With Artemi Panarin now in the books, the Rangers have an interesting situation on their hands, with just $8 million in cap space for four key RFAs. Using Evolving Wild’s free agent estimator, we can expect the RFAs to come to about $14.7 million in cap hits:
- Jacob Trouba – $7.5 million
- Pavel Buchnevich – $3.25 million
- Tony DeAngelo – $2.75 million
- Brendan Lemieux – $1.2 million
That’s a difference of about $7 million in cap space needed. There are some low hanging fruit here, since the estimates currently include Matt Beleskey and Brendan Smith. That’s about $2.15 million in total cap savings just from those two, so it brings the number needed to $4.85 million. That’s certainly doable, albeit maybe not in the manner we expect.
The expected move is trading Chris Kreider, but I don’t think that is in the cards. I may be biased here because I’d like to keep him around and I think he adds a different element to the Rangers with his speed, strength, and net-front presence, making the club more well rounded. But his $4.625 million cap hit this year and his likely $7 million extension next year is why he seems to be the odd man out. However there are other ways to get out from the cap issues without dealing Kreider. It’s also worth noting that even if the Rangers do trade Kreider, they would still need about $200k in cap space. That’s manageable, but if they are right on the nose it limits them. Ideally they get some flexibility.
The first, and possibly most likely, scenario is trading Kevin Shattenkirk and retaining 50% on the deal. Assuming the Rangers take no salary back, then that’s $3.3 million in cap savings. Of course it takes two to tango here, but Tampa seems like it could be a good fit. Their RD situation is a mess right now, as Luke Schenn and Jan Rutta are looking like they will get significant minutes. They still have their issues, signing Brayden Point being their biggest, so cap space might be the issue there as well. There can be one of those complicated three team deals where each team retains 50%, like we saw with Derick Brassard a few years back, but still doable.
Assuming the Rangers take this path, then it’s another $1.5 million that needs to be cleared. This might go against their mold, but finding a taker for Ryan Strome and his unsustainable scoring would clear another $3.1 million. It might go against their mold because he’s young and cost controlled. Strome’s metrics weren’t overly great, and he’s a disaster in the defensive zone. There’s going to be a team that sees his 19 goals as evidence he’s turned the corner, but all signs point to a significant regression to the mean for him as that SH% comes back down to his career average. Selling high here would be prudent.
This all comes down to whether management views Kreider as part of the leadership core going forward, or if he is just another piece to be traded. If he’s part of the future, then we will see a few deals to clear space. If he’s not, then it may just be him and a spare part (Boo Nieves?) heading out.
Of course they could just trade Marc Staal and solve all their issues, but let’s assume that won’t happen this year.