Business of Hockey

The Rangers have a cap crunch, but it’s not as bad as you may think

One of the stories heading into the trade deadline and the offseason is how the Rangers are going to manage their cap. Heading into the offseason, the Rangers have 14 players signed for $65 million committed (per CapFriendly – includes the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout). If you anticipate an $84.5 million cap ceiling (about a 5% increase), then the Rangers will have $19.5 million to fill out the roster. It’s tight, but not untenable.

The big question is how they are going to manage UFAs Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast, and RFAs Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome. Alex Georgiev is getting omitted from the conversation for now. If the Rangers wanted to keep everyone, then it would be a big cap crunch. But the reality of the situation is that they not only won’t keep everyone, they likely don’t want to keep everyone.

For the sake of the post, let’s assume the following cap hits, knowing full well these are not necessarily accurate (theme of this post – it’s impossible to talk specifics so let’s work with broad strokes):

  • Kreider: $6.75 million
  • Fast: $3 million
  • DeAngelo: $5 million
  • Strome: $5 million

That’s $85 million and 18 players. Over the cap and under the roster threshold. Naturally a problem. But let’s look at this logically for a second. One of these players is Brendan Smith, who will carry a $4.35 million cap hit for only $3.35 million in actual salary. That goes to $2.35 million after his bonus is paid out on July 1. The Ottawa Senators should be all over this, especially considering their entire roster is turning over. They’ve made trades like this before. Smith’s NTC makes things tricky, but I’m still banking on this happening. So let’s eliminate his salary. That puts the Rangers at 17 players and $4 million or so to work with.

Add Vitali Kravtsov, and it’s 18 players and about $3 million to work with. Three minimum salary players gets the Rangers to a roster of 21 and right around the cap. That seems to work – and this assumes they want to keep everyone. That’s certainly unrealistic. The reality of the situation is that at least one of the free agent skaters isn’t going to be back, and that Alex Georgiev will likely be traded.

The risk here, by keeping everyone, is that there is very little room for bonus overages and injury coverage. The Rangers are going to want some kind of relief, and that will come from one of the free agents. For the sake of the post, let’s say they keep three of these key free agents and shed about $4 million total in either letting players walk or trades that bring back a roster player. Again, it’s not an exact science and I’m not going to go into trade scenarios, let’s just stick to salary. Add in another minimum salary player (Yegor Rykov? Libor Hajek?), and the cap situation is much better.

The cap situation is certainly one to keep an eye on for the Rangers – they can’t keep everyone. But it’s not a huge crunch where the Rangers will be left with very little flexibility. It’s as simple as finding a suitor for Smith (hello Ottawa) and then finding the right trade for one of the free agents. Not a huge cause for concern. At least not yet.

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  • The cap is really manageable but the Ranger refuse to get rid of the players that are causing the cap problems. Those players, they like, for some reason.

    • who are you talking about that refuse to get rid of. They traded almost the whole team over 2 yrs.?? Your comment without names makes no sense.

      • Since I guess you don’t watch the Rangers and you didn’t read Dave’s article, Joe K—the players with terrible contracts in question here are Brendan Smith and Marc Staal.

  • Things could look much brighter if they trade off Fast, Strome, Smith, and Hank retires early.
    Wait one more season then the pylon, and Hank come off the books, that’s if Hank stays the length of his contract, along with Shatty’s contract coming off the books, we will be in very good shape!!!!!!!!

  • I don’t like the idea of a Staal buyout but if worse comes to worst then a $1.2 million add to the cap may be a necessity. It would free up about $2.1 million add in Rykov at around $900,000 and there’s that.

    We would have to suck up around a million in 21-22 but cap space would be more abundant.

  • Thank you Dave, nice article. While the Rangers certainly have a cap crunch, you are quite correct that they should be able to manage it. It won’t be easy for them to keep their best players, but it isn’t impossible.

  • A wishful thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if Stahl retires at the end of the year and the rangers scratch his back with a job in the organization at his last year salary. Is that legal and wouldn’t it help both the cap and play on the ice?

  • Its not a huge problem, but obtaining good depth will be extremely difficult. Hard to believe we will have an improved fourth line if we are in a situation where we have to add multiple minimum salary players.

    I guess its just a situation that we’ll have to deal with, at least until the big cap hits come off the books next season.

