For about a year, maybe a little longer, the coming cap crunch for the Rangers has been a hot topic. The 2023-2024 season is when things start to get hairy, but it could come sooner if the Rangers decide to re-sign Ryan Strome. The crunch was always coming, so no, the Barclay Goodrow contract didn’t impact this. So as we look to see how the Rangers can keep their young core together, the focus comes to the moveability of the big Rangers big contracts. Can the Rangers get out from a big cap hit, in order to keep a younger player?
The Rangers have six players on what I am deeming to be big long term contracts: Artemiy Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, Barclay Goodrow, and Jacob Trouba. In every conversation that the cap ceiling is mentioned, someone brings up trading one of these six players. So let’s rank these six contracts, from nigh unmoveable (#6) to most moveable (#1). In this case, we are talking about a trade or a buyout.
And yes, moveability is a word.
6. Mika Zibanejad (8 years – $8.5 million cap hit, NMC)
If you’re one of the people that was looking to move on from Mika Zibanejad, instead of re-signing him, then you’re in for some bad news. Zibanejad’s eight year contract extension takes him through his age-36 season. That alone makes him nearly unmoveable. Add in the no-move clause, and now you have a player that will be regressing by the middle of the contract, and would have to agree to his trade.
The contract structure on Zibanejad’s contract is also horrible. Of his $68 million, $60 million is in signing bonuses. His contract simply cannot be bought out for this reason. There is no savings in buying him out.
If the Rangers are going to move on from Zibanejad in the far, far future, their best time would be after they pay his signing bonus before the 2027-2028 season. The real dollars for Zibanejad drops a bit, but it’s not a big drop. The value would be an $8.5 million cap hit for $1 million in real dollars that season. The two years after would be $6.75 million and $6.5 million in real dollars. This is as unmoveable as they come.
Let’s hope Mika doesn’t fall off a cliff. He’s likely worth the cap hit for the next few seasons, but of the Rangers big contracts, this is one they are likely stuck with for its entirety.
5. Artemiy Panarin (4 years left – $11.64 million cap hit, NMC)
The only thing that really prevents Artemiy Panarin from being moved is his $11.64 million cap hit. Not many teams can afford that. But let’s face it, he’s been worth every penny. But like Zibanejad, Panarin’s contract is almost entirely in signing bonuses, making his contract buyout proof. He also has a NMC, so he would need to waive it to be traded.
Panarin, though, only has four years left on his deal. His signing bonuses take a big dip after the 2023-2024 season, where it drops to $9 million. If the Rangers want to trade Panarin –they won’t– then the best time is after his $9 million bonus is paid before the 2024-2025 season. The acquiring team would get two seasons of Panarin for $9 million in real dollars. That’s a great bargain for cap floor teams.
Then again, how teams looking into Panarin actually have $11.64 million in cap space to work with? The contract itself is likely moveable, even with the NMC. But it’s the number of teams that can make it work that presents the biggest challenge. In terms of the Rangers big contracts, Panarin’s is most likely to be unmoveable.
4. Jacob Trouba (4 years left – $8 million cap hit, NMC/modified-NTC)
Jacob Trouba’s contract went from “overpaid, but fine” to “ugh, really?” real quick, didn’t it? And that’s by no fault of his own. His play has been solid! It’s because the Rangers acquired and paid him to be their 1RD, and then Adam Fox turned into Adam Fox. No one projected Fox to be what he is, especially so quickly.
If the Rangers need cap space, Trouba’s $8 million is something that can be moved, but it would be difficult. There isn’t much in terms of real dollar savings for a cap floor team, just $6 million over the last four years of the deal. So the Rangers would need to find a team that values Trouba at his current contract. A buyout isn’t overly attractive either, but would give about 50% cap savings until those four dead years.
What makes Trouba more moveable than Panarin is his value on the ice. He’s been producing on offense this year, he’s been solid defensively, and his metrics aren’t a killer. NHL GMs love the whole big physical guy too, and the fact he can move the puck makes him an attractive asset.
It’s also not a full no-move for the final two years. It’s a limited no-trade. Trouba, unlike Zibanejad or Panarin, is a contract that can actually be moved.
3. Chris Kreider (5 years left – $6.5 million cap hit, NMC/modified NTC)
Much like Trouba, there is value in Chris Kreider as the best net front presence in the NHL. His current 900 goal pace isn’t sustainable, but he presents significant value on the ice even when he isn’t scoring. Zibanejad’s goal last night is just one example. His skill set ages well, and the concern about a drop-off as he hits his age-34 and age-35 season isn’t as high as it is with Zibanejad.
From a contract standpoint, Kreider has a front loaded contract, with his signing bonuses mostly ending after the 2023-2024 season. His real dollars to cap hit savings is $1.5 million per season for those final three years, so there is some value to cap floor teams. That’s also when his NMC changes to a modified no trade.
There wouldn’t be many suitors for Kreider, but if the Rangers put his name out there, there would be at least a handful of teams calling. It’s a manageable contract for the on-ice production.
2. Adam Fox (7 years – $9.5 million)
The Rangers aren’t trading Adam Fox. But if they put his name out there, all 31 NHL teams will inquire.
1. Barclay Goodrow (5 years left, $3.64 million cap hit, modified NTC)
Barclay Goodrow’s contract can be bought out rather easily without any real cap hit consequences. But to do so, Chris Drury would need to admit a mistake, and that’s highly unlikely. That said, this is a pretty easy contract to move on from, and the $1.17 dead space for five years, beginning in 2027-2028, is probably when we start seeing significant cap ceiling increases, mitigating the impact.
Yea, believe it or not, Goodorw is probably the easiest to move, from the Rangers big contracts.