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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Early Look at NY Rangers' Off-Season Agenda

   Might as well get the off-season talks going, a nice distraction from the piercing reality of elimination… I’ll make this short and sweet, because I don’t feel much like writing extensively after Game 7 heartbreak.

   Here's a graph of NYR salaries next season:

   - Cap hits in grey are ACTUAL cap hits already on the books
   - Cap hits in maroon are ESTIMATED cap hits predicted for that player to sign this summer
   - Cap hits in blue are not specific to any particular player, the represent a vague price for that position

   A certain thing to take away, even at this most early stage of NYR off-season psychology, is that the Rangers are probably going to have to dump a contract or two. At least, if the 2016 Salary Cap figures to be in the mid $71 millions area as speculated by commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this month.

   In other words… a man or two must go. 


   A few things to consider:


   Exchanging Cam Talbot for a cheaper goalie could save the NYR payroll up to $875,000. The goaltender prospect pipeline of NYR draft picks Brandon Halverson (OHL), Igor Shestyerkin (KHL/MHL) & Mackenzie Skapski (AHL) seems like a strong pool. Should Talbot even plateau at his impressive career stats over the course of next season, it is overwhelmingly likely he would be outbid on the 2016 UFA market, making him a prime candidate.

   Unloading the reliable Kevin Klein (and his $2.9 million cap hit) would make sense, as he’s under contract for another 3 seasons at a modest rate. I particularly think Edmonton, a team lacking in quality NHL-calibre defense & goaltending, could be attracted to a Talbot/Klein package. Especially if retooling the roster with political cache-blanc from ownership in the new Connor McDavid era.

   Of course… Marc Staal or Ryan McDonagh remain with larger cap hits, yet would be a surprising trade to occur this summer. Particularly as McDonagh ($4.7 million) is the sophomore Captain of a generally successful pair of playoff runs… and Staal ($5.7 million) just signed his contract earlier in the season, expecting to dedicate the majority of his NHL career on Broadway. 

   As for forwards?

   The only relevant contracts for the necessary salary dump we’re sleuthing are:

  • Derek Stepan (RFA with salary arbitration rights)
  • Carl Hagelin (RFA with salary arbitration rights)
  • Chris Kreider ($2.475 million)
  • Tanner Glass ($1.45 million)

   It would seem Hagelin & Glass are the more “expendable” or “replaceable” names on the list. Trading Stepan or Kreider, much like McDonagh or Staal, would be a MAJOR transaction, doing serious tinkering to a core that probably doesn’t need much tinkering.

   But alas, the salary cap.

   It’s a lot more likely Hagelin or Klein get booted before Stepan or Staal. That is, unless a crazy trade were to be cooked up.

   Talbot’s the “given” departure in my opinion, who knows what the other impending export will be.

   Oh… and one final point: 

   The NY Rangers will probably have at least $2.5 million available to dispense out in “performance bonuses.” So, when it comes to an unrestricted free agent veteran player on the open market… signing them to a base contract of $1 million, but giving them $2.5 million in bonuses, remains an effective means of signing someone this summer while sidestepping the salary cap. 

   It’s the type of contract that Jaromir Jagr, Kimo Timonen & Jerome Iginla all signed last summer. Low cap hit, higher performance bonuses. Other than Kevin Hayes, no other Ranger on the above roster has any bonuses.

   Can you say “welcome back, Brad Richards?"

   Edit: Oops, it's come to my attention that Marc Staal indeed has a no-move clause for the next 3 years, and a modified no-trade clause the final 3 years. Put him on the "toughest players to move" list, and excuse my error.

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