If Nash falls through, what are the backup options?

All the talk with the Rangers and the deadline is about Rick Nash. It makes sense, and there have been heavy rumors stating that the Rangers and Columbus GM Scott Howson are in serious negotiations regarding the star winger. Nash would make the Rangers better in the short term and long term, although that contract might be a bit of a nuisance.

But if Nash falls through, expect Glen Sather to go hunting for a short term option to help fill a hole on the left side of the top six forwards. Short term fixes generally won’t cost much –assume a mid level prospect and a mid/late round pick– and are usually players on expiring contracts. We’ve discussed many different players that could be dealt, but let’s look at a few more.

Just a note: The Rangers can add more than $10 million in cap space without having to move a roster player.

Samuel Pahlsson, CBJ: Sticking with the Blue Jackets for a second, Pahlsson has drawn some interest, but it’s unexpected that the Rangers have any interest in the winger. Pahlsson is a very good defensive winger, but the Rangers aren’t really looking at that type of player. Kristian Huselius would have drawn interest, but his groin injury severely limits his usefulness.

Niklas Hagman, ANA: Post lockout, Hagman has been about a 40 point player on average. He has battled some injuries, but this year he has battled ineptitude. He just hasn’t gotten the job done, and was eventually sent to the AHL before being claimed off re-entry by the Ducks. He’s not really a viable option.

Scott Gomez, MTL: I think dealing Ryan McDonagh should get the job done, right?

Andrei Kostitsyn, MTL: Kostitsyn is about a 40 point guy, like Hagman. The difference is that Kostitsyn is still averaging 40 points, whereas Hagman misplaced his game. He may not be the top-six help that the Rangers need, either, but he could provide some depth and put up some points in a pinch. This would be a gamble.

Brad Boyes/Paul Gaustad, BUF: We end this list with the most realistic acquisitions for a short term fix. Boyes is a former 40 goal scorer who just hasn’t found that magic again. He could fill in on the top six, but like Kostitsyn, he would be a gamble. Gaustad is more of a third line player, but could provide more depth. Jochen Hecht would be an interesting option, but he’s out indefinitely with a concussion.

Cap Increasing; Increases Rangers Likelihood of Spending Spree?

Any Rangers fans that thought the Rangers would be relatively inactive during the free agent frenzy starting July 1st, well you were probably going to be wrong and if you weren’t wrong before the news broke about an increasing cap limit then you certainly are now.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, speaking at a Lawyers’ conference in D.C. recently discussed the increase in league revenues and he also made mention of likely cap increases. The revenue for the league expects to rise, close to $3 billion, up from $2.7 billion.

“It appears our salary cap will be going up.” Projects new cap will be $60.5M to $63.5M, up from $59.4M this yr.

So, looking at the middle ground as a safe bet the cap could be close to $62m, up considerably from the current limit of £59.4 million. What does this mean for the Rangers? Well simply put, potentially a great deal. The Rangers do have important roster players to re-sign in Callahan, Dubinsky, Anisimov and Boyle (among others) yet looking specifically at Callahan and Dubinsky – even if they more than double their salaries there will be a lot of money left. This cap increase of course has a knock on effect throughout the line up. Chris Drury’s potential buy out becomes easier to absorb (making it more likely?), Wojtek Wolski and players such as Erik Christensen’s future may also be under threat. So much, so many players are affected by the final cap figure.

The Rangers have a big decision to make. If Sather and his team think the core is set and it ‘merely’ needs some top level talent added to it to become a serious contender in the East you may indeed see the likes of Drury jettisoned. With the extra cap space Drury’s departure creates, in addition to the cap space created by the truly awful circumstances around Derek Boogaard the Rangers may become very aggressive in free agency. Given Sather’s free agent dealings in the past however, that makes many fans nervous and for good reason when you think of Redden, Wade and Gomez, Scott to name a few. Of course the Rangers may not be active in free agency……. (Tumbleweed)

The Rangers are almost certainly going to go after Brad Richards. The extra cap space the aforementioned cap fall out creates could see Sather also go after a defenseman such as Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Kaberle, James Wisniewski or Joni Pitkanen to name a few. Of course all this speculation about cap space then spirals out of control. Would the Rangers consider going after restricted free agents? Cap space, depth in the organisation and picks may allow Sather to deal for a star such as Shea Weber or an underperforming elite talent such as Zach Bogosian. The mind wanders with all this talk of spending money. All that is left is for the cap figure to be finalised and to watch what Sather does next. Nervous?

