At 5pm today, the NHL buyout period opens. This is the time when all eyes will be on the NY Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, as a buyout looms. It is expected that the NY Rangers will buyout the last year of Lundqvist’s contract. The question doesn’t appear to be if, but when.
It Won’t Be Immediately
The Rangers won’t buyout Lundqvist as soon as the buyout period opens. They may not even buy him out this weekend. They still have options. There is the second buyout window, which the Rangers will almost assuredly have available to them. Kevin Shattenkirk was bought out during this window, as the Rangers kicked the can down the road with him. Expect them to do the same with Lundqvist.
However unlikely, there is still the potential for a trade. If the Rangers don’t have to carry the dead cap space this year and next, that is preferable. It’s unlikely, but this is a weird offseason.
It May Not Even Happen
Less likely than a trade, but it’s still possible the Rangers don’t even buy him out. A team, wanting to jump the goalie market, may make an offer for Alex Georgiev that Jeff Gorton would be a fool to turn down.
Perhaps there is something on the table that requires a package including Georgiev. That was always the more likely trade scenario, if the Rangers went that route.
They May Surprise Us
Marc Staal’s buyout is something not discussed, mostly because all eyes are on Lundqvist. A Staal buyout saves the Rangers $2.1 million (compared to Lundqvist’s $3 million) this season. The dead space the following season is only $1 million, as opposed to $1.5 million for Lundqvist. They are comparable. The difference is the three-headed goalie monster that needs slaying.
I’ve been vocal that Brendan Smith’s contract is moveable, especially in a flat cap era. It goes beyond Ottawa now, as multiple teams have an internal cap. Smith’s $4.35 million cap hit to $2.35 million in real dollars is worth something to multiple teams. But perhaps Smith’s eventual trade is why Staal won’t be bought out.
The NHL will begin its flurry of activity shortly. This is the eerie calm before the storm. It may begin with a NY Rangers buyout of Henrik Lundqvist. It may not. It makes you wonder – what surprises will the league throw at us?