It is unlikely the NY Rangers re-sign all their “key” free agents

Without fail, once Henrik Lundqvist buyout rumors surfaced, the extra cap space was connected to the five key free agents the NY Rangers have this offseason. The main story of the offseason, beyond Hank, was what the Rangers would do with these five players. No matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion. Trade, re-sign, short term, long term, sign and trade. So many options.

If the Rangers do buyout Lundqvist, the Rangers will have $17 million in cap space to work with. In theory, that’s enough to re-sign the four RFAs –Alex Georgiev, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Ryan Strome– and Jesper Fast. This assumes short term deals for both DeAngelo and Strome, but it’s still workable. This, however, is a highly unlikely scenario.

Making Improvements

At the end of the season, GM Jeff Gorton all but confirmed the Rangers will be making moves to improve the team. This was before winning the draft lottery and landing Alexis Lafreniere. A team doesn’t get better by bringing back the exact same team as the prior season. They get better by identifying who is part of the long term future, and maximizing value on the other players.

Development matters, and a team as young as the Rangers will naturally improve as long as prospects continue their development pattern. However for the Rangers, they need more than that. This is a flawed team with holes at center and left defense. Re-signing all five players doesn’t address those holes, and the Rangers don’t have many in-house options to make a real improvement.

Thus leaves us with the more realistic scenario that at least one of these players is used to fill a roster hole. How the Rangers do this is yet to be seen. The basic premise is dealing from a position of strength (wing, RD, G) to improve on one of those weak spots. It’s not a guarantee it happens immediately, but it will at some point.

Unique Cap Situation

The NHL is facing a one of a kind cap situation this season. With an extreme cut to revenue due to COVID-19, multiple teams are implementing an internal salary cap next season. The Buffalo Sabres have already made a trade to imply their internal cap. As have the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are other teams in this mix as well.

The Rangers, with James Dolan as owner, are primed to take advantage of such teams. Specifically with Georgiev, who will be cheaper (dollars) than almost all of the other goalies on the market. Of course there are complications with trading Georgiev, especially if Lundqvist is bought out, but it’s still an option.

The Rangers are blessed with some cheap assets that could be used to pry a better and more expensive player. Vince Dunn is the target I’ve hyped here, but there are other targets to look at. Players on back loaded contracts fit the bill here.

It May Not Be Enough Cap Space

Believe it or not, there’s still a chance that $17 million isn’t enough cap space to keep everyone. Arbitration may side favorably for both Strome and DeAngelo, meaning the $11 million slotted above may not be enough. Where does the rest of the money come from?

All of the cap space discussions operate under the assumption that short term deals will be agreed upon, or arbitration will be favorable for the Rangers. Neither of those are a given.There’s a realistic scenario where the NY Rangers simply can’t afford to keep all five free agents. Even if you think keeping them will improve the team, it’s hard to argue with cap space.

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  • Good article. Some combination of signings and trades will hopefully make the team stronger than last year. It is not going to be a simple off-season for RFA’s around the league.

  • “A team doesn’t get better by bringing back the exact same team as the prior season.”

    That’s a tricky statement Dave … there’s no reason a YOUNG team can’t improve by just sticking with the team as constituted — and adding a player like Lafreniere in the draft. Not that I’m suggesting we shouldn’t be tweaking the team, especially the bottom 6.

    Let’s not overreact to the play-in series loss, especially if you believe that Tony D played on a bad hamstring, no Fast for the series and no Shesty for the first 2 games.

    • Amen to this. The team was actually good at the end of the season and I add one additional point on the Carolina series. It was three (!) games against one team. You don’t make sweeping conclusions based on so little data.

      Underlining your thoughts about a YOUNG team, the Rangers’ worst full season forward last year was Kaapo Kakko (probably worst full season player). In this slot alone, we expect to replace an awful player with a good one. Adam Fox did not kill penalties last year because DQ did not want to give him too much to handle in his rookie year. Expect Fox to be a complete defenseman this year. Without Lundqvist and with Fox, we can expect the PK to be much improved. The young and talented Mr. Gauthier really contributed almost nothing last year and really counts as a new addition.

      So Lafreniere, Kakko, Gauthier give the Rangers three new forwards without making a move and I expect Chityl to take another step forward as well. Finally, if Miller can follow in McDonagh’s footsteps as a midseason call-up with impact, the defense will also be a lot better come playoff time.

      Mind you, I would still trade Smith for additional cap relief and acquire two inexpensive veteran third pair left defensemen. If the kids don’t come through and Staal is awful, you can put Staal as 7D and the LD won’t be atrocious. OTOH, if Hajek or Miller or another kid puts it together – or if Staal is having a good stretch – these guys can be sent to Hartford.

