NYR's Long Term vs Short Term:
This is a look at the contracts that are locked up through the 2014-15 season. As of July 1st 2014, NY will only have these 10 contracts on the books. There's "only" a total salary cap hit of $32.8 for 10 players, which could be less than half the 2015 salary cap, expected to rise to the high sixties/low seventies. The 'salary cap space' in this exercise is measured for $64.3 million, but it will likely be more than that.
Here is a look at NY's Restricted Free Agents (RFAs), and their minimum qualifying-offer amounts presented as their theoretical cap hits for next season. This brings the roster total to 17, totaling $44.1 million, with NY's important Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) yet to be re-signed.
So, effectively, we amnesty Brad Richards vanquishing his $6.67 million cap hit. Then, we throw $21 million at Lundqvist+Callahan+Girardi+Stralman+Haley
Now all that's left is filling in a few key pieces with the $10 or $15 million remaining in cap space. Signing two $5 million/yr top-6 forwards (Steen & Roy from St. Louis, for example), plus two $1 million/yr depth pieces (Brian Boyle brought back at a discount, and righty-defenseman Tom Gilbert, for example)... and presto! You have 25 contracts for a grand total of $70.375 million, which would represent a 9.5% rise in the current $64.3 million salary cap. NY will be able to [over]pay its franchise UFAs, but remain competitive for an outside top-6 forward or two on the unrestricted market as well.
Keep in mind the ramification of Rick Nash going on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) retroactive to his concussion suffered on October 8th: since he is the most expensive salary per year ($7.8 million), NY would have total reign of choice regarding his 'LTIR replacement player(s)', and would no longer be amidst a 'cap crunch' like the one they find themselves in at the moment. If this is the case, and NY remains in competition for one of the four Metro Devision playoff spots... NY could be shopping deadline rentals with the very real opportunity to keep them beyond this current season.
Unlike previous deadline deals of acquiring players like Nik Antropov, Derek Morris & Ryan Clowe, where NY mostly knew the player would likely not be manageable to re-sign; suddenly pieces like Ales Hemsky (EDM) or Tomas Vanek (BUF) would become long-range, not short-range, targets for acquisition. Additionally, the new re-alignment no longer has New York fighting Buffalo for the 8th seed Conference-wide. In fact, the new divisional setup has encouraged more intra-Conference trades, as the chase for playoff spots has been segregated to different divisions in different Conferences.
If NY remains lame in the standings however, there is plenty of clean-slate to go around next summer, and NY could also become big sellers if Glen Sather turns tail and decides for a major re-vamp. This is a pivotal season for a lot of future Rangers' (or there lack of) decisions, and a lot of interesting choices can surely be made the next 12 months. The long term ramifications being kept-in-mind, as well as the universal surety of a rising salary cap next season, will make NY's trade deadline mentality something to be, if nothing else, entertaining to watch unfold.
If NY has a pitiful year, and Lundqvist decides to move to another team, and Glen Sather is fired... what better off-season than next summer to re-establish an identity not only to the team, but to the franchise? There is a plethora of ways this year, and off-season, can play out for any number of NY Rangers puzzle pieces. All we can do is stay tuned.