Jul
19

Looking ahead to the 2018 free agent market

July 19, 2017, by

James van Riemsdyk scored a career-high 62 points last season

Though there remains the possibility of a trade for a center, the dust has mostly settled on the 2017 offseason.

But what might the future hold? There will likely be significant changes again next offseason, when Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, David Desharnais, Nick Holden and Ondrej Pavelec are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Assuming Mika Zibanejad re-signs, that will leave the Blueshirts around $23 million in cap space. A big portion of that will go towards re-upping RFAs J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei, but there should still be some cash to play with.

Desharnais, Holden and Pavelec are of little concern, but Nash and Grabner both fill key roles on this team and how to keep or replace them will likely shape New York’s offseason strategy. Nash will be 34 years old when July 1, 2018 hits and while he won’t likely approach the $7.8 million cap hit he currently occupies, Nash is still likely to command a multi-year deal with a hefty price tag. Given Gorton’s attempt to rebuild on the fly, it’s hard to figure whether or not he’ll want to keep Nash in the fold.

Grabner will be 30 and also in position to garner a raise and a multi-year pact. His performance this season will dictate Gorton’s interest and Grabner’s earning power, but Grabner seems a bit more likely to stick around given the smaller percentage of the cap he’ll occupy and the reasonable expectation that he still has several strong years left.

As for the free agent market – it’s going to be much more robust than the barren 2017 crop.

New York is unlikely to be on the hunt for defensive help, with four players already earning over $4.3 million annually and Skjei potentially the fifth – plus a slew of prospects on the way. The big prize will be John Carlson, but he’ll probably be in the Kevin Shattenkirk price bracket and out of range even if the Blueshirts buyout or trade Marc Staal

The forward crop, though, is tantalizing. Check out this list of names currently tracking towards the open market: John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, Mikko Koivu, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane, James Neal, Bryan Little, Patric Hornqvist, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Mikael Backlund, Kyle Turris, Cam Atkinson, Paul Stastny, the Sedin twins, Josh Bailey, Andrew Cogliano and Jonathan Marchessault.

Sure, many of these players will re-sign with their current clubs long before reaching that point, but there are still going to be a handful of intriguing options available.

Right now there’s a glaring hole at center, but it’s possible that Lias Andersson cements a spot this season and the Blueshirts are satisfied to roll with Andersson, Zibanejad and Hayes going forward. If not, then the group of Little, Bozak, Backlund, Turris, Stastny, Cogliano and Marchessault offers a world of possibilities – and that’s disregarding Tavares, Thornton, Koivu and Henrik Sedin.

But if Andersson does hold his own as a rookie, then making a splash at wing may be the priority. Obviously there have already been plenty of Ilya Kovalchuk connections to the Rangers and it’s a good bet those will continue leading up to next summer. Nash’s money could easily be earmarked for Kovy, but that wouldn’t necessarily assuage the aforementioned concerns about the team’s direction. The most appealing option may prove to be van Riemsdyk, who will surely have plenty of suitors but still has plenty of good years remaining. Atkinson, who trains with the Shattenkirk/Ben Prentiss group also seems like a viable option.

So, considering these two scenarios, here’s a stab at how the depth chart might look around this time next year:

Option 1:
Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Vesey-Turris-Zuccarello
Grabner-Hayes-Miller
Nieves-Andersson-Fast

Option 2:
Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
van Riesmsdyk-Hayes-Zuccarello
Vesey-Andersson-Miller
Grabner-Nieves-Fast

What are your thoughts on how things will play out?

"Looking ahead to the 2018 free agent market", 3 out of 5 based on 12 ratings.
Categories : Offseason

36 comments

  1. Puckpaul says:

    Any chance we can sign Tavares? We still could use a great center. All those lines are good but nothing scares people except the depth.

    • Richter1994 says:

      IMO, no, he re-signs with Isles despite all the Canadian media nonsense that he’s going to the Leafs.

      • Kevin says:

        If he gives any indication he might switch allegiances, NYR will make room. But don’t think there’s much chance.

        • Richter1994 says:

          agreed the Rangers will be on it, just don’t think the chance will be there. faces of franchises hardly ever move on their own unless forced out.

  2. Mikeyyy says:

    I would prefer to build within instead of taking players ready for a payday.

    • AWDS says:

      Given the nature of restricted free agency…. there isn’t a single NHL team (or professional, perhaps) today that wouldn’t prefer to do that.

      Wanting to plug lineup holes with talent from your minor league system & being able to are two very different things….

      That being said, in response to the article Kevin wrote, I’ve gotta ask this – what has boo done to justify being penciled in on the 4th line? Other than having 2nd round pedigree, has he done anything whatsoever in Hartford to justify this sort of enthusiasm?

