Julien Gauthier collision Blais

As training camp and preseason enters its final week, the Rangers opening night roster is beginning to take shape. Most of the roster is set, with a few open positions at 1RW, 3LD, and most of the fourth line. Usually teams open with 23 players on the roster, with 20 dressing per game. However due to cap constraints and cap planning, the Rangers are likely to open the season with fewer than 23 players.

Keeping the Rangers opening night roster under 23 is all about the cap

We are used to seeing 23 players on the Rangers opening night roster, and it’s generally what most teams hope for. It provides 3 reserves ready to go. But entering the season with less than that isn’t really a big deal, and it’s less about the players and more about the cap space.

Looking at the Rangers current cap situation, they have about $1 million in cap space with 22 players on the roster. This doesn’t include Gustav Rydahl or Jarred Tinordi, but does include Julien Gauthier and Libor Hajek. Tinordi is going to get waived, like he was last year, so that’s a nothing-burger. Hajek, however, will likely break camp again as the 7D.

The big question is which forward is going to get waived to start the season. Perhaps the simple answer is the most obvious answer, and that is honoring Gauthier’s trade request from last season. Simple and effective, trading Gauthier, who has no spot on this team in any capacity unfortunately, frees up the spot for both Rydahl and Ryan Carpenter.

And no, Ryan Reaves isn’t getting waived. At least not yet. Let’s keep this discussion grounded in reality for now. He may be waived later in the season, but expect him to be on the Rangers opening night roster.

Assuming it’s Gauthier that is either traded or waived for Rydahl, the Rangers actually gain $50k in cap space. I’m not well versed in the day to day cap calculations, but that does add up over time. Cap space accrues over time, so the extra $1 million or so in cap space with 22 players on the roster turns into significantly more at the deadline. Keeping the Rangers opening night roster under 23 players has a long-game to it.

Update; Assuming the Rangers sign Jimmy Vesey, one more player will need to be waived.

There are downsides to a shorter roster

Aside from the general roster concerns, most notably one injury away from Libor Hajek getting significant ice time, it does leave the Rangers with a short “bench” for lack of a better phrase. The goal is to obviously bank cap space as best they can, but they may run into issues with injuries. These are relatively minor concerns for now, but they can snowball if injuries pile up.

A long road trip, specifically out west, may also bring some injury concerns. Long term injuries, believe it or not, aren’t the issue here, as there’s a mechanism for managing those while maintaining some cap space (LTIR). The concern would be more about getting bodies to fill out the NHL roster. Hartford is a bus trip away from MSG, but longer road trips may run into body count concerns if bumps and bruises pile up.

Hopefully we won’t see this come to fruition, but this is something the Rangers will need to plan for going forward. I also wouldn’t expect the Rangers to start carrying 23 players until injuries force them to. The need to bank cap space is very clear, especially with some of the hush hush rumors that the Rangers are going to go for Patrick Kane at the deadline. Every penny matters.

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