A hot topic this summer is Pavel Buchnevich’s future in New York. A restricted free agent coming off a superb season, Buchnevich has cemented himself in the top-six of the Rangers. Any unfounded concerns about his “compete level” or his “willingness to jump into dirty areas” have been dismissed and disproved. For the Rangers, Buchnevich’s future in New York is all about team direction, Buchnevich’s salary demands, and any trade offers that might come up.
Buchnevich is a bonafide top-six winger. His impacts both on the score sheet and in all three zones are unquestioned at this point in his career. This is Buchnevich’s peak as a player, and he really panned out nicely.
Buchnevich’s 20-28-48 line in 54 games is a career high, and you don’t even need to average it out for 82 games. He was just that good this season. He was also jumping into scrums and playing solid two-way hockey in all three zones. He’s no defensive dynamo, but he’s certainly above average and won’t hurt you. It’s everything you want in a top-six winger.
The Rangers are going to turn the corner from rebuilding to competing this season. To do so, they will need to continue to score the way they did last season, albeit with a little more consistency, and build out the bottom half of the roster. Trading Pavel Buchnevich will not improve their top-six in any way, thus if the Rangers are going to compete, they will need to re-sign him.
Yes, there is a chance that Vitali Kravtsov can turn into that type of player. However we are talking about competing now and turning the corner now. In all likelihood, Kravtsov will need a few seasons to develop. That’s not to say he will be useless, it’s just the Rangers will want the depth he provides to the third line, while Buchnevich continues his top-six production ways.
There are few cheaper ways to keep the roster competitive than to re-sign Buchnevich.
Buchnevich is at the point where he deserves a long term contract. Given he’s a critical piece to their win-now structure, it makes logical sense. That said, cost matters. It always has, and always will. Per Evolving-Hockey, Buchnevich is projected to get about $6.3 million over 4-5 years. At that dollar amount, the Rangers would easily be able to fit him in.
But this is a flat cap year, and we’ve already been surprised by the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins contract. EH had Nuge at $8.2 million over the 8 years he got, which is well over the $5.125 million he got. The flat cap has changed a lot. Does that Nuge contract impact Buchnevich’s outlook? Or should I say, does Buchnevich choose long term stability over a risky short term deal to get more money after the flat cap is gone?
Where cost matters may not be with contract dollar amount, but with term. How long do the Rangers want to go with a 26 year old Buchnevich? A five year deal takes him through his age-30 season. Eight years through his age-33 season. What is the cut off? We like to talk trades, but Buchnevich’s future with the Rangers is most likely tied to his contract asks.
Buchnevich is a solid trade chip in a potential trade, but only in certain trades. Whereas Ryan Strome’s one year until unrestricted free agency would be an asset in salary cap management in trades, Buchnevich as a RFA would have significantly more value. The question then becomes which competing team would take him and re-sign him, since it would only be a competing team that would consider a 26 year old winger about to get paid.
Given the above, I wouldn’t expect Buchnevich to hold significant value to Buffalo for Eichel. Just a pair of organizations with different needs. Thus, Buchnevich would hold more value to a team looking to make a hockey trade. I’m going to avoid speculating too much here, but I just don’t see a legitimate Buchnevich trade with a rebuilding team. I’ve been wrong many times before, though.
Assuming Buchnevich doesn’t price himself out of New York, then his future with the Rangers might be a little more clear. The trade wild card does exist, but only in the right deal. He’s a key cog in the future of the team as a top-six winger, and not easily replaced.