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The first cuts are the least deep: New York Red Bulls announce first off-season roster moves

RBNY has decided to hang on to most of the players in the squad who had contract options in play this year.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There are only three MLS teams still playing in 2016, and by Wednesday, November 30 (when Toronto FC and Montreal Impact settle their Eastern Conference playoff final), there will be just the two MLS Cup finalists with on-field business remaining this year.

So it is time for all the other teams in the league to start re-setting their rosters and looking ahead to 2017. The New York Red Bulls started that process last week, with the first announced adjustments to the NYRB II squad. Now it is the turn of the first team squad.

In an official release on Monday, November 28, RBNY revealed the fate of the players in the squad with contract options in play this off-season:

the club will pick up contract options on midfielder Sean Davis and defenders Chris Duvall and Justin Bilyeu. The club will not pick up options for defenders Karl Ouimette and Ronald Zubar.

Additionally, 2016 MLS Golden Boot Winner Bradley Wright-Phillips had his option exercised.

So...Karl Ouimette - who spent most of the season on loan, not getting minutes with Jacksonville Armada - has been released.

Ronald Zubar has a foot out the door, but as RBNY Comms' Eric Giacometti notes, Ali Curtis has experience with persuading veteran French center backs to stick with the club on revised terms:

Back in October, Kristian Dyer reported for MSG Networks that Bradley Wright-Phillips had met the terms in his contract required to automatically trigger his option, so the club is essentially confirming it is honoring the terms of its agreement with BWP.

Despite the uneven effort to bring Sean Davis into a more significant role with RBNY, it would have been a big surprise if the club had allowed him to drift away for nothing. At the very least, he has done enough to have trade value - and it is still more or less expected that he will be a starting midfielder for the Red Bulls in the near future.

The decision to retain - or at least hold under contract for now - both Justin Bilyeu and Chris Duvall is not all that surprising. Duvall finished 2016 as the team's starting right back, a role he has mostly filled since his rookie season in 2014. Bilyeu is perhaps fourth on the squad's left-back depth chart (behind Kemar Lawrence, Connor Lade, and Sal Zizzo), but is one of only two specialists at the position on the current roster (the other being Lawrence).

Retaining both Bilyeu and Duvall - if one is not claimed during the Expansion Draft - at least means any strengthening at full back won't be conducted from a position of urgent need.

The club's announcement is, of course, the beginning of the annual off-season roster re-shuffle. There will be further moves made before the 2017 season kicks off. And some of the decisions announced today may be contingent on other aspects of RBNY's end-of-season contract wrangling. For example, Aurelien Collin is out of contract, and uncertainty over his future with the team might be driving the effort to retain the services of fellow center back Ronald Zubar.

For now, all that is certain is that Karl Ouimette has joined Omer Damari on the list of RBNY 2016 players who are not expected to be with the club in 2017.