The Rangers announced today that they have agreed to a new contract with unrestricted free agent defenseman Steve Eminger. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly a one-year, $750,000 deal, which would be a pay cut since Eminger earned $800,000 last season. Eminger skated in 42 games with the Rangers this past season, registering two goals and three assists for five points to go along with 28 penalty minutes. Eminger was a mainstay in the lineup early on in the season, but pretty much lost his spot in the lineup when he separated his shoulder in December and Anton Stralman stepped in and played well in his absence.
You can read the Rangers' official press release here.
Click below to read more from John Tortorella and Glen Sather on Michael Sauer's recovery from a concussion he suffered last December, as well as Michael Del Zotto's contract negotiations.
This signing is significant because it comes on the heels of John Tortorella's comments during a Q&A session with fans following his Dog Walk at Riverside Park to raise money for charities against animal cruelty (kudos to Torts on this great idea, by the way). Torts was asked about Michael Sauer's health as he continues to recover from a concussion he suffered last December and had this to say, courtesy of Andrew Gross:
“I don’t think you’ll see Michael,” Tortorella said. “Michael has not responded that well, I’ll be quite honest, and I do not think you’ll see him at the beginning of the season. That’s a big hole for us. Michael played very well for us, and we certainly missed him during the playoff run. I think it’s going to be a little bit of time before Michael resumes his career.”
This is certainly not encouraging news on Sauer's recovery, but I'm not totally surprised by it. The Rangers were very quiet on Sauer's status over the course of the season, mainly because there was no updates to give. Sauer did some light skating at one point with the team a few months ago, but was shutdown quickly after that and he apparently is still suffering from concussion symptoms. As we saw with Marc Staal last season, there's really no way to predict if and when Michael Sauer will be back this season. Whenever Sauer's headaches stop he'll need several weeks to get in shape and then get his conditioning level back up.
My personal feelings are that I'm not expecting Sauer back this season, and it doesn't sound like the Rangers are either. This is part of the reason re-singing Steve Eminger seems like a no-brainer. He gives the Rangers a decent veteran presence to fill that ever so important sixth/seventh defenseman role and will likely battle with Stu Bickel for playing time over the course of the season, assuming the Rangers are done adding defensemen.
Speaking of defensemen, restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto still remains unsigned, and it doesn't sound like Glen Sather has any intention of increasing his offer to Del Zotto any time soon, which is reportedly worth somewhere in the range of $2.5 million per season. Here's what he told Andrew Gross yesterday:
“He’ll come to his senses,” Sather said. “We’ve been down this road before with guys that just have come out of their entry-level contracts. We’ve offered him a fair contract. We just have to see if it changes in the new CBA.”
Sather seems to be indicating that whatever deal the Rangers have on the table for Del Zotto is a fair offer, and better than any other offer he'd get elsewhere even if he was an unrestricted free agent. The fact that Del Zotto is a restricted free agent, though, means he really has zero leverage in this situation, and this is starting to remind me an awful lot of Brandon Dubinsky's holdout a few years back when he was looking for a new deal. Del Zotto will obviously re-sign with the Rangers eventually, but it may take longer than the Rangers would like. If that's the case, and he misses time in training camp, Del Zotto will only be putting himself in Torts' dog house before the season even begins.