Friday thoughts following Kaapo Kakko’s entry level deal

We are in the dog days of summer, folks. The news is going to be few and far between. But we did get Kaapo Kakko signing his entry level deal, which means all major rookies have been signed heading into training camp. Let’s dive right in.

1. As expected, the Kakko contract is a max entry level deal at $925k, but he fell just short of max bonuses at $2.65 million per year. If I remember correctly, bonus overages only occur if the team can’t apply them to this year’s cap, meaning they hit the following season. The Rangers may need that extra cap space next season, so clearing enough cap space this year has become vital.

2. Jacob Trouba and Pavel Buchnevich have their arbitration dates, and I’ll be shocked if either one gets to arbitration. More importantly it opens up a second buyout window for the Blueshirts. I still don’t think a buyout of a defenseman is in the cards, but there could be a buyout of a forward with one year left. Ryan Strome and Vlad Namestnikov are the only two fitting this bill, so it’s highly unlikely. Just throwing it out that as an unrealistic possibility.

3. I know it seems easy to say “just trade Strome or Namestnikov or Kevin Shattenkirk at 50%” but it’s harder than it seems. This would be a pure cap dump trade, like the Rangers did with Jimmy Vesey. The problem is, at least with Shattenkirk, the competitive teams are in precarious RFA situations. Tampa and Brayden Point, Winnipeg and their entire roster, Vegas and Nikita Gusev. The Rangers can’t take any salary back, so they need to target a team that thinks it is competitive but isn’t, has terrible front office staff, has cap space, and also has roster holes. Shockingly enough, Minnesota fits this bill. They need RD depth and only have 9 forwards signed, 10 if you include Jordan Greenway. There could be a deal to be made there.

4. Another potential deal to be made: Ottawa. They need to get to the cap floor. The problem here is they are a cash team and both of Strome and Namestnikov don’t represent real cash savings for cap hit dollars. Shattenkirk might work here, since his salary is less than his cap hit, but I’m going to assume his limited NTC includes that mess in Ottawa. Marc Staal has a full NMC, so the only other option here is Brendan Smith. Smith makes $175k over his $4.35 million cap hit this season, but is only due $3.35 million next year, so the Sens would get some cap savings. Also worth noting that next year Smith has a $1 million bonus due on 7/1, so he could be dealt next season for his $2.35 million in real salary. That doesn’t help the Rangers this year, but it would help with bonus overages next year.

5. I posed a question on Twitter the other day, wondering if it makes sense for the Rangers to keep Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin together on the same line. I don’t think they should, at least not yet. There’s tremendous value in Panarin helping to groom Filip Chytil into the 2C role. Panarin would be my choice to do this over Chris Kreider, since Panarin’s offensive skills are miles ahead of Kreider’s, plus Zibanejad already has great chemistry with Kreider. The RWs in this scenario will vary, but I think there’s more value there in the long-term. Of course Panarin and Zibanejad make a lethal 1-2 punch and both would likely crack a point-per-game rate, but that only really helps if the Rangers, a) have the secondary and tertiary scoring (they don’t), and b) were looking to make the playoffs this season, which they might sneak in but aren’t true contenders yet. At least not with this current roster.

6. I say that the Rangers aren’t true contenders yet because, despite all the improvements, they are still a young, raw team. The kids will need time to grow. The blue line, despite adding Trouba and Adam Fox, is still a train wreck on the left side. Lindy Ruff is still here. Chytil is still an unknown at 2C, and Lias Andersson an unknown at 3C. Brett Howden was horrible after his hot start, he was barely even 4C/13F quality. And yes, Andersson was miles better than Howden at the end of the year. It’s not setting a high bar, but if you remove the 7th overall stigma from Andersson –let’s be real, it doesn’t matter anymore, move on– he’s still barely 20 years old and is slated to be a middle-six center. And hey, 3C is just that. Facts are facts.

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  • I like the idea of splitting Panarin and Zibby.
    Dumping salary is never easy and I think a buyout is in the cards.

