With all the trades the New York Rangers have made over the last two seasons, one would think that the 2019-2020 might be easier, but the contract situation says otherwise.
General manager Jeff Gorton has been forced to make the hard decisions for the New York Rangers the last two seasons.
Whether it has been due to contracts, age or just a deal too good to walk away from, Gorton has traded players such as Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Adam McQuaid, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, just to name a few. The 2019-2020 season won’t be any easier for the organization.
The current contract situation heading into next season is something the team will need to address in the upcoming months. The NHL Draft is in June with the NHL free agency period beginning on July 1.
The Rangers have four players currently on the team’s roster who will be unrestricted agents at the end of next season along with three players who will be restricted free agents at the conclusion of next season.
For a better understanding of what Gorton and his staff have to work on in the upcoming season, a simplistic breakdown of the contract situation is in order.
Unrestricted free agents at the end of 2019-2020
Let’s address the elephant in the room right away. Chris Kreider is on the top of the list for the team’s unrestricted free agents. He has one more year season left on a four-year deal signed in July 2016.
This season has been one of his best as a Blueshirt.
The right winger has scored 26 times this season which is two goals short of his career high. Prior to the trade of Mats Zuccarello, Kreider, along with Mika Zibanejad, was one of the hottest lines in the NHL.
Kreider’s contract includes a modified no-trade clause. A modified NTC means that in order for the Rangers to consider a trade of Kreider, he would have to submit a list of 11 teams he would not accept a trade to. The modified NTC was for all of 2018-2109 along with next season, the last year of his contract.
The 27-year-old has an average salary hit of $4.625 million next season.
Vladislav Namestnikov, 26, was acquired in the trade with Tampa Bay last season that saw Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller shipped to the Lightning.
It has taken time for Namestnikov to settle in, but the is having a fine season with the Rangers. He is not the goal scorer he was while in Tampa Bay, but his scoring chances have become more prevalent as this season has marched on.
The former first-round pick of the Lightning has scored 10 goals along with 27 points. He has one more year remaining on a three-year deal he signed in July 2018 with Tampa Bay.
He has a salary cap hit of $4 million next season. The Russian player has no restrictions with regards to trades. The Rangers could include him in a deal this summer as they are certainly looking to improve the roster as they see the light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel.
Jimmy Vesey signed a two-year contract in July 2018 for $4.55 million. His annual salary cap hit is $2.275 for next season.
Vesey’s UFA status is a hard one to deal with. The Harvard graduate is a solid two way player for New York. This season he is having a productive yet quiet season scoring 16 times along with 18 helpers in 68 games played. He has only been out of the lineup for one game this season.
Vesey also has no restrictions on trades, but at only 25 years old, the team will have to consider what is best in the long run for both player and the team. His youthfulness and heart are something many teams look for, yet his scoring and point production may be reason enough for the Rangers to part ways.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jesper Fast has been a Ranger for six seasons. One of the team’s best penalty killer and a key defensive forward, Fast will be another UFA at the end of next season.
The Nassjo, Sweden native signed a three- year contract worth $5.5 Million in July 2017. His salary-cap hit next season will be $1.85 million.
Numbers don’t always represent the value of a player as is the case with Fast. The right wing is probably one of the most trusted players that head coach David Quinn depends on in a close game.
Every team needs a player like Fast and would believe the team will find a way to re-sign him early in the offseason.
Added to the craziness of the UFA situation are the restricted free agents following next season.
Ryan Strome, Boo Nieves, and Alexandar Georgiev will become restricted free agents at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season. The advantage here is that the Rangers will have some sought of control of these players.
Strome and Boo Nieves are arbitration eligible which means the player and team each propose a salary for the coming season and argue their cases at a hearing. The arbitrator, a neutral third party, then sets the player’s salary. The two sides can continue to negotiate until the arbitrator announces his decision.
Georgiev’s entry-level contract expires at the end of next season, making him a restricted free agent without salary arbitration eligibility.
Now that the UFA and RFA contract situations have been covered for the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season, there is even more work to be done at the end of this season.
The end of the 2018-2019 season will leave the Rangers with one UFA, Connor Brickley.
The team will also have five RFA’s to address as Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, Neal Pionk, Anthony DeAngelo and Fredrik Claesson all fall under that category.
Buchnevich, Pionk and Claesson are salaried arbitration eligible which probably means their contract status won’t be resolved to later in the summer unless they are involved in some sought of trade.
The Rangers are expected to use their multiple drafts picks in this years NHL Entry Draft along with the possibility of adding players via the free agency process to bring this team back to the playoffs next season.
The decision the organization makes regarding the unrestricted free agents the Rangers have entering camp next September can be as important if not bigger then what they do at the draft or why they decide to sign in the summer.
One thing is guaranteed, though; nobody wants to go through another February like the past two. The New York Rangers have represented sellers for long enough.
The contract and salary information was provided by Cap Friendly.