With Jacob Trouba in tow and likely headed to a $7+ million contract over at least five years, the attention will turn to Artemi Panarin. Well, that is following Kaapo Kakko. But still, Panarin seems to be the free agent that everyone wants to sign, including myself. It’s rare that a point per game 28 year old becomes available, and if the Rangers add him to the long list of signings/acquisitions from this offseason, you can mark the offseason as a giant success.
The question now is, with Trouba likely headed towards a big deal, can the Rangers afford Panarin at seven years and probably $11 million (13.4% of the $82 million cap ceiling that is expected). Given John Tavares’ $11 million contract, which was 13.8% of the $79.5 million cap ceiling, it’s safe to assume Panarin will get this kind of money and term.
While I like to use cap percentage to gauge a player’s market value nowadays, the raw number is what matters when trying to fit in the pieces for a roster. As of now, the Rangers have $18 million in cap space on that $82 million ceiling, and have a good portion of this committed to RFAs. Using Evolving Wild’s contract calculator, let’s keep things cheap and give everyone two-year bridge deals so that the Panarin contract can still work. Let’s also assume Kravtsov and Kakko make the roster on opening night.
- Trouba: $7.2 million
- Pavel Buchnevich: $3.2 million
- Tony DeAngelo: $2.2 million
- Brendan Lemieux: $1.1 million
- Vitali Kravtsov: $925k
- Kaapo Kakko: $925k
- Total: $15.55 million
That leaves the Rangers with $2.45 million in cap space without Panarin. Let’s go ahead and assume that won’t cut it. The magic number to cut here is $9 million. Let’s get rid of some low hanging fruit:
- Demote Matt Beleskey – $1.075 million savings
- Trade Jimmy Vesey without taking back salary – $2.275 million
- Trade Ryan Strome without taking back salary – $3.1 million
- Total: $6.45 million
That’s still not enough, and now there are no more low hanging fruit. So now the Rangers need to get creative and free up close to $2 million more in cap space in order to make this work. Burying Brendan Smith doesn’t cut it here, and leaves the Rangers about $1 million short (amazing how much an $83 million cap would have helped.
As much as we all hate buyouts, the Rangers would either need to buyout one of Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith, or Marc Staal (listed in order of cap savings from most to least, and ironically enough most likely to find a trading partner), or they’d need to find a taker at 50% retained. Assuming the buyout option is the least appealing, then it’s about finding a trade. That is no easy task.
Even if the Rangers do make this work, they still operate under the assumption that Filip Chytil will take the leap and be a solid 2C, or at least show he can grow into the role. It’s certainly risky, but at least Chytil has shown the promise and has a full season under his belt already. Landing Panarin is certainly doable, but it makes you wonder if there is a different path we aren’t seeing.