Whether the Rangers re-sign Mats Zuccarello or not, they’re going to be right up against the salary cap ceiling when the 2013-2014 season opens. Things are tight financially for New York right now, but 12 months from now the situation will be very different.
According to CapGeek, the Rangers have barely over $27 million in cap payroll committed to 2014-2015, more than $37 million below the current $64.3 million salary cap. A chunk of that will go toward Derek Stepan’s new contract, potentially one for Zuccarello and likely a contract extension for Henrik Lundqvist over the coming weeks. But even factoring in those deals, the Blueshirts should have a ton of money to work with heading into next offseason. Lundqvist’s substantial cap hit will largely be negated by the certain Brad Richards buyout, and there are also whispers that league executives expect the cap ceiling to begin steadily climbing up, perhaps as high as $80 million within the next few years.
Of course, there’s that much space potentially available because only Richards, Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, Derek Dorsett, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal are under contract beyond this season. And unlike this summer, when every free agent of consequence was restricted, next summer several key Rangers could become unrestricted free agents, free to sign with any team in the league.
Re-signing each of those players figures to be a priority and easily doable given the plethora of cap space, but the future of most of the rest of the roster is much less clear.
Of the other UFAs – Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Benoit Pouliot, Darroll Powe, Dominic Moore, Arron Asham, Anton Stralman and Marty Biron – none are given, or even likely, to be Blueshirts beyond this season.
Indeed, there figures to be far more roster turnover next summer than we’ve seen over the last couple offseasons. There don’t appear to be many roster spots available for youngsters this year, but the performances of key prospects this season should have a direct impact on New York’s plan next summer. Depending on who the Rangers decide to retain, they could also have a substantial amount of cash to chase one of the many appealing UFAs from other teams that could hit the market.
These decisions will be dictated by how the team performs this season, but the Rangers should have the financial flexibility to retool as they see fit next summer.