      I think the Rangers have as good a chance as anyone to win the Cup next year – but I don’t think they should compromise their bright future to increase their chances.

      • Amen to that … I was just as disappointed as others with the quick exit, but clearly this was a team that could ill afford injuries to key players like DeAngelo, Fast and Shesty —- and yes I consider Fast a key player, especially in the light of the fact that DQ relied very heavily on him, too heavily in fact to allow the younger players to step in and get the “situational” ice time necessary to be able to handle certain key roles on the team.

        I don’t expect every younger player to improve, but I won’t be surprised to see a better Howden, Kakko, Chytil, Fox, Lindgren … maybe even a Hajek. Lafreniere can probably be penciled in for 50+ points and there’s always the possibility some rookie will step up and play beyond expectations, so NO I’m not worried about the team overall.

        Tweaks are fine, but it’s premature to start making any major changes beyond trying to free up some money here and there — Hank, Smith and/or Staal. I’m fine with keeping one of Staal or Smith, either can still be useful providing “adequate” play in limited roles and veteran leadership.

  • Can’t put off the arbitration like prior years as both Strome and DeAngelo are too valuable to walk away from an unfavorable arbitration award. No way Gorton pulls a “Zherdev” and lets these guys walk for nothing.

  • I don’t think $17M is quite enough actually. Assuming the Rangers caqrry 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies, that $17M must pay for five forwards, two defensemen and Georgiev. Which means all of the free agents plus three more guys. So throw in Lafreniere with Hajek and McKegg as placeholders. If they can sign Georgiev and Lemieux for $2.5M combined (and Richter94 would call me optimistic here), that leaves roughly $12M for Strome, DeAngelo, and Fast. Even with short term deals for Strome and DeAngelo, this seems unlikely.

    Now if they can add $3M by trading Smith and replacing him with a $1M player, they should be able to make the numbers work – even perhaps with a longer term deal for TDA.

    • Where is the beef? We are still too soft and teams will take advantage………We must add some sandpaper…..We have an elite player that is being added to the team. He is feisty and will not shy away from anyone, but we cannot have any of our youngsters get pummeled…no freaking way….

      • Rocky Ranger
        I agree. Watching the last 8 teams play the team needs some real nasty and not 1 designated brawler. Lemieux is alone. How in the world did Skjei go unpunished? The puck should have been dropped in his corner all series and he should have been punished nightly. I dont care if it was a good hit. He took advantage of a teammate and no one answered, Chris Kreider.Panarin, Zibanejad, Fox and Shesterkin are the untouchables. If Lafreniere is drafted he will need an escort, someone to get him some ice, unless he has Barzal moves (the kid is an eye opener). Everyone else is an asset. If DeAngelo was hurt,
        shame on the coach, GM and Team Pres…how do you let a “key” play and risk further injury? Would you want to play for these guys? Dave is right about changing the lineup. Do the same experiment time after time and expect a different answer? Thats why the rebuilt was launched. Hope the GM can do something good with the hand he dealt himself. Those long term contracts with NMC/NTC ruined us in the past and will bite us again, for sure.

        • Kreider should have belted the guy.. Kreider is so strong and sometimes I wonder if Chris is afraid of his own strengthans that he is going to seriously injure someone. I knwo Chris is not that type of player, but he could have sent a message…

          • Agreed with most of Rocky’s comments on this post. But, not where he gives Kreider a pass with the afraid of his own strength part. He doesn’t stand at the crease and say sorry if I am in your way. He uses his size and strength to his advantage. He gets paid for what he is, not who he is.

            Also, agree with Rocky (jeff was in on this too) The Rangers need some nasty, otherwise somebody is going to get hurt. As the playoffs showed us, other teams big men, play big. Most anyway.

        • “Do the same experiment time after time and expect a different answer?”

          Team toughness grows with confidence and maturity, some players just need “time” to develop the proper edge … and I fail to see the example of the same experiment time after time. This was a young and inexperienced team, they need a little time and experience to develop an “all for one, one for all attitude”. You can’t rely on one or two players to provide toughness, it’s a team attitude where any given player may step up and deliver the toughness required in any given situation.

          • tanto

            “time” to develop the proper edge …

            What are you talking about? Living here in central PA, I get the flyer games, and recall Rick Tocchet as a rookie pounding the faces of many older players, and made a hell of a name for himself. In so doing, he earned the right to skate the entire ice surface, and plenty of the other dudes wouldn’t go anywhere near him. If you’re nasty, or have a mean streak, they avoid you. If your soft, you get a target placed on your back.

