Cleanup on Aisle D

Hi there friends, it’s been a minute. Since we last spoke the Rangers signed Adam Fox to his ELC and today they inked Yegor Rykov to his as well, inter alia. As this rebuild got started, going back to the Derek Stepan trade that landed us Tony DeAngelo and the pick that became Lias Andersson all the way through various selloffs that bring us to the present day, there had been much talk about how the Rangers intended to fix their defensive issue, both in terms of high-grade talent and the logjam of larger contracts we’ve got going. Well, I’m here to tell you yet again that there’s no reason to panic, the sky isn’t falling, and we actually might be able to kick this thing into high much sooner than later. It’s easy in fact, and maybe relatively painless.

The first thing to note, and this is deeply important, is that the Rangers have a ton of entry-level deals on the books. This matters because they effectively subsidize larger deals, or, as we’ll be getting into, buyouts and salary-retained trades. This is also important because it’s going to tell us what our D corps is going to wind up looking like, but I’m not sure you all need me to regurgitate a thousand names at you, so I’ll let you fill in the blanks to your hearts desire. Just know that we’ve got several mainstays coming up, as well as ample depth guys to fill things out while the young guns develop to their hearts’ content. The quantity of ELCs we’ll have on the books doesn’t really care what position they are though, because to be clear, we’re just talking dollars and cents right now.

To start off, we can definitely trade Brendan Smith and/or Kevin Shattenkirk, and especially make it nice with 50% salary retained on either or both contracts, depending on what deals there are to be struck. The primary goal here is to jettison Smith, who really is just a relative placeholder at this point – his role can be basically filled by anyone. Kevin Shattenkirk might be worth keeping, depending on how the forecast is looking as far as when guys like Miller and Lundkvist may be coming up to the big club. With each of those players traded though let’s say, at 50% salary retained, they’re attractive enough assets that someone is going to want them, especially at the low low price of $2.175m for Smith and $3.325m for Shattenkirk. It’s hard to imagine that there isn’t some Good Hockey Man somewhere who thinks that Smith “plays the right way” or that a 40-point, puck-moving, PP-QB, smooth-skating d-man at sub-market value isn’t valuable on the trade market. We might even get solid assets back in return, but that’s almost just gravy – it’ll be a win simply clearing space to allow young guys to develop and grow at the NHL level and get an idea of what we’re cooking with.

Obviously this isn’t exactly ideal, but both of those contracts have only two years left on them. That’s totally fine, because with Andersson, Chytil, Howden, Hajek, Shesterkin, Kravtsov, Kakko/Hughes, Rykov, and Fox all making the bare minimum allowed, we’ve got more than enough wiggle room over the next couple of years. There might be some problems down the road, but by the time those problems hit the Smith/Shatty problems simply won’t be anymore. It’s not a bad look, folks.

The big elephant in the room is Marc Staal. Obviously, a trade would be ideal, so I’m going to propose two scenarios. One, and this would be semi-contingent on how any Smith/Shattenkirk deal plays out, is a salary-retained deal with a pick and Neal Pionk involved as sweeteners, and maybe even take back another short-term deal of lesser AAV that a team just wants off the books in return, but that’s a fairly imperfect solution. In a perfect world we pull off Staal/Pionk/pick(s) and just call it a day. That’d solve a lot of problems, especially if we somehow get it done without eating some of that cap hit. Just about perfect if JD/JG (how cool is that to say? OH BABY!) can pull it off, but hey, if not and we have to hold onto some of the dough, fine.

The less ideal, but still altogether fine solution would be a buyout. Such a thing would incur a penalty against the NYR salary cap construction to the tune of $1.2m each year until the end of the 2022-23 season, which is a long ways away when considering at that point there will actually be some tough decisions to make as far as extending players who are right now on rookie deals. It’s problematic, but a smart GM could make it work.

So where does that leave our beloved Blueshirts? If Smith/Shattenkirk/Staal all find themselves on the way out, with the first two traded on salary-retention deals and Staal bought out, that’s $6.7m to have guys not on the blue line for the next two years, dipping down to $1.2 for the following two after that. It’s a scary price tag, but it may very well be worth it if the Rangers want to try and pull a Carolina or Dallas next season. If not, there’s longer term solutions, and any kind of combination of cap-hit-splitting and buyouts may do the trick when staggered correctly – I’m sure there’s spreadsheets beyond spreadsheets of various scenarios floating around in the Rangers front office, and attempting to predict what those all look like is beyond my pay grade.

