Yesterday was the first day of free agency, and it was the third test, and perhaps the first true test, of the Jeff Gorton rebuild. Big names were available, and the Rangers had –and still have– oodles of cap space to work with. When the clock struck midnight, and Day One turned to what will be a less eventful Day Two, the Rangers re-signed a key RFA and added one low cost UFA defenseman.
Despite being linked to Ryan Reaves and Leo Komarov, Jeff Gorton allowed them both to go to the Golden Knights (two years, $2.775) and Islanders (four years, $3 million), respectively. That was too rich with too much term for the rebuilding Rangers, and both were contracts they would regret.
Instead it was Frederik Claesson for one year and $700,000. Claesson has good zone entry/exit numbers, and there’s a solid chance his less than ideal metrics are a part of being on an abysmal Ottawa team. Gorton also made a bet that Vlad Namestnikov would be cheaper than JT Miller, who got five years at $5.25 million from Tampa Bay. He was right, and Namestnikov got two years and $4 million a year.
So the Rangers walked away from free agency with absolutely nothing except a depth defenseman on a low risk contract. Meanwhile Komarov got four years, Jay Beagle got four years, John Tavares, he of
30 27 years old, got seven years. Ryan McDonagh, whom I love, got a six seven year extension through his age-36 season. Paul Stastny got $6.5 million a year. It was, in a word, madness.
But as the deals kept coming in, and the eyes kept popping out of our heads, the Rangers stayed silent. They have $23.725 million in cap space to re-sign four more RFAs. The Blueshirts are flush in flexibility to make deals and take advantage of teams that missed out on Tavares, Stastny, or any of the other centers.
There are no long term commitments coming from yesterday. No questionable contracts that will come to haunt the Rangers in four or five years. There are no ill fitting players taking space and ice time from the kids.
By doing nothing, Jeff Gorton won free agency. By doing nothing, the Rangers continued to commit to the rebuild."By doing (almost) nothing, Jeff Gorton won big yesterday",