Pavel Buchnevich, up for a new contract after this season, has been one of the Rangers’ top producers through the first half of the 2020-21 season. Buchnevich has been one of the most consistent offensively – he is nearly a point per game player – having recorded 29 points in 30 games and 14 points in his last 10 games.
In the Rangers’ blow out against the Flyers last Wednesday, Buchnevich recorded two of the teams’ nine goals. He also recorded two secondary assists on goals from Jacob Trouba and Mika Zibanejad. With the total four points in the contest, Buchnevich hit a career high in points in a single game. In addition, he is on pace to hit record highs in goals (30), assists (49), and points (79) this season (82 game pace). He has also developed into one of the team’s strongest two-way forwards, earning increased ice time specifically in man-down situations.
The 25-year-old right winger went through bouts of limited ice time and misuse early in his career, but is finally becoming the player the Rangers hoped he would be when they drafted him 75th overall in the 2013 Entry Draft. Buchnevich was re-signed to a two-year contract extension when his entry-level contract expired at the end of the 2019 season. Now with his bridge deal set to expire, the question is will Buchnevich stay, and if so what will it cost?
A contract extension
The first contract offer extended to Pavel Buchnevich should be for five years at $5.25 million AAV. A $2 million bump and a longer-term deal should be the starting point. And with the way Buchnevich has been playing, there is no way this number ends up any lower than this.
Buchnevich is a team leader in every regard this season. There is no question that his agents use this as leverage and counter for more. How much more? Good question.
A good price for the Rangers absolutely cap the deal at is $5.7 million AVV. While some models suggest market value for Buchnevich is higher, support for this number comes from other contracts around the league.
One signed more recently is the contract the Red Wings signed in with their top line right winger Anthony Mantha. Mantha, currently 26 years old, signed a five year, $5.7 million AVV deal with Detroit in November 2020 and has numbers comparable to Buchnevich. In his career, he has recorded 92 goals and 96 assists for 188 points in 292 games versus Buchnevich who has 70 goals, 106 assists for 176 points in 277 games. This can be good proof for capping the price on a Buchnevich extension.
Also, looking at contracts that are a few years in also provides good evidence for the price range. For example, the contract of former Ranger J.T. Miller signed with the Lightning (and was traded to the Canucks). Miller is three years in to a five year contract signed at age 25. The contract is for $5.25 million AVV. In the four years since Miller has left the Rangers, he has comparable numbers to Buchnevich as well. He has scored 59 goals and recorded 107 assists for 166 points in 196 games.
One final thought when it comes to contract negotiations is any terms of no-trade or no-movement clauses. The key for the Rangers in extending Buchnevich could come in eventually needing to move that contract. With prospective talent being realized, avoiding these clauses or limiting the time tied up in these clauses would be a key point.
Potential cap constraints
In considering how much a Pavel Buchnevich contract would cost, one must also consider how much of it the Rangers have. Management will be dealing with a flat cap and has most of their money in Jacob Trouba, Chris Kreider, and Artemi Panarin ($26 million). The Rangers will have about that much cap space to consider re-signing any players (roughly $28 million).
Along with Buchnevich — a restricted free agent — to sign, Brendan Smith and Phil DiGiuseppe become unrestricted free agents. They also have expiring entry level contracts coming for six additional players currently on the active roster: Igor, Shesterkin, Filip Chytil, Ryan Lindgren, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, and Libor Hajek.
This issue rolls over into the 2021-22 offseason. That’s when Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov’s ELCs expire. Brendan Lemieux and Alexandar Georgiev become RFAs. Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Colin Blackwell, and Kevin Rooney become unrestricted free agents.
All this in addition to any signings the Rangers want to target outside of their own pool.
Management needs to assess the goals in the next five years and who gets them to where they want to go. They need to determine if there is space there for Buchnevich.
With a few key players in development, there is a part of you knowing that if you re-sign Buchnevich, there may come point where his role changes. If he ends up playing in the bottom six, will you be able to acquire and pay for the additional assets needed for it to be worth paying $5 million+ for him to serve that role?
With so many players developing in the same position, do you instead put faith in the process and wait a few more years for this talent to round out?
Finally, as a trade piece you need to recognize that Buchnevich is one of the the easiest to sell. He’s a known asset with increasing ice time and production to match.
If the Rangers really do want to make a push for a number one center — Jack Eichel or otherwise — could adding Buchnevich help make a deal? If this decision comes later, this is where having limited no-movement clauses comes in handy.
The bottom line
Buchnevich has been one of the most consistent players for the Rangers this season. He has made himself into a very important piece, not just when it comes to production. This year, he has proven he is a true 200-foot-game player, adding value on both the penalty kill and on the Rangers new-and-improved forecheck.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to the conversation around this player, in part because he is such a beloved piece on the team. I am a big advocate for commitment to assets, especially because the Rangers have a tendency to turn to wait-and-see contracts and commit to these longer term deals too late.
If the Rangers truly plan to contend in the next five years, they need someone like Buchnevich to continue to elevate play and add depth — whether he’s in a role on the first line or the third. The key is to fill out the holes and make what he’ll be paid for his time on the ice worth it.
Choosing Buchnevich for the longer-term now guarantees some consistency. And that will be key as the Rangers try to find the right formula to build a championship roster.