Larry Brooks dropped the first of potentially many bombshells yesterday with his report that Kevin Klein is leaning towards retirement from the NHL. Though Brooks cautioned that Klein’s mind is not made up, it sounds like New York might be gifted $2.9 million in cap space at a very opportune time.
Klein only has one year remaining on his pact, but with Rick Nash’s hefty $7.8 million cap hit coming off the books next summer, the Rangers are really only worried about a cap bind in the short term. CapFriendly currently projects New York’s 2017-2018 cap total at $63.8 million, but wiping Klein from the ledger would drop them to $60.9 million of the projected $73 million ceiling.
That’s likely enough room to re-sign RFAs Mika Zibanejad, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg, and to retain Brendan Smith without any additional money-saving moves. If the Blueshirts elect to buy out Marc Staal or Dan Girardi in the coming days, they could suddenly be flush with cap space and primed for a run at Kevin Shattenkirk or Ilya Kovalchuk in addition to keeping those aforementioned players.
That also means potential trades of Derek Stepan and others wouldn’t need to be driven by cap implications at all – they’d be transactions made to improve the club or not at all.
The cap savings also help in the short term, as the Blueshirts still need to ink one more forward for next season to be compliant with expansion draft regulations or risk facing penalties. That figures to be one of Fast or Lindberg, but those players currently hold leverage as they know the tricky circumstances and aren’t facing the same timeline as their parent club. But with the additional savings of a Klein departure, New York could afford to increase their offer to either player by a couple hundred thousand dollars, which might be a worthy price to pay to avoid being stripped of a draft pick.
Klein has been a consummate professional during his time on Broadway, but this could a gift not dissimilar to the one bestowed by Markus Naslund when he abruptly retired in 2009.