OffseasonState of the Rangers

What the Rangers’ RFA signings signal about their long-term plan


Going into this off-season, the Rangers had 5 key RFA’s that needed new deals: Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, Ryan Spooner, Vlad Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey.  There was an expectation that one or more of these guys would be traded, either at the Draft or after the free agency dust settled.  Turns out, that didn’t happen.  All have since re-signed with the Rangers.  As Dave pointed out yesterday, the Erik Karlsson trade (non-trade?) has held up a lot of market movement, but at this point, I think it’s relatively safe to say these guys will likely be in the starting lineup on October 4th.

While we obviously were not privy to how the contract negotiations played out, or what types of different deals were floated, the actual contracts can shed some light on the organization’s long-term vision and how these guys fit into the team’s plan. 

Brady Skjei’s status as a franchise building block is now apparent.  Whether you agree with that assessment or not, it seems the organization views the young defender as a player who will be a steady presence on the blue line as the organization attempts to form a new core to contend with.  The contract itself is very reasonable in that, if he is able to rebound from a rough season last year, his deal will look like a bargain for a pact that encompasses only prime years. Alternatively, if he continues to struggle, there will probably be a team willing to bet on the pedigree if the Rangers ate some salary.  For a deal that ends about a month after his 30th birthday, I think it’s a really solid contract for all involved.

With Kevin Hayes, I do wonder if the Rangers did try to sign him long-term and they found his demands to be too rich in his walk year.  If Hayes was demanding 7 or 8 years at $7 million per year, I don’t blame the organization for changing their expectations with respect to his future. Alas, I suppose we will never know. Either way, the Rangers re-signed Hayes to a one-year pact that will end in UFA status this July. Hayes will be 27 when he hits the market and it’s entirely possible that the organization felt that by the time they were ready to truly contend again, there would be too few prime years left on the deal and he would be in his 30’s with a huge cap hit. Given how the situation turned out, efficient asset management demands that the Rangers put him in the best possible position to succeed to extract maximum value out of him at the trade deadline.

With a big free agency class coming up, it’s unlikely that Hayes will be the best rental player to become available at the deadline, but he could certainly bring back a haul from a team who misses out on Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski or Artemi Panarin, assuming they are made available and don’t sign extensions.  The organization has made it fairly clear with this contract that they plan to move on from Hayes after this season.

Ryan Spooner and Vlad Namestnikov signed identical 2-year/$8 million extensions about a month apart. Namestnikov signed his deal right at the start of free agency.  Spooner waited a little longer.  I have to believe trade interest in these two was lukewarm, at best and they have more on-ice value to the team than they carry in a trade.  Both of these extensions take them to UFA status in the summer of 2020.

I think we can safely throw Jimmy Vesey’s contract into this discussion, as well.  He also signed a 2-year deal that will end with Vesey as a UFA. My belief is the Ranges sought modestly priced middle-six depth that would help keep the team respectable on the ice and give them asset options at the next two trade deadlines.

The strategy the Rangers have employed here has both positives and negatives.  The organization got their man in Skjei, so his situation has been taken care of.  For the rest of the signings, the Rangers’ hedging plans are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they maintain financial and roster flexibility through the remainder of the rebuild.  Don’t underestimate how valuable that is.  If an opportunity arises to move one of these guys for a package of young talent, the organization can pounce.  If any of them are comfortable in New York and want to forego free agency and re-sign at a reasonable cost, the organization can assess that on the merits.

One the other side of the coin, the Rangers are going to have a huge free agency class in the 2020 offseason.  Spooner, Namestnikov, Vesey, Jesper Fast and Chris Kreider can all test the market that offseason.  With Mats Zucarello a UFA after this season, we are looking at some serious forward turnover in the next 24 months. Clearly, the Rangers are putting a lot of faith in Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov.  Possibly next tier prospects like Brett Howden and Ty Ronning, as well.  They may choose to chase a Seguin or Panarin in free agency, but the 2020-2021 season is going to look a lot different up front.

The blue line is set about a year further out.  Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith are all UFA’s the following off-season in 2021.  This isn’t inherently a bad thing, as the closer you get to the end of those contracts, the easier those guys are to trade if any of the five thousand quality defensive prospects the Rangers have amassed in the past few months are ready. Following that offseason, only Skjei is under contract.  Defenseman tend to develop a bit slower than forwards, but three years out, I would imagine at least Libor Hajek, Yeger Rykov, Ryan Lindgren and Nils Lundkvist would be ready.  Since K’Andre Miller is a bit rawer, he might take an extra year, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was ready for full time duty, as well.

