As is being widely reported, restricted free agents Ryan Callahan and Nik Zherdev are taking the Rangers to salary arbitration. Steve Zipay does a fantastic job spelling it out and explaining what that means.
Arbitration is a tricky thing and the Rangers aren't the least bit afraid to go in with all guns blazing - who can forget hearing that they called Sean Avery "a detriment to the team" when he brought them to arbitration two summers ago?
Sean Avery, however, was a very different player than Cally and Z are now. Vicious barbs could cause serious damage to both.
Callahan surely has a youthful cockiness after a strong regular season and his team's vocal refusal to include him in any trades for scoring help or cap relief. But at the same time, Cally contributed just two goals in the series against the Caps - a fact he or his rep would need to refute with his team-leading 24 hits but considering how badly the Rangers needed goals, their number would weigh considerably more. Whatever dirt the team decides to dish will need to be tempered with what they see as his upside: does he have leadership potential? superstar potential? can he score 35 goals? Zip believes that the team won't let the negotiations go to arbitration with Cally and that would certainly seem like the way to go as the kid could be a cornerstone of the franchise down the line.
The conversation with Z will also have to be done with an eye towards the future. Likely, it is a future without Zherdev as soon as Grachev is NHL-ready. Seeing as Andrew Gross and company raved what Jess has been saying all along - that Grachev is scary-good and close to making the show - the Rangers can unleash their arsenal at Z. Call him lazy, call him uncoachable, call him out on his playoff disappearance. To do that, however, they have to pray that Tortorella can put the shattered pieces of the Ukrainian's psyche back together enough to get one last productive campaign out of him before kicking him to the KHL.
Like seemingly everything else this summer, this is sure to hold a few surprises so stay tuned!