Only one question for the mailbag this week, but it’s a long one. As always, use the widget on the right to submit your questions to be added to this piece.
This is a tough question to answer since the roster is relatively incomplete right now. The Rangers are over the cap ceiling, assuming they sign their four key RFAs to about $14 million:
- Jacob Trouba – $7.5 million
- Pavel Buchnevich – $3.2 million
- Tony DeAngelo – $2.5 million
- Brendan Lemieux – $1.5 million
That means something needs to happen. Let’s assume Matt Beleskey and Brendan Smith don’t get traded but are in the AHL. Jeff Gorton is also on record saying they expect Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, and Brett Howden to fill in the depth down the middle:
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) July 13, 2019
While we aren’t surprised by this, it does notably leave out Ryan Strome as a potential center. That’s important to note, especially if you think that one of those kids has a future on the wing, not at center. That would shift these kids up a line, but then you have the issue of the 4C, which is not what Strome’s future with this club is. Perhaps I’m overly analyzing this. But I thought it was interesting that Strome wasn’t mentioned as a center, which is what he played last season.
This probably doesn’t mean much, but it leads me to believe the Rangers are going to try to unload Strome and/or Vlad Namestnikov to free up the cap space, instead of Chris Kreider. Now of course that is easier said than done, since competing teams don’t really have much cap space to do a Jimmy Vesey-esque cap dump. Trading them both solves their issues for the most part. Let’s go with that, and that Kevin Shattenkirk gets dealt at 50%. I think that’s a fair assumption. Some roster player will come back, perhaps a LD or a spare forward.
So let’s go with this:
- Forwards (13): Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Fast, Kakko, Chytil, Anderson, Howden, Lemieux, Buchnevich, Kravtsov, Nieves, McKegg. Replace any of the last 3 with a forward acquired in one of those trades. Yes, I’m lumping in Kravtsov here because if he doesn’t make the top-nine, he’s not starting in the NHL.
- Defense (7): Staal, Trouba, Skjei, Fox, Hajek, DeAngelo, 7D back in trade?
- Goalie (2): Hank, Georgiev
That’s what I have pegged right now, but of course that can change if the Blueshirts get bowled over with an offer for Kreider, or they can’t seem to get to an agreement on an extension. He’s the true wild card, since he will either be in camp with an extension, or won’t be with the Rangers. It’s one or the other. The club won’t let this drag on during the season.
The roster listed above might surprise people and make the playoffs, but it’s a borderline one at best. But it’s still an exciting roster to watch, and one I’d be happy with.