The NY Rangers are beginning the 2020 offseason this week, as the NHL Draft Lottery (Part 2) is tomorrow. It’s just the first step in the offseason for the Rangers, with difficult decisions abound. From the draft to the restricted free agents to the difficult decisions, the Rangers have a chance to take a big step forward this offseason. They can also completely derail the rebuild with a few wrong decisions.
The Rangers have a 12.5% chance at picking first overall. That would land them Alexis Lafreniere, a bonafide stud LW that would upgrade the team from dangerous to downright lethal on offense. If that doesn’t happen, the Rangers could draft anywhere from #9-#11 (I think).
NYR's best possible 1st round picks: #1 & #19
NYR's worst possible 1st round picks: #11 & #31
(someone please correct me if I'm wrong)
— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) August 8, 2020
The Rangers also have the Carolina pick, which now depends on how far Carolina goes in the playoffs. They are a legitimate contender to come out of the East, but will need some luck in dealing with Tampa Bay and/or Philadelphia. HSM laid out the scenarios.
The draft also presents an opportunity to trade up or down, depending on who is available at when the Rangers pick. Missing out on Lafreniere isn’t a huge deal since the draft is very deep. The Rangers have two 1sts, no 2nds (Adam Fox trade) and 2 3rds to use as chips to trade up. They also have some expensive and/or redundant RFAs that could be used as chips.
The Restricted Free Agents
The highlight of the 2020 offseason for the NY Rangers, the Big Three RFAs are Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, and Alex Georgiev. An argument can be made that all three are either redundant, a luxury, or just too expensive to keep. This is the area that can completely derail the rebuild.
Without getting into the debate of where all three stand in the organization, the Rangers will need to eventually make a decision on how to manage their extensions and/or trade scenarios. There’s a possibility to package two of them for a roster upgrade. There’s also a possibility to package them with picks to move up at the draft.
Given some of the talent coming up in the draft, and where the Rangers currently sit in their rebuild, it might make sense to trade all three. There are still too many pieces on the roster that are not a part of the future, and timing this rebuild right is the only way to have it work for sustained success.
The Tough Decisions
This brings us to the tough decisions. First and foremost is Henrik Lundqvist. He isn’t a viable trade option in a flat cap era, even with 50% retained. The only two options are Hank retiring, which is a possibility, and the Rangers buying him out, which seems like less of a possibility, but still there (or just ride it out for a year). Buying out Hank results in just $3 million in savings for 2020-2021, and a $1.5 million cap hit for 2021-2022. That isn’t much of a savings for buying out the best goalie in franchise history. It’s a decision I’m glad I don’t have to make.
Another tough decision is what to do with Jesper Fast. The UFA is coming off a deal in which he carried a $1.85 million cap hit. He’s due for a raise. Our friends at Evolving-Hockey have him projected at around 3-4 years and around $3 million annually. That’s a lot for Fast, who is a Rangers every-man who can play middle-six and bottom-six with relative ease. He doesn’t put up points though. The question is whether or not $3 million is worth it for what will eventually be a 3rd or 4th line role. Remember the Rangers already have Kaapo Kakko and Pavel Buchnevich as their eventual top two RWs. Vitali Kravtsov is hopefully on the way soon. Where does Fast fit?
The borderline tough decision left is with Marc Staal. Another career Ranger, his $5.7 million cap hit for next season is also unmoveable. He won’t get traded. There’s *maybe* some GM who sees Staal as a rock on the blue line who will take him at 50%, but that’s highly unlikely. A buyout only saves the Rangers $2.1 million for 2020-2021 and costs them $1.06 in 2021-2022. He too could retire, but he’d be passing up on $3.2 million in salary.