The first NHL buyout window ends in five days, and the never-ending rumors of a Kevin Shattenkirk buyout still haunt my timeline. But it’s not just Shattenkirk who has buyout rumors, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith are also often searched on CapFriendly’s buyout calculator. For short term cap space, a buyout is a good plan.
However the Rangers are not in a desperate need of short term cap space. Artemi Panarin looks to be pricing himself out of basically everywhere except Sunrise, Florida, which means the Rangers have $17 million to throw at Jacob Trouba, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Pavel Buchnevich. The four total should be no more than $13-$14 million. Peanuts.
But yet the buyout rumors still exist. Roster space is the prevailing argument now, as the Blueshirts have 16 defensemen between the NHL and AHL right now, but eight that will be at the NHL level and in need of playing time. Something needs to give at the NHL level to ensure Adam Fox and Libor Hajek make the roster.
However that’s not necessarily true. Do we want to force Hajek, who played a whole three games, into a starting role? Ditto Fox, who is hyped beyond the hype but still may need a few months in the AHL? What about injuries? How will the Rangers manage those?
But perhaps the biggest issue with a buyout of any player is the lingering cap hit beyond the 2020-2021 season, which is when these contracts expire anyway. Let’s look at who is pending a new contract following the 2020-2021 season (entering 2021-2022), which would be year one of dead cap space:
- Four ELCs: Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Hajek,
- Three RFAs likely to get bridged this summer: DeAngelo, Buchnevich, Lemieux
- Two AHL RFAs: Yegov Rykov, Ryan Lindgren
That’s six players possibly due big time raises. As we saw this week, every cap dollar matters when the ceiling is uncertain. The dead cap space of $1.5 million for some of these buyouts means a lot, especially when you’re adding it on to the dead cap space for Dan Girardi.
Funny enough, that’s not even the main concern. The summer following the 2021-2022 season (the 2022-2023 season, the final year of dead cap space) has three more players needing a significant raise:
- Mika Zibanejad
- Kaapo Kakko
- Vitali Kravtsov
I think those three are a wee bit important, no?
The Rangers are in a unique situation where cap space today is less valuable than cap space tomorrow. Given the nominal increase this year, it actually benefited the Rangers to be in this situation. Why burn cap space in the future when you don’t need it today?
All three big contracts, plus Henrik Lundqvist’s, come off the books in two years. It is much more prudent to wait this out. Potentially find a taker at 50% retained for a draft pick or two. The short term vision of accelerating the rebuild should not cloud judgment and the overall goal of being a sustained contender for many years beyond.