The potential free agent class of 2014 is being whittled down one by one — a Joe Pavelski here a Jay Bouwmeester there contract extensions for essential players everywhere. Except in New York where the Rangers have been curiously reluctant to engage in negotiations with Henrik Lundqvist Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi all of whom can go free (alternate meaning) next summer. Understand it’s not as if negotiations with any or all of the Big Three have hit snags. Fact is Slap Shots has been told negotiations have yet to even begin with the franchise goaltender the captain or the first-pair right-side defenseman. Why? Who knows? General manager Glen Sather’s email response to Slaps Shots this week when asked about the status of negotiations was “We will be talking.” There is much time to talk that much is true. There is no impending deadline. Fact is the Rangers have until late next June to keep Lundqvist Callahan and Girardi off the open market. But there is nothing to be gained by stalling or procrastinating. There is nothing good that can come of allowing these players to go into this season without extensions or by negotiating during a season that’s going to be challenging enough even if all goes well. And there most certainly is nothing good that would come with constant chatter throughout the winter focusing on Lundqvist’s future on Broadway. “Uh what are your thoughts on being a trade-deadline rental if you’re unsigned by then Hank?” “So King do you think you might be willing to take less to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?” There’s no money to be saved by dawdling either. Seriously no one’s price ever goes down as free agency beckons. A guy has a bad season he makes more. A guy has a good season he makes a lot more. The market is established. The Rangers are going to have to pay market value for each of these athletes while staying within the tagging parameter for 2014-15 something that might complicate matters to some degree as the season evolves but is a lesser evil with which to deal than say the goaltender sniffing free agency. For Lundqvist clearly the most essential athlete on the roster and currently at $6.875 million per year the questions are whether the number is closer to $8.5M or $9.5M per and whether the contract is for seven years or the maximum eight? The Rangers likely are going to want to pay him as the league’s best goaltender. Lundqvist likely is going to want to be paid as one of the league’s best players.