      • Mintgecko says:

        That same concept is why I question Jimmy Vesey play while moving forward. How can people assume that he’ll be a top 6 winger anytime soon? What has he done to pertain such a role on a contender?

        • AWDS says:

          To be fair with Vesey, he has shown improvement & had a strong playoffs (IMO, anyways). Top 6 though, IDK.

          With Boo, even a year from now, I just don’t see him being a factor.

          Especially considering that there will be one year bargains to be had (as there are every year).

          The real question is, do we see boo outperforming the next Lee Stempniak or DD (or Pouliot)?

          Probably not…

      • Kevin says:

        @AWDS – Placeholder, really. Under that scenario it’s a bare minimum guy and he has just as good a chance as any at this point

  3. SalMerc says:

    I think it is too far away to guess. Some of those players will be moved at the trade deadline as might Nash and Grabner be if we tank. Also don’t disregard the Zinbad contract. If he goes to arbitration and gets a 1 year deal, he too will be a UFA. I can see him being moved as well because he will be looking for a big payday.

    The next 2 weeks will tell a lot.

    • Chris A says:

      I wouldn’t worry about Mika having a hearing. He’ll sign for a few years at about a $5M AAV. This is all part of the process with almost every single arbitration eligible RFA in the NHL.

  4. Richter1994 says:

    My prediction: Nash re-signs for $4m per or so, retires as a Ranger, and gets a job within the organization in some capacity. Yes, they love him that much.

  5. amy says:

    this year we got the big fish in Shatty next year I see Nash signing to play elsewhere or retiring as a ranger Nasher is loved here

  6. Al Dugan says:

    Why does BSB all think the same way on Buchnevich?

    Is anyone on staff allowed a different opinion?

    What makes you think he’s a first line player?

    • AWDS says:

      It’s not ‘just’ BSB.

      He’s a very skilled player with more raw talent than probably anyone else on the roster. Just watching him could tell you that.

      Also, he put up comparable numbers to current star Russian players at the same age in the KHL. Guys like Tarasenko and Kuznetzov.

      And many of his current metrics (such as how many points per 60 he scores) are already very good.

      • Al Dugan says:

        His points per 60 were all compiled early in the season. His last 300 plus minutes were awful.

        I would like him to be great, but I was really disappointed with his ability to get involved, play the wall, and get his shot. His SOG numbers were in the Jasper Fast range.

        And your comps are way off. Kutznetzov had 55 points at age 20 and Buch had 40. Tarasenko had 63 points.

        • AWDS says:

          I’m not sure where you got those totals from, as they don’t agree with what I’m seeing. Perhaps you’re including playoff numbers?

          Player A at 19 – 9g 10a in 42 games played
          Player A at 20 – 18g 20a in 39 GP
          Player B at 19 – 19g 22a in 49 GP
          Player B at 20 – 19g 25a in 51 GP
          Player C at 19 – 13g 16a in 41 GP
          Player C at 20 – 6g 9a in 20 GP

          These are KHL numbers. One of these is Buch.

          And he put those numbers up on a cellar dweller, unlike the other two ‘mystery players’.

          My point is, I think we may have something special here.

          • Al Dugan says:

            I have no idea where you got Buchs numbers from….

            Age 20…he had 40 points in all games across 2 teams.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Al it seems to you, no one is a first line player…….until they are. Projecting is a thing all front offices in sports do. If you’re good at it, you get paid handsomely.

    • Egelstein says:

      I can’t speak to staff rules since I am not staff, but this did just give me a funny image in my head of Dave in ridiculous medieval attire sitting upon the Iron Throne.

      From what I can tell, nearly everyone on any Rangers blog has the same read on Buch. Only the grit and grind aficionados seem to take much issue with him, far as I can tell. *shrug* Speed and skill are the keys to success in today’s NHL, and Buch has more than enough of both. That doesn’t guarantee he will ever reach his ceiling, of course…but, I like his chances compared to a lot of players.

    • Mintgecko says:

      Go watch the full replays on YouTube, most of the games are when Buch was hot and was producing and then you will see why. If people truly thought that Vesey was a top 6 player on a contender than the other side has all the rights to pencil Buch into the top 6. Imo he has a good chance to play on the 2nd line with Hayes and JT.

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Ah, watch him play

      • Al Dugan says:

        Yep, saw him live about 15 times this past year. Bigger more physical wingers easily pushed him aside. Not saying he can’t come good, just he was dreadful in the last half, but then again so we’re Hayes, Miller Vesey and Staal. (After being good in the first part of the season)

        • HARLEMBLUES says:

          Bigger players push many guys around. Bucn isn’t afraid of contact and goes to the dirty areas. He slowed towards season end after he got hurt but never shied away from taking a hit to make a play. Adding muscle isn’t that hard and he’s still young and talented.