  • Their not trading Georgiev for 2/3 rounder or a bottom 6 player. Can they get more at the draft…possibly? But unless it’s a first or top 6 player he’s not being moved. The history of backup goalies commanding those assets is minimal. In my opinion Lundqvist accepts a trade with the rangers picking up 5 to 6 mill or he’s bought out. Dave I know you stated you’re not ready for this but this goes against everything your advanced metrics stand for. There should be no emotion with asset management. None whatsoever. I love hank. The Rangers best goalie ever but it’s time to move on.

    • Teams can only retain a maximum of 50% of a player’s cap hit. That’s $4.25M. Would any team take on Lundqvist at $4.25M? I seriously doubt it.

    • The thing is, all the metrics point to Hank being the better goalie today, and Georgiev playing a little over his head.

      Georgiev nets something tangible in a trade. Hank does not.

      • What so-called advanced goalie metrics actually say is that Henrik Lundqvist is the most unlucky goalie in the history of the world. At a certain point, you need to acknowledge the simple truth that the primary contributor to the quantity of high danger shots is Hank himself. Nothing else makes sense.

        Based on this year alone, the numbers are fairly inconclusive. But it hardly matters as we are talking about the backup and the money is fairly small. As you say, Georgiev has trade value.

        Personally, I expect Lundqvist to be complicit in a buyout so that he can seek a team that will play him – if such a team exists. He can’t really want to be the second stringer and, unlike Georgiev, Shesterkin seems to have demonstrated real superiority.


        Oddly, I suspect the best thing for the cap and rebuild is to trade Georgiev and keep Hank – but I don’t think that is best for Hank.

  • fast can be replaced for a cheaper option. good 3rd line or 4th line but he should have a lot more points than he does skating with panarin

  • “The cap situation is certainly one to keep an eye on for the Rangers – they can’t keep everyone. But it’s not a huge crunch where the Rangers will be left with very little flexibility.” This article factor in 0 roster improvements. Is it all going to be within? Are players exceeding there norms this year going to do it again, this seems really speculative.

    • Subtracting Smith, adding Kravtsov should help, but three minimum salary players likely have around same impact as DiGiusppe, McKegg etc. Maybe Georgiev return helps. But I think you are left with a lot of maybes.

  • We need to rid ourselves of Fast & Strome and then see if Krieder will take $6.8M for 4 years. If he won’t, ship him off as well.

    There is no easy solution to the Hank ro Staal issue. Maybe we can get one of them to retire, but I doubt it.

  • I still think the key contract to move is Brady Skjei. At this point, Brady appears to be the #5 defenseman and the Rangers are likely to keep the top four long term. With guys like Rykov, Keane, Miller, Lundqvist, Robertson in the pipeline, there is a good chance he won’t even be third pair — at over $5M???

    The key to moving bad contracts is to move them before everyone realizes they are bad. I think the Rangers can trade Skjei with no salary retained and actually get something in return. Much easier than dealing Hank, Staal, or Smith.

    And this move not only makes the next year manageable; it also helps with the cap hit down the road.

  • Unless the Czar goes backwards and Georgiev gets moved…. only way Hank becomes the number 1 Ranger backstop once again…..Igor is the real deal….leadership knows this so if Hank wants out… then they will accommodate his request if someone comes calling….AKA- Avs

  • I rarely ever reply to a message board as everyone is entitled to their opinion, and possibilities are endless.

    But to see the first few comments by Richter1994 and Far Queue are completely ridiculous in the realm of reality that is the NHL and how GMs/teams work.

    To put it simply, do you not Think that if Staal or Brendan Smith were even relatively close to easy, possible, or doable, that Gorton would have already moved them the last 2 years? I mean you have a a 33 year old D who the organization would prefer to not dress each night and sit in the press box making $5.7M, and a Stockpile of talent waiting in the wings. His $5.7M is a Ridiculously hard contract to move with his 2020-21 cap hit. Along with Brendan Smith at $4.4M for 2020-21 on a contract that was regretted before the ink was dry, who came in to camp out of shape, and literally so desperate to find a place for he’s played as a F more than as a D. You do realize to drop either Staal or Smith Gorton would have to sacrifice talent/picks And retain $. Purely look at Shattenkirk as a prime example, if it was even remotely possible to do he himself wouldn’t be on the books next year for a $6M buyout cap hit.