    Kakko and Kraftsov are raw talent that requires nurturing.

  • Ottawa is less than $500k under the floor and Tkachuk’s bonus structure likely pushes them over, so without a max retain it’s a non starter except for Namestnikov or Strome.

  • Strome is below the salary minimum for the 2nd buyout window. From CapFriendly:

    “The player must have a cap hit of at least $3,455,438 for the 2019 offseason”

  • I only see a trade of CK and a buyout of Shatty getting us to where we need to be. Gorton is showing patience, but his hands will be tied. Wonder if a move with Buch may help alleviate some Cap hell.

  • If what Rhodork says is correct, and I don’t question it at all, then the only forward that can be a buy out candidate would be Name. I’d rather see him go only because Strome ( who can’t be bought out as per the post above) is slightly cheaper, and he is insurance for Chytle, if he doesn’t work out as our 2C.

    Addressing the potential d-men that can be buy outs would be Smith, and Shatty. Smith is cheaper, plays both sides, and in a pinch can play 4th line forward. I’d trade him, but would prefer he stays over the other two. The other guy would be too expensive long term, and should be traded now. Try to work out a deal with the Wild, unless that’s a team on the taboo list of Shatty. Unfortunately Staal is a fixture here, and he’s not going anywhere until his contract runs it’s course.

    Now to the good problem, I’d leave Kreider on the first line to begin with due to a few factors. He, Zib, and Buch clicked well last year, why mess with a good thing? Panarian, along with Chytle, and Kakko would be terrific as a unit. Who do you defend with these two lines working together? The third line would be Andersonn/Howden, Krats, and Strome. Not a bad line because at least two can defend, and score. Howden goes to the fourth line with Fast, and Lemieux, solid checking line that could score as well. This isn’t a bad line up if you ask me!

    All these what, when, where, why, and how will be sorted out son enough. Now everyone can see the value of young kids, who can play well, being on our roster. They give us the luxury of paying some of the other bigger named guys the salary they get. I hope the days of big contracts for UFA’s are over. We have been burnt too many times, and are still feeling the effects of these contracts!!!!!!!

    • The reason that you want to break up the KZB is because it was horrible. They were on the ice for a whopping 13 goals at even strength over the course of two seasons. And no, the reason was not limited ice time. Kreider-Zib-Fast was much better for example.

      • That may well be Joe, but look at the hoops we have to jump thru to rid ourselves of cap space, and the potential of losing some young bucks. I hate these long term deals, that many more times than not, don’t work out for us, AKA Shattenkirk!!!!!!!!!!! But as you posted this is NYC……….

  • While I wish they could find a way to keep Krieder, I just do not see how. I suspect the trade market knows we are in a bind, and feel they can get Shatty nearly free soon enough. But that will not save enough, so another player needs to go. While I wish it to be Smitth, Names or Strome, their value is severely limited.

    CK and Skjei might be our only tradable commodities

    • Anyone without an NMC. can be traded. Toronto traded Patrick Marleau, a far worse contract than the Rangers have. if one has to toss Joey Keane in to keep Kreider, it is not a prospect giveaway, it is a Keane for Kreider trade.

      Winning is about rearranging your assets to field the best team.

  • As we get closer to panic time I think we will see Gorton adding assets to move some players. Don’t be surprised if guys like Morgan Barron, Tarmo Reunnan, Joey Keane and some others are added to trades just to expedite the movements. Not to mention some assorted draft picks, especially if they want to keep Kreider. Who I believe is a goner. The league’s decision not to raise the cap is hurting a lot of teams.

    • Excellent post Cat.
      Right on the money, hence the pitfalls of signing expensive free agents.
      Panarin certainly makes us a better team, but at what cost. Personally I would have continued along the path we were on. I would have evaluated all the young talent and then look to supplement via trade(s) or select free agent signings. I applauded the Trouba trade, right cost and a position we desperately needed an upgrade.
      Now, just as Cat points out, some young talent and draft picks will have to go just to sweeten trade deals so we can be cap compliant.

