So UFA Day has come and gone, with the dust settling not only on the Tavares bombshell decision to go to the Leafs but also the various other smaller names. Teams are starting to get an idea of what their rosters are going to look like, or at the very least what they want their rosters to look like. This last bit is crucial for Jeff Gorton, who, having already made the deft move of doing nothing in the UFA market, could really add some extra umph to his Rangers renovation project by taking on a bad contract or two in exchange for further prospects and picks. It’s time to take a dump, in other words.
There’s a few options for whose bad salary cap hit we could take on for the low low price of a nice draft pick or a top prospect, and there’s certainly teams who would be willing to oblige for variety of reasons. Let’s start with the most obvious candidate looking to move something bad in exchange for something good: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Given that they just uh, got a big contract on their books (or something like that, I haven’t heard much about it), and given that they’ve got some star youngsters they’re going to need the room to re-sign in the coming years, they’re surely itching to dump some salary. Indeed, according to Larry Brooks, Matt Martin is garnering interest; a move for Martin would fit Gorton’s professed desire for some glue guys, while also serving the more pressing end of picking up some assets from a team flush with them.
Matt Martin is in demand on trade market. Seriously. Following payment of his $1.5M signing bonus by Leafs (likely yesterday), acquiring club would owe him $750,000 this year and $1.75M next year. Cap hit is $2.5M per.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) July 2, 2018
Martin’s contract expires in 2020-2021, a year after Matthews and Marner his RFA status, so it’s fairly incumbent on the Leafs to get rid of Martin’s contract in order to give themselves a little bit of extra wiggle room in the matter. Two prospects I’d be asking for in exchange for Martin would be Dmytro Timashov or Jeremy Bracco. The Rangers could use some more prospects on wing, especially since they took a million defenseman at the most recent draft.
Timashov is 21 years old and had 34 points in 62 regular season games for a stacked, Calder Cup winning Toronto Marlies, as well as 12 points in 20 playoff games. Bracco, for his part, had 32 points in 52 regular season games, also with the Marlies, but only notched 1 point in 4 playoff games with them. Both players fit a need that the Rangers have: a skilled, point-producing top-6 winger. Gorton could even make a push for both of them by taking on a contract like Ron Hainsey’s $3 million AAV, one year contract as well in order to offer further relief for Matthews/Marner’s next deals, as well as Nylander’s future contract (he’s an RFA in 2018-19 aka right now).
The Leafs pipe dream is to move Nikita Zaitsev’s deal that runs through 2024-25 for a $4.5 million cap hit, but I’d stay far away from that. Lou’s only major signing of his time with the Leafs is going to be anathema to a rebuilding team, and Gorton shouldn’t touch that with a 1000000-foot pole.
Another maple-flavored contract I’d be looking to take on would be the Calgary Flames’ Troy Brouwer deal, which is $4.5 million lasting through 2021. From them I’d want Oliver Kylington – he’d bolster the Rangers’ defensive project quite well, having posted 35 points in 62 games (!) for the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat. With Kylington our blueline would be stacked, adding another smooth-skating defenseman with excellent vision and playmaking ability, adding to the ranks of Brady Skjei, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and so on and so forth. That’s be some top four from 2022 onward, if not earlier than that.
The big one of course is the Milan Lucic deal, but that could be quite tricky for the Rangers to handle. The bruising power forward is playing on a $6 million contract that expires at the end of the 2022-2023 season, so if Gorton takes it on look for him to flip it with salary retained at some point in the future. Even that would hamper the Rangers’ rebuild, given that we’re still going to have Girardi’s buyout cap penalty of $1.11 million on the books through 2022-2023 as well. It’d be a suboptimal scenario for sure, but the bonus there would be you could likely land Kailer Yamamoto and/or Jesse Puljujarvi, in addition to a high draft pick (the Oilers are going to be bad for a while, hate to break it to you). Still, a trade for Lucic would be my least favorite cap dump to take on – it’s simply unwieldy.
The last big one would be a game changer, but probably the worst contract in the Nation Hockey League. Yes, I’m talking about Bobby Ryan. His $7.25 million dollar contract would expire at the end of 2022-2023 as well (big year, I suppose) but we all know who would be coming along with it: Erik Karlsson. Now, a few caveats. This would probably be a more even deal than we’d like to think, because even taking on that atrocious contract (Ryan had just 33 points in 62 games last season, a point just around Jimmy Vesey’s 28 in 79 or roughly matched by Jesper Fast’s 33 points in 71 games) we’d be giving up significant assets to nab the best defenseman of the last decade.
The silver lining is that Karlsson is looking for a Drew Doughty deal – a 7 year $11 million deal. That’s highway robbery considering that Karlsson is miles ahead of Doughty, despite what the guys on the NHL network are saying right now, as I write this (literally, they’re talking about how Karlsson is not quite as good as Doughty). Just to repeat, this would be a game changer on several levels: significant assets given up to take on the best defenseman in the world, but also the worst contract in the NHL. I’m not sure entirely what I make of all that, so I’ll let you make up your minds on your own. All I’ll say is this: it’d be Cool As Hell, even if it’s imprudent.
So there you have it, a bunch of salary dumps we could take on and what we’d potentially be looking at in return. Obviously there’s a lot of moving parts, and it takes two to tango, so there’s always the chance that we get taken for a ride and not the other way around. Still, the Rangers are flush with cap space right now – it’d be stupid for Gorton and co. not to use it as an asset to pick up some more prospects and picks. Have at it everyone – I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on everything. Since I won’t be writing for tomorrow also, Happy Fourth of July (really we should be celebrating Constitution Day in September, but that’s a nerdy political science gripe I have from my college days, and I won’t say no to a chance to celebrate in early July in any event). Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your day.