Per Larry Brooks, the gap between the Rangers and free agent Brandon Prust is a sizable one:
Though sources stressed that lines of communication remain open and that it is conceivable that Prust could re-sign before July 1, it is believed the difference between the parties is significant — upward of $1 million over the life of a three-year contract.
With ten days until free agency, a $1 million gap may as well be $5 million, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rangers are going to let Prust walk. A part of the core of forwards that coach John Tortorella leans on, Prust would be a valuable asset to any club. You don’t just let someone like that walk away.
Coming off his two-year, $1.6 million contract ($800k cap hit), Prust is due for a large raise. Many, including myself, price the winger in the $1.5-$2 million range. It’s represents a big raise in recognition of hard work and production, while still recognizing that Prust is a fourth line player. He may be famous for saying that “It’s just pain”, but he’s a bottom six forward.
What is likely happening is that Prust is seeing some of the contracts handed out to players like Mike Rupp and his $1.75 million cap hit, and believes he should be making the same type of money. But for every Rupp that gets overpaid, there are guys like Arron Asham ($775k), Zenon Konopka ($700k), and Ryan Carter ($750k).
There is nothing wrong with giving a guy like Prust, who has given everything he has to this organization, a hefty and well deserved pay raise. However that pay raise needs to fit into the organization’s plans to build and maintain a Stanley Cup contender. For every extra dollar spent on Prust, a fourth line player, the Rangers need to spend one less dollar to re-sign other key players.
The Prust situation is a delicate one, but not one that’s surprising. Prust is looking to get his one big payday, knowing this could be his only shot. The Rangers are looking to keep him in the organization without sacrificing short and long term plans. Prust is a player that will garner strong interest around the league, so it’s up to both sides to make sure this doesn’t get ugly.