  • Jerry

    Both you, and Cat above made a very good point about losing youth to get trades made. The very same point I made when discussing the contract of some of these useless players who are on huge deals, and have never produced. It is what it is, and JG will do whatever has to be done to comply!!!!!!

  • Yep, JG will have to do what he has to do.
    My problem with the situation we have now, unless JG really can work some magic, is the purpose of moving assets, some established (CK) and some young along with some draft picks will be done to be cap compliant and not to better the team.
    I’m not against trades, but the purpose of a trade should be to better your team It’s an avoidable situation to get into salary cap problems. That is solely on management.
    I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but no one has any idea just how good, or not, our youngsters will be. The fan base was actually behind the rebuild. I was proud of our fans and the support they showed. Through their support they demonstrated just how knowledgeable a fan base this team possesses.
    So, we’ll see how this plays out, but I suspect JG will be forced to give up young assets and draft picks to move salary off the books. I just hope we stay away from buyouts. We will need cap space when we become a legit contender.

    • I know it seems easy to say “just trade Strome or Namestnikov or Kevin Shattenkirk at 50%” but it’s harder than it seems….1000 percent correct…..This is why no trades have occured…And more buyouts….

      • No trades happened before the draft or July 1 is because people wanted to keep their powder dry for free agency.

        Now? A 50% retain for Shatty & Namestnikov are borderline fair value for a 3rd pair D that can play PP1-2 and a bottom 6 C/W

        • Added value for Shatty. The UFA RH defensemen pool has been picked dry. I suspect Dan Girardi is best available there. So, for those who still need an RH defenseman, Shattenkirk is a great option — and at half retained, not very expensive.

  • off topic:

    The NHL should host a stadium series: Rangers Devils, next year to showcase the #1 and #2 of the past years draft.

    and they should do it early fall, nice temps, like they do out west

    Citi or Yankee field. Mid to late October, better for fans

  • 1. Yes
    2. agree
    3. You cant buy out Strome and that would be crazy anyway….22 needs to go
    4. I guess…
    5.We shall see who works best together
    6. Andersson better than Howden by miles? Thats irresponsible. Lias doesnt belong in the NHL yet

  • 5. I don’t see the point of speculating on lines. The traditional approach – trying an assortment of combinations and seeing who has the best chemistry – seems appropriate. One could analyze, trying to find a favorable mix of good passers, good cornermen, net presence, one-timers, but nobody does that anyway that I can see. And of course there is the issue of whether you want to field one super line (which always faces top defense) or divide your talent. The Brassard-Zuc-Pouliot line was so great because it was a third line and forced the opposition to either let it run rampant, or let up on the top two Ranger lines.

    6. Lias Andersson was chosen three spots ahead of Dylan McIlrath (different years of course) and was expected to go about three spots ahead of Dylan McIlrath (Rangers overreaching in both cases). It is simply not unreasonable to consider the possibility that these two players will have similar trajectories. My personal expectation is that Andersson will return to Sweden in a couple of years. That he will be a middle six forward is optimism.

    I believe the Rangers should already have him pencilled in the Wolfpack lineup and under almost no circumstances should he start the season in NY. Mind you, I believe in managing all assets and the Hartford staff should be all-in on making him the best player he can be, and hopefully proving you right and me wrong.

    [JFTR, Rangers also overreached on Kravtsov and early indications are that this was a wise move. So overreaching isn’t necessarily wrong. It might be interesting to compare the success of “overreaches” to the success of picks that followed the “expert” forecasts.]

  • They need to make the moves neceaasry to re-sign Kerider. Not long ago the Penguins demonstrated that you can win it all with a crew of mediocre defensemen if your fowards are very good and you have at least a couple of defenders who can quarterback getting the puck out of the zone. With that in mind it seems to me that keeping Kreider should be a priority. In a couple of years if the kids mature the Rangers would be right there in the thick of competing for the cup with a group of forwards that could be pretty awesome.

