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The options for Rangers' Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux after arbitration hearings

Rangers center Ryan Strome celebrates after scoring against

Rangers center Ryan Strome celebrates after scoring against Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen during the first period in Toronto on Dec. 28, 2019. Credit: AP/Cole Burston

Ryan Strome’s salary arbitration case is scheduled to be heard on Thursday, and it may actually get there, which isn’t usually the case when it comes to Rangers players. In this case, the distance between the salary figures proposed by the two sides seems pretty wide.

The gap is narrower in the case of forward Brendan Lemieux, according to reports Wednesday. Lemieux's arbitration case is scheduled to be heard Friday. He has asked for a $2 million salary, according to SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman. The Rangers have offered a two-year deal, according to Friedman, with salaries of $950,000 for the first year and $1.075 million in Year 2.

Lemieux did not have a great year in 2019-20 (six goals, 12 assists, 18 points and 111 penalty minutes in 59 games), and he was suspended for the first two games of the Rangers’ postseason series against Carolina for a hit on Colorado’s Joonas Donskoi in March. Assuming the arbitrator is thinking of a number between the Rangers’ offer and Lemieux’s ask — say, something in the $1.5 million range — it’s possible the two sides could settle on a deal before Friday.

Strome is another story. The 27-year-old has asked for a salary award of $5.7 million, while the Rangers have submitted a proposal to pay $3.6 million. The midpoint there would be $4.65 million, but the Rangers have the right to walk away from the arbitrator’s award if it comes in above $4.54 million. Given how they are being squeezed by the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap, it’s possible they might.

That is what they did the last time the team went to arbitration, back in 2009, with forward Nikolay Zherdev. Zherdev, whom they’d acquired a year earlier from Columbus in exchange for Fedor Tyutin, had tied for the team lead in points with 58, and the Rangers lost in the first round of the playoffs. The arbitrator awarded Zherdev $3.9 million, and the Rangers said no, making the 24-year-old a free agent. He left the NHL for the KHL.

Things are different this year with Strome, the Rangers’ No. 2 center in 2019-20. In this case, if the Rangers do walk away from the arbitrator’s ruling, Strome would have four days to negotiate with other teams as a free agent, and if he was unsuccessful in signing elsewhere, he could come back to the Rangers for their arbitration offer of $3.6 million. Strome earned $3.2 million this season, when he put up a career-high 59 points, playing mostly on a line with Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin.

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