The New York Rangers have been patiently waiting for the postseason to end. With the finals underway, the Blueshirts’ ready-to-roll offseason gameplan commences.
This is for all the marbles! The biggest draft and free agency period over the last 25 years for the New York Rangers is about to commence.
It’s time to put the term “rebuilding” hard into the boards and begin the come-from-behind victory the fans have been waiting for.
Enough with the talk of kids, youth and learning. From this point on, tradition, hard to play against, and winning needs to be the new verbiage the organization needs to lead with.
The fun begins once the Stanley Cup Finals conclude, which will be June 12 (if the series goes all seven games). Once the cup is hoisted, John Davidson and Jeff Gorton can get to work. It will begin with the NHL Entry Draft on June 21 in Vancouver.
An easy decision?
The entire hockey world knows the story here; the Rangers have the second overall selection and presumably will choose the player the New Jersey Devils pass on. The question, “Who will be the number one pick?” will finally be answered. Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko? This is the easiest part of the team’s draft decision.
The tough part is what to do with the team’s 20th overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft? Do they keep the selection or include it in a package for pure goal scorer or defenseman?
The Rangers may have an opportunity to draft some good players with this late first round pick. Some names the team may consider if they are available at #20 are:
- Ville Heinola, Lukko (Liiga), Defenseman: The left-handed defenseman recorded two goals with 14 points in 34 games while playing for Lukko.
- Ryan Suzuki, Barrie, (OHL), Center: The lefty recorded 25 goals with 75 points appearing in 65 games.
- Raphael Lavoie, Halifax, (QMJHL), Forward: Lavoie had 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and received an A rating from Central Scouting in its November players to watch list.
The Blueshirts need to improve the forward position. If the team is unable to arrange a trade for a top scorer, they should use the pick to solidify the future.
A Blueline with more questions then answers
The defense is a totally different headache for the club.
To get better, the club will have to make some tough decisions. To improve the blueline, the team will need to subtract players they currently have on the roster if they intend to add players via free agency.
Let’s address the elephants in the room first: Marc Staal and Kevin Shattenkirk, with their hefty salary cap hits. Staal has two years remaining with a salary cap hit of $5.7 million for each season. His full no-trade clause prevents the club from moving him.
The buyout option is not a valued decision for Staal. Yes, he will be paid over $11 million for the next two seasons, but a buyout would keep Staal on the Rangers salary in some capacity for the next six or seven years.
An example of this would be former Ranger Dan Girardi. The Team bought out his contract in June 2017. The buyout value was $6,666,667 million. The salary-cap hit was the key factor and is broken down in the following order (numbers provided by Capfriendly.com):
|2017-18||$1,111,111 Cost||$2,611,111 Cap Hit|
The Rangers should hold on to Staal, even if they limit his minutes. In two seasons, they will be officially be done with the now-dreaded deal.
Kevin Shattenkirk is a different problem. Things have not turned out well for the relationship with Shatty and the team from a playing standpoint.
He will turn 31 in January 2020 and his $6.5-million salary-cap hit in each of the next two years is tough to swallow or trade with his no-movement clause. Shatty is much more likely to be bought out.
The remaining defensemen on the roster and in the conversation are Anthony DeAngelo, Brady Skjei, Neal Pionk, Brendan Smith, Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren and Fredrik Claesson. Remember that the team also has Yegor Rykov in the system.
The top free agent defenseman this year is Erik Karlsson, currently with the San Jose Sharks. An unrestricted free agent on July 1, the Rangers need to avoid the temptation to sign the 29-year-old defenseman.
Due to injury, Karlsson was limited to only 56 games this past season. He doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the direction the team is heading in. The name of the players must not conflict with the message of the team. Avoid the stigma of Karlsson and look to other avenues of improvement—perhaps as far North has Winnipeg, Canada.
Jacob Trouba, a 25-year-old restricted free agent, has been mentioned in many trade rumors over the last month. The asking price for him is unclear, but the Rangers have worked out deals with Winnipeg before, this year, for instance, when they traded Kevin Hayes for their number-one pick in this year’s draft.
The Rangers first have to address their in-house issues. The club needs to consider getting Shattenkirk to increase his no-move list, absorb some of the defenseman’s contract, and move him if they want to improve the defense without losing the younger players. With only six slots on the blueline, every decision made is critical.
The complicated Offer Sheet
The organization has promised to be aggressive this offseason so an offer sheet is a possibility. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner is a strong possibility
Offer sheets are complicated, but in a nutshell, an offer sheet is a signed and binding contract offer presented to a restricted free agent player whose rights are currently held by another club. Any team (other than the team that currently owns the player’s rights) can submit an offer sheet with the goal of signing that player.
Compensation for a team getting a player via an offer sheet varies, depending on the contract signed. Its another tool for the teams to improve though it is not done often in the NHL.
Odds and ends
The Rangers will need to decide what they want to do with Chris Kreider. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.
The organization can not afford to drag this along all year as the did with Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. Should the team decide it’s best to move him, he could be a huge piece to trade. But Kreider’s skill and experience is a much-needed asset and the team should extend him and put this behind him before it becomes a distraction.
A captain needs to be named and there should be only one player to consider. That name is Mika Zibanejad. Not much needs to be said in this regard; the man had proven himself to be the leader this team needs.
Decisions on restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, Claesson, DeAngelo and Pionk will need to be made. If new contracts cannot be reached, arbitration hearings would be held later in the summer.
The hard work lies ahead for the John Davidson, Gorton and the higher ups of the organization. The Rangers are at the cusp of being a contender for the playoffs once again, but these upcoming decisions may decide their fate for this season and many more to come.