  • I’ve always viewed this season as a stepping stone, nothing more. Rangers got their “men” — Panarin, Trouba, Fox and Kakko. Now what is important is for them to do whatever is necessary to shed salary, whether that hurts the team in the short run or not. If it means trading Kreider, so be it … if they can avoid that, better — assuming of course they can agree on a contract.

    What we don’t know is fatal. Maybe Kreider is demanding more than we think, maybe not … maybe Trouba is looking for $8.5-9.0M per, maybe not … maybe Buch thinks he’s worth $5M a year, maybe not. Whatever, in less than a month I suspect everything we be resolved and we can all just move on. I’m not worrying about line combos, who gets traded to make salary cap room, etc. unless I have enough facts to make informed/educated guesses.

    One thing though, don’t trade away your 1st rounder next year … and if you can accumulate a few more picks, do so. The key to being and remaining competitive is to always have that 1 (or 2) guy(s) that can step into the lineup next year — and that includes bottom 6 players, because the salaries that kill you the most are those $3-4M guys that are nothing more than 3rd liners.

  • I would like to see them keep Kreider. Although he has his moments where you don’t even know he’s on the ice he is still a solid piece.

    In each of his last two full seasons (16 goals in the year with the blood clot) he scored 28 goals. The screens he sets up in front of the net are good for 10 goals for others and he’s strong in the corners.

    Teams that win have five or more 20+ goal scorers and they’re not easy to come by. Signing him for around 7 mil is not a problem. The extension wouldn’t start until next season when Girardi’s buyout money drops by 2.5 mil. add that to Kreider’s 4.6 mil and we have the 7 mil needed. The length of the deal is where it might get sticky.

  • Krieder the name is better than Krieder the player. He is not worth $7M.

    That said, Gorton needs to make salary Cap room somehow. This is where he really earns his money. Somehow Smith will be in the AHL, Staal will be on the 3rd line and Shatty needs to be elsewhere.

    Look for inventive ways to make room – buyouts, lopsided trades and prospects included in moves. Do not envy Gorton right now.

    • I would really like them to avoid moving Smith. Shattenkirk is redundant — and has definitely started to show the effects of aging … but Smith can play D and step in on the 4th line, at least he has the ability to allow us to go with 22 roster players instead of 23 — and that would also mean some cap savings. I’m not suggesting this is the optimal solution to the cap crunch, but it could be an asset in that fight.

      • Smith allows going with 21. They typically go with 22 anyway.

        I greatly prefer moving Shattenkirk to Smith and I would agree that one likely should not sacrifice to move Smith. But if someone offered a fourth round draft pick for Smith at $500K retained salary, I’d grab it. I wouldn’t want to do 50% retained though. As he can replace two players, that is really no savings at all.

  • Gees, it appears that the universal conciseness is that Shatty has to be moved due the pace of the game, his cost, his inability to defend, he’s redundant. Wow, hey James please ask all the posters to stop being critical of Kevin, or maybe we all dislike his game!!!!!!!!!!

      • Like the saying goes you can’t fix stupid and you guys are proof of it. I actually stated facts and gave you information, but you refuse to listen. If you really think that of Staal, Smith and Shattenkirk that Shattenkirk is the issue then good for you I guess.

        • Boooooooooooooooo….you hurt my feelings! 22 is hot garbage out there…I don’t know how you don’t see it. He can’t play a lick of defense…He is beyond soft…slow …wants no part of the physical game. I don’t care what the heat map says

          • Honestly someone who said Marc Staal is good a defenseman shouldn’t be lecturing anyone

          • Hahaha I won’t say Staal is good…he is a good Ranger soldier but he is shot too…Bad eye and concussions ruined his career

    • He’s redundant because we got both Trouba and Fox, prior to those two moves however he wasn’t THAT redundant.Of course if we buried Fox for 53 games down in the AHL and had Shattenkirk as a 3rd pairing RD that would at least save us the 2nd rounder to Carolina. The issue here is he’s the biggest headache capwise.

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