    • Richter1994 says:

      “What makes you think he’s a first line player?”

      Buch has the tools, talent, and hockey IQ to be a first liner at some point.

  7. upstatetom says:

    still gotta wonder about the center from harvard who played with vescey, could be their third august pick up.

  8. Ray says:

    Actually, I looked at the capfriendly numbers and the Rangers look in pretty bad shape next year. The $23M is a bit of an illusion. Guys like Pavelec, Desharnais, Puempel coming off the books does nothing. You need bodies to replace them and anyone costs as much as they do. It costs $7.2M just to resign Miller, Hayes, Vesey, Skjei at their current salaries — good chance one of these will be gone because they can’t afford them. You can save about $1M by replacing Grabner and Holden with cheaper guys, but the bottom line is that next year’s cap flexibility comes in only four flavors:
    1. Nash’s $7.8M
    2. The few million left over this year (which may disappear)
    3. An increase in the cap
    4. Getting rid of players who won’t be UFAs.

    If they keep the above RFAs, with appropriate raises, that is probably half or more of the Nash money. I see them in much the same position as they were this year when they bought out Girardi and traded Stepan to make ends meet.

    • Chris A says:

      Ray, I’m with you on Nash, they simply can’t afford to resign him without moving out Hayes or Miller first or trading Zucc or buying out Staal. The only difference between this summer and next is I don’t see the Rangers adding a big name FW similar to their recent addition of Shattenkirk. I think they ride or die on the progress of Miller, Hayes, Vesey, and Buch and hope that Zucc doesn’t start fading in 2018-19.

      If the Rangers really want to keep Nash past this upcoming season, I have a feeling it will mean Zucc and his cheap, expiring contract will be sacrificed for prospects and cap space to accommodate Nash.

      Let’s assume the Rangers have about $29M** in cap space next summer and need to fill about 9 forward slots, 2 D slots, and add a backup G:

      Here’s how I see that $29M being spent:

      Mika will be signed in a few days for around $5M AAV
      Hayes and Miller likely sign next summer for just over $4M AAV each
      Vesey signs for around $2.3M
      Lias Andersson is added to the roster with his $925k cap hit
      Two more bottom 6 forwards sign for under $2.5M between the two

      Now we are at $11M in space with a hole in the middle 6 and the bottom 6 up front, two open D slots remaining, and still no backup G. Skjei will be resigned for anywhere between $2M to $4.5M (depends on term), one of the Ds on ELCs will be added to the roster at less than $1M. Add a backup goalie at $1.5M and that leaves the Rangers with a 20 man NHL roster and about $3M in cap space (assuming Skjei signs something closer to $4M AAV) to fill the two remaining slots up front. That’s not an awful cap situation.

      ** Cap Friendly currently has the Rangers at $28M in space next summer, but they have the recently signed Georgiev and his $792k cap hit currently on the roster as a 3G. Also, that figure assumes the cap rises $0 next summer, so it’s likely the Rangers will have even more cap space than $29M.

  9. Chris Gavalas says:

    Kovalchuk Turris Zuccarello
    Kreider Zibanejad Buchnevich
    Vesey Hayes Miller
    Grabner Andersson Fast

    • Rich S says:

      This group would be good enough to win a cup! Size , speed, scoring ability , talent, aggressiveness, depth………….

  10. Chris says:

    Zibanejad RFA resigns 4 years 4.5 million 2017
    Andersson signs 3 years 925k 2017
    Kovalchuk UFA signs 1 year 4 million 2018
    Turris UFA signs 3 years 6.5 million 2018
    Pavelec UFA resigns 2 years 1.5 million 2018
    Grabner UFA resigns 2 years 3.2 million 2018
    Hayes RFA resigns 2 years 3.8 million 2018
    Skjei RFA resigns 3 years 3.3 million 2018
    Staal bought out 2018
    Nash UFA released 2018
    Holden UFA released 2018
    Miller RFA traded for 1st round pick 2018

    22 man roster

    Kovalchuk Turris Zuccarello
    Kreider Zibanejad Buchnevich
    Vesey Hayes Kovacs
    Grabner Andersson Fast
    Nieves
    McDonagh Shattenkirk
    Skjei Smith
    Bereglazov Pionk
    DeAngelo
    Lundqvist
    Pavelec

    • Chris says:

      Maybe a 500k bump to each kovy zibby turris but that’s as high as I would go… kovy is going to be 35.. zibby is a second line center but hasn’t proven himself yet .. and Turris is gonna get paid so I think the money all three are getting is quite fair