In all major sports, a “contract year”, or the final year of a player’s contract, is a watershed moment for their careers. Some players parlay a monster year into a monster contract after they hit free agency, sometimes based simply off that one year. How one performs determines how much money they will make and how many years they receive. On the New York Rangers, three impending unrestricted free agents face this scenario. Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are currently having subpar seasons. Not only are these key players hindering the Rangers with their play, but they are potentially hurting their own wallets.
Conventional wisdom states that players in contract years play their absolute best before obtaining an enormous deal. So why are Lundqvist, Callahan and Girardi not performing up to that trend? Are they distracted and pressing or are they simply succumbing to the pressures of a contract year? The guess here is no, as each carry themselves as consummate professionals and are known as team players. If they aren’t distracted by what they are about to endure this summer, then it behooves them to put aside whatever is bothering them and step up their games for their team. Otherwise, the question of whether or not they are distracted becomes more fair by the day.
Girardi has been a shell of himself this season, as he is a minus-4 with only five points. Callahan has made little impact since returning from injury in early November. He is a minus-5 with only ten points. As for Lundqvist, he has shown flashes of brilliance as usual but also has had a lot of off-nights. He will sit for a second straight game Monday night in favor of Cam Talbot. While this may only be an attempt by coach Alain Vigneault to give Lundqvist extra rest in an Olympic year, one still has to wonder if Vigneault is pleased with Lundqvist’s play.
Lundqvist, Callahan and Girardi may still finish with solid seasons, thus parlaying them into max deals with the Rangers or another team. The time is now, however, to step up to a level that warrants it. If not, not only will the Rangers suffer but their wallets will, too.