Adam Fox’s strong start may lead to big Rangers extension



MONTREAL — The Rangers’ 2021-22 season has just begun, but Adam Fox has picked up right where he left off from his Norris Trophy-winning 2020-21 campaign and is inching closer to a massive contract extension.

The 23-year-old defenseman was brilliant at both ends of the ice in the Rangers’ home-opening 3-2 overtime loss to the Stars on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, leading in shots on goal (six) and time on ice (25:00). Fox tied for a team-high 5:51 on the power play as part of the Rangers’ top man-advantage unit and also logged 1:19 shorthanded. His ability to make an impact in all situations is a driving force for the Rangers.

With Fox’s heavy workload, however, the Rangers run the risk of exhausting their No. 1 defenseman.

“I think 25 minutes is a fair game for him, the way he skates, he’s smooth, he’s a young player out there,” head coach Gerard Gallant said Saturday before the Rangers, in their first game in Canada since the 2019-20 bubble playoffs, faced the Canadiens at Bell Centre. “He’s not going to play 30 minutes, but there’s going to be a lot of games where he plays 25, 26 minutes, in that area — depends on situations, power plays, [penalty kills]. We’re not concerned at all.”

Adam Fox, battling for the puck with Luke Glendening during the Rangers' loss to the Flyers, likely will be in line for a big contract in offseason.
Adam Fox, battling for the puck with Luke Glendening during the Rangers’ loss to the Flyers, likely will be in line for a big contract in offseason.
NHLI via Getty Images

Fox scored his first goal of the season against the Stars, cutting the Rangers’ deficit to one at 8:53 of the second period, with a long wrist shot from the top of the zone after maintaining possession while circling.

“When he’s walking the blue line like that and getting them running around, it’s pretty fun being on the bench or being on the ice,” Chris Kreider said of Fox. “When you see that happening, you know you’ve got a pretty good chance of scoring.”

Gallant, regarding how Fox can keep pucks in the zone, said: “He’s on that blue line, and as a coach you’re saying, ‘Get it deep.’ But he makes that extra play, and 99 percent of the time, he makes the right one.”

The Rangers know Fox is an elite No. 1 defenseman, but there are contract negotiations to be had. The Jericho, L.I., native is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season when his entry-level deal expires.

The current price-point for young top defensemen was established when the Avalanche’s Cale Makar, who won the Calder Trophy in 2020, inked a six-year extension over the summer at an average of $9 million per season. Ever since then, the range of Fox’s next deal has been clear.

Additionally, on Friday, Fox’s childhood friend and Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy became the fourth-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL after signing a contract extension with the Bruins that will pay him $76 million over the next eight years — at $9.5 million per — beginning next season. That contract certainly also will be taken under consideration during Fox’s negotiations.

After giving Mika Zibanejad a massive eight-year contract at $8.5 million per, however, the Rangers are expected to face some cap challenges in the coming season amid the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap. It’s possible Fox will accept a team-friendly deal to ensure the Rangers can continue building around him, but the defenseman would also be well within his rights to aim at the $9.5 million-$10 million per range.

The Rangers likely would be in a tricky spot if that were to happen, considering how much money the organization already has wrapped up in players such as Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin ($11.642 million), Jacob Trouba ($8 million), Kreider ($6.5 million) and Igor Shesterkin ($5.666 million).


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