    The Rangers have Finally been on the right path with not only Keeping their own draft picks but shipping out players in contract years for Multiple picks and assets. Then in turn utilizing said picks for players like Adam Fox(2 2nds, from CAR). Ryan Spooner from the R. Nash trade turned into Ryan Strome from EDM. K. Hayes got you the 1st that turned into Trouba(also sending N. Pionk who I personally was a fan of to WPG with their OWN 1st). All Great moves.

    Lundqvist falls almost in the same category as per his 3-year steady decline and Huge 2020-21 $8.5M cap hit next year make him just as difficult to move, add in a NMC and his want to stay in NY, and imagine how Gorton feels. Go take a look at Henriqs GAA and SV% from the 2016-17 season to now. For a team to look at him it is 40-50% retained $ and literally just a salary dump at this point for the Rangers, if not US having to give up a pick/prospect to shed his contract. Sure at that point a team may be interested in hoping he could regain King Henrik status for a reinvigorated playoff run, but that is just that, a hope, a big one at that. While in trading for Georgiev you get a young goalie who has flashed plus upside, 25 years old, and an RFA next year meaning his raise would equal out to a $2-2.5M cap hit, which is 30% of what Lundqvist would cost and possibly the Same level of play, or better.

    Strome, non starter, I foresee Gorton and the Rangers resigning him, it will probably take $4-5M and probably a 4-5Y deal, less we do the ole NYR beloved ‘bridge deal’. Strome’s chemistry with Panarin, your $11M man, and top line duo production is just not something you screw with at this point. Gorton knows this. Think back to the last time the NYRs had a top line production of this high a level… let me know when you can name the players.

    Side note. Why do you think ‘Dave’ is saying ”Hello Ottawa” and only has Smith going out After his $1M Bonus is paid in July 1st? Because if it was even a slim inconceivable possibility the NYRs had any takers… he would of been gone already. Same goes for Staal as I said.

    All those great trades of pending FA talent and smart acquisitions that paid off have netted you Kakko/Kravtsov/Miller/Lundkvist in the draft, along with Strome/DeAngelo/Trouba/Fox in trades. You swapped multiple players on the wrong side of 30 for young players in or heading into their prime. You already have Shattenkirk’s buyout at $6M next year. You make it work for the next 15 months until Smith/Staal/Lundqvist/Shattenkirk come off the books for $25 Million Dollars in freed up cap space, and you then Truly make your run at the Cup for 3-5 years.

    As far as what happens/needs to happen this trade deadline.. Fast is replaceable, we need the cap space. Love a glue guy/locker room guy but that’s the NHL. Igor is the future, we have the goalie whisperer Benoit Allaire and multiple possible quality backups (Huska, Lindbom, Wall) already in the pipeline. You get what you can for Fast, you take your Top 9 NHL ready F for Georgiev, and you reap the Bountiful Plentiful rewards for Kreider of a 1st/top prospect/and a conditional pick… Less of course you get a bite(dump) for Skjei as we are Overloaded on right Dmen, and then you can keep Kreider, though the Joey Keane trade for Julien Gauthier from CAR makes that look less likely as Gauthier is 6’4 225lb Kreider-esque in the making player with only a $1.1M cap hit for 2020-21 and 8 years younger than Kreider.

    That, my friends is the reality of the situation, and how the NHL/teams/ and GMs work. Any GM would love to be in the position that Gorton has put himself in. Any GM would also applaud how well he has done his job over the last 3 years. I as a diehard, lifelong New York Rangers fan, sure as hell do.

    If you actually read this far.. thanks!


    • Agreed. See what you can get for CK, AD, Fast.

      LA will be the next Fast, Strome you can extend below market (he’s found a home; pairs nicely with Breadman – consider the fact he had opportunities with EDM and NYI)

      Do people forget we’ll have to bridge the youngings – Chytil, Fox, Kaako (if he pans out, he’ll command up to 8 mil.), probably Buch too.

      I hope Kratsov pans out. I don’t want NYR to risk a future dynasty for a potential cup in couple years (if they resign CK and AD)

      At a time like this I’m reminded of Godfather; nothing personal, it’s business.

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