wings will allow the Rangers not to sweat if they can't reach a deal.
For all of you wondering when the salary cap was going to hurt the Rangers, well now you have your answer. Whether he’s a trading chip, a bargaining chip or a blue chip, the Rangers need to keep Montoya until Lundqvist is in New York for good.