All I know is that if the Rangers can make a couple of trades, bite the bullet on a buyout, and just do the damn thing at the draft, then this defensive crisis as far as never being able to get beyond what we have now suddenly vanishes. It might be a little bit tough to stomach, but there’s plenty of ameliorating factors. I think it’s also worth noting as I leave you to digest and brainstorm, that this has been the case more or less since last year. The sky isn’t falling, and it never has been. It’s an even better situation when you factor in a guy like Kakko or Hughes, and if Panarin comes to New York then we’re really pushing the puck up the ice, as it were. Sounds like a tidy cleanup to me, no?

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  • Why retain 50% salary when you could simply buy them out for the same exact amount and just be done? Where’s the veteran leadership on the blue line? Why do all NYR writers have this wild imagination that they think every GM in the NHL is naive enough to make a deal simply because you wrote an article about it! Call me crazy but I’ll leave the roster decisions up to JG & JD and not Pat 1000% of the time ?

  • I agree with your premise until we get to a buyout. Even with Staal. Half retained salary trades are painful but fine. It’s about cleaning up the mess and getting on the right track. I may wait another year on Staal , wait for the Spooner salary retention to go off the books and try and trade him with a year left at half retained salary. I may also look to move Smith mid season. A little insurance for the young kids and time is burned off his contract.

    I also know Fox and Rykov have never played in the NHL so it’s a risk to think they will make the team and be successful year one. But it’s a risk worth taking. Alex Nunn put together a nice video of Rykov’s highlights. Check it out if you get a chance.

    Finally let’s not bring in any big named high priced UFA d men either. That would be like putting the fire in your house out, then starting it again…bad idea..

  • I do not think moving Shatty or Smith will be easy. Stall will be on this roster. These kids need time to grow and learn the NHL game. Look for only 1 to make the roster out of camp.

    The future is bright, but not here yet.

  • There is a need to dump at least one, if not two of the players mentioned, but that may well be easier said than done.

    Of the three, Smith may get us the best return. What you say? He can defend well enough, plays both sides, can fill in at the forward position, and can be nasty. That said, at some $2+ mil per season, I’d give that some serious consideration.

    Shatty can’t defend, no really he can’t defend. His wheels aren’t what they used to be, is soft, and cost way too much for my taste. Now will there be a market for him at half the cost, could be, but let’s be real here, both the Blues, and Caps saw he wasn’t worth the asking price, and we did our usual thing, sign a big name to a big contract, only to have buyers remorse. He may be the toughest to get rid of.

    Staal never had any speed, plays with half the vision since his eye injury, and has lost his ability to defend because the game has gotten faster, while Marc has gotten slower, poor combination. I would consider putting him on long term IR due to his vision problem, this way he gets his full value of the contract, and the insurance policy paid for by the team for this very reason picks up the tab. That sounds more like a workable solution to me!

    Let this be another example, after so many repeats of this scenario, don’t sign aging players to big, long term deals that we will be sorry some ten minutes after the ink has dried!!!!!!!!

  • Pat, while it sounds like a tidy cleanup, it seems a bit unlikely. I really don’t believe the Rangers will, or think that they will, compete this year. At least, I hope they don’t. I believe this re-build is about 2020-2021. Slow and steady will win the race and, thus far, that is the course the Rangers have taken. Get rid of one (Smith/Shatty) and healthy scratch the other most nights while playing the youngsters and evaluate what we have in this team and where our youngsters are heading. I know nobody wants another losing season, me included, but it is what is best, long term, for the Rangers organization. Who the hell knows, maybe the kids gel and make the playoffs one last time for Hank.

    Hard “no” on big time UFA this summer. The team is an unknown at this point but with lots of potential.

    Interesting article and read, just find it an approach that is too aggressive.

