Recent developments including the buyout of Dan Girardi, pending retirement of Kevin Klein and $2 million cap ceiling increase have dramatically shifted the offseason picture for the Blueshirts. What appeared to be a team in a relative bind a week ago is now one armed with the cash necessary to make seismic changes this offseason.
Assuming Klein does indeed hang up his skates, the Rangers should have upwards of $16 million available – and that’s before factoring in the player New York will lose this week to expansion. If it’s Antti Raanta, the number will climb to over $17 million, and if it’s Michael Grabner, the figure jumps to the neighborhood of $18 million.
Granted, the Blueshirts will have to replace Raanta, Grabner, Jesper Fast or Oscar Lindberg in some fashion – but that could be achieved with a near minimum player, or a greater investment if New York so chooses.
And that’s the key point here – options abound for the Blueshirts with this much money to spend.
There’s now enough cash available to make the most commonly anticipated plan realistic: re-sign Fast and Lindberg (if neither ends up a Golden Knight), get Mika Zibanejad under contract long-term and back up the Brink’s truck for Kevin Shattenkirk.
If New York skips Shattenkirk and instead adds a different top D-man – perhaps working with Las Vegas to score Sami Vatanen, Matt Dumba or Jason Demers, or pry Justin Faulk from Carolina or Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg – the finances get even more interesting.
Vatanen, Demers and Faulk all make between $4.5 million and $5 million, which could make re-signing Smith and the RFAs doable with some minor maneuvering. Meanwhile Trouba is at $2.8 million, Dumba at $2.55 million and Manson at a paltry $825k, meaning if New York acquired one of them the Blueshirts could retain all its free agents and still have plenty to spare.
Of course, that money might very well have to be earmarked for a Derek Stepan replacement – if he’s indeed the team’s trade chip for a big acquisition – but the Knights seem more interested in draft picks and prospects and might not see New York’s No. 1 pivot as the centerpiece of a swap.
If Stepan is the bait, the cap space could be there to make a run at Joe Thornton as a replacement if things go south with the Sharks, or revisit the idea of bringing Ilya Kovalchuk into the mix. The possibilities are suddenly limitless for the Blueshirts as a fascinating two weeks begin to unfold.