 

Where Sather Went Wrong: Both Drury and Gomez

This is now the second part of a multi-post discussion about the decisions of General Manager Glen Sather. Sather has come under some real heat lately, as the Rangers are in what appears to be a free fall, and have no cap room to make any adjustments. The highest paid players on the Rangers have been, to be delicate, disappointing. Sather’s strength during his tenure with the Rangers has been his ability to make trades, but this does not overshadow his weakness of evaluating the market and making the best decision for the team. In this series, I will analyze where Sather went wrong, and where he lost the fans.

It was the summer of 2007, and the Rangers were facing a dilemma. Michael Nylander, coming off a good Ranger career, was going to be let go. The Rangers had a gaping hole at center that season, and this departure was going to create an even larger hole. There were many prime centers hitting free agency, including Danny Briere, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. Ranger fans were assuming that Glen Sather was going to land one of these centers.

Late in the afternoon on July 1, Ranger fans were stunned by the news they received. In a matter of minutes, the Rangers had signed both Drury and Gomez to monster contracts. Many were thrilled, as the problem down the middle had supposedly been solved. The Rangers committed over $14.5 million in salary cap space to the two centers. The problem was that both were second line centers who parlayed one good year into mega bucks.

To say that Gomez and Drury were/have been disappointments in the Big Apple wouldn’t be stretching the truth much. Both centers struggled in their first year on Broadway, and neither put up the numbers that fans were hoping for. Drury (+4.2 GVT in 2008-2009) has struggled mightily in his two-plus seasons on Broadway, and hasn’t been able to match the performance he put up in Buffalo that earned him his $7 million a year salary.

Gomez, slated to be the top center, never found chemistry with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka, and while many attributed this to a difference in playing style, those opinions were quickly silenced by how quickly rookie center Brandon Dubinsky clicked with the Czechs. Gomez improved the following year, but underperformed considerably, especially considering his $7.5 million cap hit (a -14.3 GVS, good for 10th worst in the league).

Hindsight is always 20/20. But this one is too glaring to miss. The Rangers would have been better off signing just one of the centers, letting Dubinsky develop as a 2nd/3rd line center, and using Matt Cullen, as a significantly cheaper option, as the other center, and to play the point on the powerplay. Cullen was the type of player the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 Rangers were lacking, a cheap, quick 2nd/3rd line center that can play the point on the powerplay. Would it have solved all the problems? Of course not, but I’d rather have a cheap option fail to an extent than an expensive option fail miserably.

Don’t misunderstand, the Rangers needed to sign one of those players, not both. Say all you want about the size of the Drury deal (the only relevant one now), but that contract value was set when Daniel Briere signed with Philly for more money. The problem was signing both to these overvalued contracts, and eating up significant cap room that hurt them at both the trade deadline and in subsequent offseasons.

Luckily for Sather, he was able to rectify this mistake by dealing Gomez in the 2009 offseason, making room for Marian Gaborik, and acquiring Ryan McDonagh in the process. This is a very rare occurrence in the NHL, and Sather is lucky that he was able to not only dump Gomez, but get a great return in the deal.

The Gomez Deal: Cap Analysis

Well, we all know that the Scott Gomez to Montreal deal was a salary dump. But how much of a dump? Gomez has a $7.357 million cap hit through 2013-2014.

Chris Higgins, an RFA, made $1.9 million last season, and it’s safe to assume he has been qualified for that amount. Considering how much time he missed last season, and his output from his previous seasons, it’s safe to assume that $3 million will be the going rate for him.