  • you left no leadership on the blue line.
    After getting Shattenkirk and Smith off the books – there no more reason to trade Staal. or buy him out.
    Of those 3, i’d chose Staal 100% of the time to help lead some young kids with no experience.
    It’s insane and that isn’t going to happen. Not in this reality. timeline. multi-verse.
    (let’s not forget the 2 rookie forwards and a rookie backup)
    Pionk -DeAngelo
    Lindgren – Hajek – Rykov – Fox

    If you were to remove Staal and Pionk from this… you’d have yourself one laughable defense. you’d be railroaded and destroy these players in a half season.

    • We have a laughable defense with Staal and Pionk. Shattenkirk and Smith are better then Staal at this point. I also wouldn’t be opposed to trading Pionk either. DeAngelo is already better then Pionk. If the choice comes down to keeping either DeAnfelo or Pionk you take DeAngelo every time.

  • Hey Pat, I just do not see the Rangers creating anywhere near that level of dead cap space. They bought out Girardi which was a rarity for the club. I don’t believe that they are as motivated to shed some of the players mentioned as some believe. We’ll see, but I would be surprised if any major moves were made regarding Staal and Shatty.

    • Shattypants is the first one out the door…book it…also buyouts are not a rarity for us…Redden Richards also and Staal is absolutely a candidate for another one…Good riddance Sather

  • Remember, Shatty’s deal was somewhat front loaded, so a retained salary deal would cost less than $3mm in cash.

  • also wondering what if Staal retires? Will that be like when Kevin Klein retired and the cap hit went away. That’s a possibility too

  • No need to buy anyone out and no need to get rid of each and every one of the players you mentioned. Buyouts will only hamper us down the line … besides, retaining one of three S’s will provide some vet leadership and they don’t have to play 1st pairing minutes.

  • If they bought out Girardi they most certainly will buy out another guy who only has 2 years left…Pain in one year and not so bad the other 3

    • If it isn’t necessary, why do it that way? You do realize that 2-3 years down the line we will have plenty of RFAs to sign. What is the point of spreading salary across 4 years when we aren’t hampered in the first 2. If your plan is to go out and buy up old UFAs who will spend the best years of their long term contract just getting us to the playoffs, well that is wasted money — especially because you’ll probably be clamoring in year 4 of their deal that they have to be bought out so we can sign our younger and more promising players. This is a vicious circle and we’ve been down this road before. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past.

      • I am not a fan of dead cap money….But to fit Panarin and Trouba in…in a case where we cant move any of the 3 losers 18 22 42…It might have to be done

        • Firstly we could still probably find a way to make that work with the salary cap going to 82-83m … and to get Trouba you’re probably going to have to send a rostered player back, at about 33-50% of what Trouba’s salary is going to be …

          More importantly though, it’s hard to see all that happening. Trouba will be very pricey and Panarin may be looking for too much term and money depending on what the rest of the market offers.

      • tanto

        I have to agree with this post, why buy out anyone if it’s not necessary. I suspect with the new management team that will be in place soon won’t go down the retread road again, and maybe, just maybe they will break themselves of this asinine habit of going after washed up players!!!!!!!!

  • Lest we forget, Staal has a full no-movement clause. He’s not getting traded unless he wants to go.

  • We will have 11 defenders going for 6 jobs. 3 kids probably need the AHL for at least half a year, so that leaves 2 guys standing when the music stops. If those two are Pionk and Shatty or Smith, then we need to move at least those two players. We have to move them earlier rather than later. Guys like Skjei and Tony D and Stall most probably will be here. The rest of the team from last year needs to be put on the block. We cannot go into next season with 5 of the same 7 defenders. That would be HORRID! We couldn’t fit Trouba into the lineup until we start cleaning house on the blueline. If we have any hope of improving next year, it starts with changes on the blueline.

  • Meanwhile during the on season….St Louis just dumped the Sharks to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Superstar primadonna San Jose defenceman Erik Karlsson couldn’t answer the bell with an undisclosed injury. Saving himself for the free agency season perhaps.

    • Bloomer

      I have stated on many occasions that Karlsson is frail, and many got pissed off at me for doing so. I understand that they named a street after pretty boy, One Way!!!!! They can keep wimpy, we want men playing for us!!!!!!!!!!!!

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