In goal, the map seems to be fairly clear.  After this coming season, Igor Shestyorkin will come to North America to get his feet wet in the NHL.  Henrik Lundqvist will have two seasons left on his contract at this point. Shestyorkin should be a proper backup or AHL starter that first year and more or less a straight platoon in the second before taking over the crease full time.  At least, that would be my development plan.

After months of straight talent acquisition (which isn’t done yet!), the organization’s plan is starting to come into focus a bit.  There are still a lot of question marks in the long-term forward group, but the makings of three star players are there in Chytil, Andersson and Kravtsov.  The blue line is loaded and there is a succession plan in goal.  All we can do now is watch and hope the team maximizes their current expendable assets and continues to push the talent envelope as the young players develop. If all goes according to plan, there could be a very bright future on Broadway.

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  • Plenty of good things to think about!

    The next three years will tell what the future is going to look like, and I’m still excited………

    • Walt, I think the guy that I am most intrigued about because he’s such an unknown, is Lindgren.

  • I posted this in the prior thread. Hayes and Zuc get moved for picks and prospects at the trade deadline:



    Then if they sign Panarin next offseason and another quality D man, then…

    Chytil and Krav are the real deal. I think so is Hajek.

  • If the Rangers weren’t paying $6M per for Hayes then they’re not paying $7M per.

    And if Hayes would not accept $6M per now then the Rangers will walk away.

    Either way, I do not see Kevin being here long term. There are better players out there to be signed or acquired, and some better players who are already on the Rangers.

    • Bro I’m not buying what you’re saying here about his deal. You already thought that Hayes didn’ t deserve more money than Kreider. Rangers are now paying him over 5 million. I guess he was looking for that 6-7 figures with clauses attached. They most defiantly offered somewhere between 5.5-5.8. He will have to show even more that he wants in past 2020.

      I see to many varibles to why he could get resigned. Kids not exceeding, Zib not working out as a 1c and continuing his injury report, Hank growing tired of all these issues and Quinn vouching for him. Hayes could essentially screw over any future trade making his trade value worthless no matter how you look at it. 5.1 is a bit pricey for that kind of baggage in Feburary. Imo JG and him have a gentlemans agreement to revisit and come somewhere in the middle like North of 6 million for 6 years. I’ve even read rumors about a agreement to get traded and come back after he gets done with a deep playoff run with whatever team.

      • Let me ask you, and be honest, who would you rather have:

        Hayes at $6M per


        Panarin at $8M per

        To me, it’s not even a question. Hayes is 26, how much better is he going to get? Panarin is a dynamic, pt per game player.

        • Dude it’s not about our personal opinion or least of mine, I hate playing that game. I rather try and fit all the puzzle pieces together to what the FO would try to do in the near future. I get your stance on how you “think” that Hayes is as good as gone now but I’m not agreeing with that narrative. All we do is wait and find out who was correct of this contact deal. I don’t think you’re being open minded to see how other’ s might get traded instead of him and from there the FO still goes after Panarin. Example if Kreider or Zib continue to be none 60 point players or even at 55 points. I already can tell how that’s not a situation that you could fathom which is exactly why we won’t ever see eye to eye about this.

          • Everyone is killing the Sens for giving Stone a one year deal that leads him to free agency. It means there is NO intention of having a long term relationship between the team and the player. There’s no “let’s buy us time…” Either the player is part of the group or he’ not, going forward.

            The Rangers did the EXACT SAME THING with Hayes.

            The EXACT SAME THING.

            Hayes is going to want over $6M if he has any kind of good year. The Rangers should not pay that. For that kind of money, I would rather they pay $8M for Panarin, or even Stone. They’re better players than Hayes. And both presumably will be FAs next year.

            Hayes is in the same position as Stepan, in a sense, except the Rangers went forward with signing Stepan and with Hayes they didn’t. Both will not be on the Rangers next season. Caveat: They shouldn’t, let’s put it that way.

            If Gorton re-signs Hayes then I take back the support that I was giving him.

          • a little late to this discussion but it is not entirely without precedent to re-sign hayes. iirc the rangers signed Lundqvist to a 1-year extension the summer after his ELC before coming to terms on his longer term deal that winter. now, I know it is not exactly the same since hank was obviously a franchise player at the time and hayes is a ? for us still but, it has been done before when both sides have an interest but want to punt for a few months.

          • Question: Would you sign Hayes to a 6 year, $36M, NTC, contract?

            I woouldn’t, not in a million years.

            I did an armchair GM on cap friendly, the Rangers have room to sign 2 high priced players next year, I do not want Hayes to be one of them.

