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With the trade deadline just over a month away, rumors have been flying surrounding some big names on the New York Rangers roster. Most notable in the past 72 hours has been Chris Kreider, who will become an unrestricted free agent as his four-year contract expires at the end of the season.
Based on how specific the information released is — and because it has come from a insider source in TSN’s Darren Dreger — it seems that the Rangers trading Kreider is extremely feasible.
The team will need to put up $6 million toward the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout next year. In addition, the decision to invest in players like Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, who both have larger price tags, simply means there is more money tied up.
While trading Kreider will resolve the decision around one player will be looking for a long term contract and alleviate some of the hit on the cap, there are others who need to be evaluated for extensions.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the things management will have to take a look at.
Those Bridge Deals
The Rangers signed five players to one to three-year deals between 2017 and 2019.
Jesper Fast’s three-year contract ends at the end of the season. Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemeiux each signed one-year contracts this summer that will make them both restricted free agents at the end of the year. Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich each signed a two-year deals that will expire in 2021.
In light of this past week, perhaps most notable to mention is Tony DeAngelo. The 24-year-old is having a breakout year, meaning the next contract the Rangers give him will likely be more significant than if they had committed to more years last season.
While cap was tight (hence the Shattenkirk buyout) management may been able to get a deal done with just a bit more cash for a larger amount of years.
DeAngelo would be looking like a total bargain right now.
With the logjam on the right side, will the Rangers really invest what they would have to keep DeAngelo on? Unless the coaches can get creative with a solution, he may have to take his success elsewhere.
Jesper Fast has been a staple on the Rangers offense since 2014. In his last six seasons in the league, he has established himself most important two-way forwards on the roster.
The Rangers extended him for three years in 2017. It’s hard to say how the conversation may have gone, but why not offer him five or even six years at the $2 million a year mark, get him into his 30s with the team and then consider next steps. (The answer could be that Fast didn’t want this — who knows).
Regardless, the reality is that Fast will now need another negotiation, extension and payment increase. And the question is will the Rangers continue to invest in a glue guy?
It could be argued that Pavel Buchnevich deserved his bridge deal. With solid (but not outstanding) numbers over his first three seasons, he is still looking for his break out season. Buchnevich’s two-year deal valued at $3.25 per is already on the higher end. When re-negotiation does happen, he will inevitably be looking for more money and more years.
This is one area where it is essential the Rangers invest. The Rangers forward prospect pool is not nearly as deep as their defense and keeping Buchnevich on will impact them for years to come.
Finally, Lemieux and Strome are the most dispensable players signed to bride deals and could likely generate good return on the market. These two have not been around quite as long as the aforementioned players, but have made a big impact. Lemieux has won the hearts of fans due to his gritty, physical play and Strome has thrived playing on a line with Panarin.
These things make them fun to have on the roster, but management needs to take advantage of their success, dump their contracts, and make room for everything else that is to come. See below.
Entry Level Contracts
Brady Skjei is one of the only long-term deal the Rangers have inked with a player off an entry-level contract. It is unfortunate to see him as the sole seeing that his play under Lindy Ruff for the last handful of seasons has not been great.
This reliance on bridge deals seen in the last few seasons could be attributed to management wanting to see what comes of some of the talent currently playing under entry-level contracts. And if this trend continues, it will be dangerous.
In 2021, players like Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko, Ryan Lindgren and by 2022 Adam Fox and Igor Shesterrkin will all need decisions made on their future with the organization.
When it comes to these type of players, management cannot afford drag these players along until they’re ready to commit.
It is essential that the Rangers deeply evaluate these players and commit to investing in their development and success within the franchise. Something that arguably has been missing thus far in these rebuild years.
Wanting to wait to be sure a player is worth investing in is understandable. However, committing to some sort of future and establishing some of these players as essential can help direct management in future acquisitions.
Yes, it hard to fully predict how players might develop coming out of these contracts, but the Rangers need to start to look to invest their young players on a longer-term basis.
I am not saying it should happen with every player — obviously, you can’t have countless long term contracts to the point where they become burdensome. However, dealing with the five plus RFAs and UFAs from year-to-year is equally as difficult.
Relying on judgement, trusting in your staff’s ability to develop talent, investing in youth now rather than needing to re-negotiate every two to three years will allow more time to focus on seeking out the best fit for the core of players you have chosen to lead your team.
This will only lead to more focus, more growth, and more success in the years to come.