            Having said this, we need to rid ourselves of plenty of our players who are soft, and replace them with young guys who have heart, and willing to defend themselves. Just look at the two teams in the finals. Tampa went out and got some nasty players who can play the game. That team is no longer pushed around. Dallas played Vegas, and Ryan Reaves. Jamie Benn stood his ground, got pissed off, and carried the team on his back. Those are the type of players JG was talking about, when he said he wants us to be a harder team to play against.

            The following are the ones I’d dump in a heartbeat:
            Staal, mister jello.
            Gauthier if he won’t defend himself, he’s big enough.
            Strome, isn’t nasty enough for my blood.
            Fast, won’t be resigned so he’ll be replaced.
            Buch really has never come close to defending himself.

            We have plenty of skill, and adding to it with Alexis, who is tough to play against. Put together a tough 4th line that can skate, and is tough, I’ll be a happy camper!!!!!!!!

          • well there was that one glorious moment when Buch got Marchand from behind for his cheap shot on Lindgren in the crease. I like to think the world was a Buchnevich fan that day.

          • wwpd

            Even a broken clock is right twice a day, isn’t it? He gave Marchand a shot from behind, and ran like hell is more like it.

            For the record, I care for Buch, but I’d still move him for a skilled player with grit!!!!!!!!!!

          • Tanto…Respectfully disagree with you here. I assume we are hockey fans first and NYR fans second. I generally like the job JG has done and its amazing what scouts can do with draft positions. The team needs to have toughness….not fighters, but guys who can get that battery running every shift and be hard to play against. That doesn’t take time, it takes gumptionThose that can’t need to be gone. Hard to do I get it…these guys are people first and that needs to be accounted for as well. Its a tough league and needs players who respect that, the money they make, the dangers (both physical and mental)they face (Lias anyone?) and the city and team they play for.

          • I agree Jeff, but there are a lot of players with enough toughness that don’t display all that moxi right off the bat when they come into the League — they don’t understand that the skill discrepancy that got them through Junior or some foreign league like the DEL, SHL, KHL, etc. isn’t enough in the NHL.

            Over time the light bulb goes off and some (certainly not all or perhaps not even the majority) come to understand that they need to add other elements to their game to round it out.

            Guys like Trouba and ADA that have always played with a combo of skill and a bit of snarl aren’t THAT common. To wit, a guy like Buch, has made great strides in that regard over the course of the last 3 years … when he’s on he plays a grittier game — certainly much more of a gritty game then when he first came into League. Whether he does it enough is another question, but my point is to simply point out that players adjust and grow, some need to up their skill, some need to up their compete, some need to upgrade … well you get the idea.

          • “I agree Jeff, but there are a lot of players with enough toughness that don’t display all that moxi right off the bat when they come into the League —”.
            ^You obviously haven’t been paying attention to player’s who were in their early 20s vs late 20s.

            Dude’s like Boone Jenner from Columbus, I see a lot of people around here want to trade for him.. He was a freaking wrecking ball in his early days with Columbus, same went for Rick Nash and later on those two stop taking the body as much..

            Big names like Crosby were deff more chippy in the 2009-13 era. Getzlaf was a mean S.O.B in his early days vs what he showed in the last 3-4 seasons. The same went for calibre player’s such as Subban, Datsyuk, Toews, Bergeron, Parise etc. Those guy’s were playing chippy hockey in their early days once upon entering the league.

            Physical D men from the past decade+ from Orpik, Kronwall, Phaneuf, Campbell and Volchenkov all started to slow down compared to what they use to bring. Age wasn’t a factor neither for more than half of them. It’s that other teams caught on where those collisions would happen and started to avoid them.

            Bottom line: They either have it in them or they don’t. Everyone isn’t built like Ovi who continues to run through 97% of other teams. Komarov use to drop fools on a nightly basis in Toronto, but age has crept up and others know where he likes to hit so they watch out for him. Kadri use to go for those big back door hits and now not so much because player’s are aware of it..

            If anything that the NHL has taught us… It’s that player’s tend to slow down due yo various reasons such as they age. They usually never become more physical, that is a pretty rare occasion to see actually.

          • NotsoAvery

            Damn, I agree, and that’s the point I was trying to make when I mentioned Rick Tocchet. Thumbs up!!!!!

      • Building on my post on another column here, Matt Martin would add that sandpaper, but salary demand and one- dimensional type player not worth it… We can look elsewhere for the player that we are looking for.

  • Oh what a BEAUTIFUL day today is.

    some storm last night, all that Lightening and yet today is SOOOOO Beautiful.


  • The only way the Rangers will get better is by playing the young guys and letting them develop. Hiding them on the fourth line will help the team do better now but will not lead to a Stanley Cup. Management must decide what their goal is and get the coach on board.

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