There were so many great plays that Adam Fox made on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in their home opener. Plays in which Fox showed off his skill and vision on the ice, plays in which he simply took the puck away from a guy or kept it away from a guy or found some inventive way to deliver a sweet pass to a teammate to set up a scoring opportunity.
Fox, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman, even scored the Rangers’ first goal at 8:43 of the second period. He circled behind the Stars’ net to take a pass from defense partner Ryan Lindgren and skated back toward the blue line, curling and flipping a shot through traffic and off the shin guard of Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell for his first goal of the season.
Fox played a team-high 25 minutes, took a game-high six shots on goal and was routinely spectacular.
"When he’s walking the blue line like that and getting them running, running around, it’s pretty fun being on the bench or being on the ice when you see that happening,’’ teammate Chris Kreider marveled. "You know you’ve got a pretty good chance to score at any moment.’’
"You know, he’s on that blue line, and as a coach, you’re saying, ‘Get it deep, get it deep,’ ’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. "But he makes that extra play, and 99% of the time he makes the right play.’’
The Rangers certainly are lucky to have Fox. But on Friday, they got a reminder that keeping him on their team is going to cost a pretty penny.
That’s because the Jericho native’s childhood friend, Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy, signed a contract extension with the Boston Bruins that will pay him $76 million over the next eight years — an average of $9.5 million per year — beginning next season.
The contract makes McAvoy, 24, tied for the fourth-highest- paid defenseman in the league. And it likely will serve as a starting point in negotiations for Fox’s own contract extension, which also will start next season.
The Rangers have known this is the financial neighborhood Fox will be in ever since Colorado’s Cale Makar — like Fox a restricted free agent-to-be — signed a six-year extension over the summer that will pay him an average of $9 million per season.
It’s possible that Fox, one of the Rangers’ biggest stars and their best defenseman since Brian Leetch, will take a slight hometown discount to stay with the Rangers and allow them to assemble a strong cast around him, but with Mika Zibanejad having signed an extension on Sunday that will pay him an average of $8.5 million per season over eight years, the Rangers are going to find themselves bumping up against the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap next season.
With Artemi Panarin ($11.66 million cap hit), Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba ($8 million), Kreider ($6.5 million) and Igor Shesterkin ($5.6 million), that’s $40.26 million — half the cap — taken up by five players. Fox’s deal will take that number up to nearly $50 million for six players.