Doug Janik, well, he’s a journeyman, he won’t be back next season, unless it’s as the 7th defenseman, the Rangers have too much defense anyway. He would come cheap at roughly $500,000 though. That’s what you want from a 7th defenseman.

Ryan McDonagh is in college, just finishing up his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He won’t be counting against the cap. I will be writing a prospect profile on him in the coming days.

Pavel Valentenko, well, if he comes to the US, he will start in Hartford. He bolted the AHL last year for the KHL, so it’s unlikely he will be back.

That’s a lot of words to just say this: The Rangers just gained $4 million in cap space*. They dealt from a strength (center) to fill a huge hole (LW), and they didn’t give up any prospects or current young NHLers. AND they freed up cap space. This trade was a huge win for Sather.

*-Actually number depends on the contract for Higgins, and if they sign Janik.

Just a note, I liked Gomez. I thought he would have done well under the Torts system with Avery and Callahan. But he was signed to be a leader, and he wasn’t leading, his contract was atrocious, and the Rangers needed to fill that hole. Good luck in Montreal Gomer.

As for the current lines, or my best guess at them:

Higgins-Drury-Zherdev
Avery-Dubinsky-Callahan
Korpikoski-Anisimov-
Byers-Boyle-Owens

Voros

Staal-Girardi
Rozsival-Redden
Gilroy-

Hank
Vally

Clearly, the Rangers have a need for a RW. They can go the RFA route (Drew Stafford, Ryan Clowe), the UFA route (Hossa, Kovalev, Knuble), the trade route (insert wild trade scenario here), or just see if they have someone in the system (Greg Moore, Dale Weise).

Personally, I would love to see Clowe in Ranger blue. But I don’t think the RFA route is a viable option. Without that 3rd round pick (used on Brian Boyle), the Rangers don’t have enough compensation for any RFAs (for more details, check the Cap Page).

My guess? Knuble, 1 year-$2.5 million.

As for that defense spot, it’s probably going to be one of Sauer / Potter / Sanguinetti.

All in all, it’s nice to have some cap room, eh?

Oh, almost forgot. The Rangers now have enough room to go after Hossa, and still keep Staal, Dubie and Cally long term.

Gomez for Higgins (UPDATE: Heatley (NOT) on his way)

That will shed some salary.

Wow. Way to go Slats.

More later, I’ll analyze the finances.

Guess this means no Heatley. Dubi stays for now.
Update 5:25pm: Details are in:

To Mtl: Gomez, Tom Pyatt, Mike Busto
To NYR: Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko, Doug Janik

Salary dump, and a steal of one. Wow. Great job Slats.

Update 5:30pm: McDonagh was Montreal’s 1st round pick in 2007.

Update 5:35pm: Doug Janik in the deal too. Oh, and the details are on TSN, duh.

Update 5:53pm: Carp is reporting that Heatley is on his way (thanks Mike):

UPDATED, 5:31 P.M.: I’ve been told that Heatley is coming to the Rangers tonight. Not sure what the Rangers are giving up to get him, but they can fit him under the cap now.

Update 6:15pm: Lost in all this is the Rangers getting McDonagh, who was the Canadians best prospect. Sather absolutely fleeced Montreal.

Update 6:20pm: Expect more wheelin and dealin:

GLEN SATHER:

“We’ve got lots of cap room now, and it opens lots of options.”

Thinks Higgins will be a goal-scorer … was hurt three times last year. Likes the other two kids as future NHL players, too.

“Torts has talked about the young guys all year and we wanted to make some room for them, and we did.”

“Since this deal happened I’ve had three calls (from other teams), and it doesn’t take long for people to realize you’re going to make some changes.”

Update 8:50pm: It looks like the wheelin and dealin was just the Gomez deal. Doesn’t look like Heatley is coming to New York. I would rather the Rangers spend the cap space on a free agent scorer instead of dealing for one.

Just imagine how much more cap room they would have if they didn’t sign Redden. Sigh.