Artemi Panarin
ESNY Graphic

The New York Rangers got their man on Monday in Artemi Panarin, but now the team has a serious salary cap problem to deal with.

Frank Curto

Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year, $81.5-million contract on Monday with the New York Rangers. That deal comes with an AAV of $11.643 million.

Now, the hard work begins for Jeff Gorton and John Davidson. The team only has $8,019,391 million in projected cap space available, which is not enough to cover the restricted free agents that need to be signed the summer.

The Rangers didn’t use the buyout opportunity earlier this month that would have freed up cap space this year. This would have helped them this year if, for instance, they would have bought out defenseman Brendan Smith.

A buyout of Smith would have meant keeping him on the books for the next four seasons. His AAV breakdown over the four seasons of a potential buyout would have been:

  1. $970,833
  2. $3,145,833
  3. $1,145,833
  4. $1,145,833

The 2020-2021 would be the hardest season cap-wise, but the Rangers would have time to work out next year’s projected cap space.

The team could have considered a buy out for Kevin Shattenkirk, who has two years remaining with an AAV of $6.65 million. Again, the 2020-2021 season would be the heaviest AAV estimated at $6.083 million.

Instead, the Blueshirts have decided to shed salary via trades.

The team traded Jimmy Vesey early on Monday to the Buffalo Sabres. The trade freed up $2.275 million prior to the Panarin signing.

The team’s next problem to address is Chris Kreider. The unrestricted free agent at the end of the season is due to make $4.625 million. Should the Rangers decide not to extend his contract, the best thing would be is to trade the 28-year old right wing.

Based on how the recent free agent contracts have gone, Kreider would be looking for a five year, $45 million deal. This is probably something the Blueshirts wouldn’t be interested to do with the crop of players they have now. It was reported earlier that the team was in discussions to trade him at the draft, but that fell through. The contemplation of moving him probably dictates the thought process of the team currently.

The Rangers should consider moving some of the players that are carrying a large cap hit this year who haven’t performed up to where the club had hoped.

Vladislav Namestnikov is a player who unfortunately fits that bill. The center has appeared in 97 games for the Rangers, recording just 13 goals along with 35 points. His AAV for this season is an outstanding $4 million. He will also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Should the Rangers be able to move both these players without retaining any salary, they would save approximately $8.625 million depending, of course, when a trade is completed.

The Rangers will most certainly need to complete a buyout. Brendan Smith would be the most logical. He has two years remaining on his modified no-trade clause which has an AAV hit of $4.350 million. To trade him, he would have to submit a 10-team trade list. This would complicate matters further as trade candidates would be limited.

Another player to consider moving now to help the salary cap is center Ryan Strome. The 25-year-old has a strong campaign after joining the team last season. He’s slated to make $3.1 million this year and then will be a restricted free agent.

This is the most unlikely of all the potential moves the team could make.

Artemi Panarin, The Bread Man T-Shirt

Strome recorded 19 goals with 35 points last year and was a reliable asset to head coach David Quinn. His age and skill set fits in perfectly with this young, rebuilt squad.

Let’s not forget the second overall pick in this years NHL Draft Kaapo Kakko. The Finnish player will need to sign his entry-level contract which is not included in the team salary cap status.

It’s a great time to be a Rangers fan, but for the management team, the celebrations that took place on Monday and within the last four weeks will need to be put aside come Tuesday morning.

Plenty of work needs to be done before September. Familiar faces will still be moved, but this is a business and the Rangers have a legitimate shot to qualify for the postseason next year should they continue to make all the right moves as they have so far.

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A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at