An aspect of the season that is currently getting overlooked is how the Rangers are managing their taxi squad. The CapFriendly Transactions Twitter account is tweeting regularly with roster updates. Most are paperwork transactions that result in saving a few cap dollars. For the Rangers, this means sending players like Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Igor Shesterkin to the taxi squad at various times for cap reasons.
In doing this, the Rangers save cap space. Kakko, for example, makes just $70,000 for the season in the AHL, compared to the $925,000 in salary –plus bonuses– at the NHL level. I’m not well versed in how the math works, but the NHL season this year is roughly 137 days. Kakko makes around $6,700 per day in the NHL, and about $500 per day when on the taxi squad. That’s about $6,200 in salary difference for Kakko, but also $6,200 in cap savings for the Rangers. Multiply that by multiple days and players, and the cap space adds up quickly.
When the Rangers started the season, they had virtually no cap space. Now, with the taxi squad moves and the Tony DeAngelo situation, the Rangers will have ~$7 million in cap space at the trade deadline. This will come down, obviously, when Kakko, Shesterkin, and Libor Hajek are recalled off the taxi squad. But the Rangers have made moves to gain a little cap space in abundance.
*-Don’t hold me to the numbers, just the logic please. I’m not 100% on the numbers. But the cap is calculated daily and space is accrued daily. So that part checks out.
The first thing that comes to mind is a trade might be incoming. The Rangers are in desperate need of another center. It’s not a good thing when Ryan Strome is the best center on the team. But that’s the situation the Rangers have right now. Mika Zibanejad will get going. Filip Chytil will eventually get healthy. But even long-term the Rangers have very few centers.
The Blueshirts also have this Tony DeAngelo situation that needs resolving. Trading DeAngelo does net cap space, but the Rangers want value. Value doesn’t come with a $0 cap hit. Perhaps there is a team looking to shed an expensive, but young and good, center in return for DeAngelo? Grasping at straws here, but it did cross my mind.
One area I don’t expect the Rangers to make a trade is on the blue line. There are too many prospects, with some knocking at the door, for the Rangers to swing a deal there.
Next Wave of Prospects
This is the most logical situation. Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen both address areas of need for the Rangers. Reunanen has been great in his first two games in the AHL, but again it is only two games. Barron has looked solid as well, but he’s been playing on the wing to start the season.
Barron and Reunanen are the two most likely players to be recalled. They are the best prospects in the AHL at the moment that also address positions of need. It is worth noting that Patrick Khodorenko is off to a good start, and he’s currently playing center with the Pack.
From a cap perspective, both come with complications. Barron is ~$1.7 million in cap dollars when you factor in bonuses. Reunanen comes in at a shade under $1 million. The Rangers, if they don’t want to have a bonus penalty next season, need to stay under that threshold. The taxi squad moves are making cap flexibility available to them, when it wasn’t prior.
Every cap dollar counts for the Rangers. Jeff Gorton is being very shrewd with the Rangers taxi squad management, which to me is signaling a move is coming. The Rangers just need the cap flexibility, both to make the move and to keep a steady roster after the move. Let’s see how this plays out.