Rangers Should Pay Erik Christensen Because There’s No Plan B

NEW YORK - APRIL 07: Jonas Gustavsson #50 of the Toronto Maple Leafs makes a second-period save on Erik Christensen #26 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 7, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Rangers are a funny team.

Last year, one of the few bright spots was the play of Erik Christensen, the waiver pickup who wound up centering Marian Gaborik. His eight goals and 18 assists in 49 games was hardly earth-shattering, but he gave the Rangers a down-low presence that often attracted enough attention to give Gaborik some nice looks.

The Rangers low-balled Christensen on a new contract, so Christensen turned them down.

There’s already some Christensen backlash. Apparently he should be grateful for whatever the Rangers offer him, despite his talent or contributions.

The thing about Christensen is he knows he’s not a huge talent and he knows he’s not a young guy. He knew his time in New York was all about keeping an NHL job. If he failed in New York, he was probably done in the league. But he didn’t fail. He had a nice season and showed some versatility.

So why shouldn’t he pursue the best contract he can find? Why shouldn’t he make sure he doesn’t leave any money on the table?

And conversely, why are the Rangers low-balling a guy who can help their team? Would GM Glen Sather really rather start the season without any kind of top center instead of giving Christensen a decent contract?

Aaron Voros and Donald Brashear both have contracts worth at least $1 million per year. Both will probably never leave the AHL next season to keep their contracts off the Rangers’ cap.

The Rangers are a rich team. They can afford to stash contracts in the minors.

If you have an effective player, you should try and keep him. Especially if you don’t have a plan B.

And you could make the same case for restricted free agent defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. I’m not convinced either is a top four defenseman anywhere else but New York, but they’re the Rangers’ top pair. So unless Sather knows he’s going to be able to sign a new shutdown pair, it’s in the best interest of his team to get those two signed.

When free agency starts, I have no doubt Sather will overpay for at least one player. Overpaying is a regular part of the NHL free agency process. There’s too much competition for too few players. So why won’t Sather overpay to hold onto the few bright spots on his team? Why overpay for strangers when you can overpay for known quantities?