          • I don’t think I would. If they can sign some real elite talent with that $, need to do that. If they can’t sign some, then the rangers aren’t contending until the tail end of that 6×6 anyway so what’s the point

          • Exactly, Hayes is not making the Rangers a playoff team.

            I figure 2 spots next year for acquisitions or high paid players: A quality forward and a quality D man.

            Hayes is not that forward, IMO.

  • You clarified the Rangers’ players’ current or short term transitional status, thank you. Something very alike for their coaches and management would be great. The collapse of the Rangers as a playoff team is on their coaching and management’s shortcomings, as well the players.

  • We are putting a sensible team on the ice, while allowing the kids to get their feet wet at the NHL level. Expectations are low with regard to winning, so they can mature at their rate.

    I know without a legit top line, we are really a team of middle 6 forwards. KZB has to produce or we will get hammered night in and night out.

    On the defensive side, we have many kids chomping at the bit. I do see some kind of move during the first half of the season to remove the logjam.

    Good things are coming, but get ready for some painful games the first half of 2018/19.

    • Kreider and Zib will be getting chopped off. I believe Buch only made it onto that list from the KBZ line if we’re quoting Brooks about this.

      Last year Kreider was on the trading block and that’s how it starts, see Stepan and JT for that.

      If Zib wanted to see past his NTC than he better produce and stop getting hurt. JG has some interesting type of encouragement last night on SNY about him. It sounded like he has to figure it out and be consistent right now or else. Any painful games from that trio will send JG running to the edge to fix it.

      I expect alot of Hank yelling at Skjei to wake the heck up during most games.

      • Henk needs to shut his cake hole on the ice. You don’t see his teammates riding his butt when he lets in a soft wrister from the Blueline through his legs.

  • If Hayes really isn’t in or plans, why wouldn’t they simply have let arbitration decided his contract amount? Now this doesn’t mean Hayes is indeed in the Rangers future plans. For me it confirms that the Rangers want to keep their options open to see how things play out this season. If he doesn’t bite on something reasonable that is offered, then pick up whatever picks we can from the market. We aren’t a serious contender for at least 3 more seasons so why burn money in seasons 2 and 3?!?!?

    • Arbitration is a bad process. The team basically has to talk down about the player to justify their offer. It’s not a good thing.

      My point is that Hayes should have been traded if he’s not in their long term plans, which appears like Kevin is not.

      • As I stated, you would only go down the arbitration route if he is not in the plans (thus not worried about hurting any feelings). Then you put the lipstick on the pig (ie quality minutes and situations) in order to increase its trade value.

        • “As I stated, you would only go down the arbitration route if he is not in the plans (thus not worried about hurting any feelings.”

          I do agree with that a lot. Which makes me a little scared that there is even a sliver of possibility that Hayes gets re-signed. I don’t think so, but the point you made kind of says “let’s reassess later.”

          That scares me. Hayes is a good player but he’s not even better than Stepan. So to allocate a good chunk of cap space to a player that keeps you from getting a better player via free agency, makes zero sense to me.

  • Panarin in 2019 and a more solid defense could give us 2 real lines (KZB & Panarin/Chytil/Andersson). A lot of “ifs” and no guarantees.

  • Lot you are rating or expecting alot from unknowns and maybes. As the roster stands at this exact moment there are 7 players that have a proven track record. 2 Defensemen and 5 forwards. Aside from those players it is all maybes and what ifs. I think everyone should really calm themselves down on this optimistic we can make the playoffs bandwagon.

    Clarify the knowns …forwards is Hayes, Zuc, Vesey, Fast, and Krieder. Defense is just Shattenkirk and Staal. Not exactly an amazing core group of guys to build around. Most of the forwards we have are really unproven.

    Now for the unknowns and why…
    Zib is really an unknown for the reason that he cant stay healthy for a whole season and his game to seems to disappear after an injury.

    Buch is still in his infant years and hasn’t gotten enough playing time to truly see his value.

    Names and Spooner just literally got here and really haven’t had a sure spot on any team they have been on.

    Everyone else is a rookie so good luck betting on their skill and talent levels against seasoned NHL veterans.

    Not trying to paint such a dark picture but there still is hope that they all gel and play a sort of mistake free hockey style like Vegas did with Hank bailing them out every night, but is that really going anywhere in the playoffs? I would rather watch them tank and be optimistic for the next 2nd round drafted goalie in next year’s draft.

    And another note on hayes that no one seems to mention is maybe he doesn’t want to stay here for the rebuild. Maybe he wants to get traded to a contender and doesn’t want to waste his prime losing.

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