martin st. louis
MSL: lead by example personified. Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Much has been made of the Rangers’ salary cap woes with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin set to be free agents and the ceiling unlikely to increase much in the offseason. However, the emergence of several top prospects has made biting the bullet of letting a key player or two go much easier.

Obviously every franchise wants to retain as much talent as possible, but of course there is only so much money and so many positions to go around. The good news is that the team is well prepared to weather a significant loss.

Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich are potential replacements for Zuccarello, St. Louis and Hagelin; Brady Skjei will take the Matt Hunwick/John Moore job; and now it looks like even Oscar Lindberg could be useful should the team need to deal Dominic Moore in a penny-saving move.

There will be growing pains for all those prospects for sure, but if each doesn’t succeed immediately, they’re certainly capable of having Kevin Hayes-like growth during the year. By having so many exciting young options, the Blueshirts will have a much easier time deciding which of the free agents they most need to keep, and which they can afford to let go.

That’s the formula for real long-term success in the NHL – the front office must not only decide which key pieces it cannot afford to lose and let the others leave town when they become too pricey, but the real key is to also have NHL-ready young talent to seamlessly fit in and keep the team on track. This is what the Blackhawks are known for, and the Rangers have begun to follow suit.