Adam Fox
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have a chance this year. And they have the cap space to go big-game hunting.

The New York Rangers enter Wednesday with 69 points, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re one point back of Pittsburgh (with two games in-hand) and five points back of Carolina for the top spot in the division.

With the NHL Trade Deadline less than one month away, we’ve already seen some trades starting to happen. And the Rangers should be in the market to add the pieces they feel could help them make a deep run.

But what can they add? Let’s look at the books.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This year

With some of their core players on either entry-level contracts or team-friendly deals, the Rangers are a dangerous team heading into the trade deadline.

According to CapFriendly, the Rangers currently have approximately $6.7 million in cap space available. That translates into roughly $33 million in cap hit they could add at the deadline — an enormous number.

With a decent pipeline of prospects, the Rangers are in position to make an impact trade — or multiple deals.

But there are other factors that could play into who they target on the market.

Mika Zibanejad
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The future

If the Rangers are looking to add players with term left on their contract(s), we need to be mindful of a few realities with the payroll at Madison Square Garden.

Going into next year, the Rangers are carrying $3,427,778 in dead money from the buyouts of Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony Deangelo and Dan Girardi (still).

The Rangers also have some significant raises hitting the books next year. Adam Fox‘s cap hit will go from $925,000 to $9.5 million — a huge but worthy raise.

The other major bump in pay will go to Mika Zibanejad, whose cap hit moves from $5.35 million this season to $8.5 million next year.

That’s more than $11 million in new money on the books for a couple key players. The Rangers have roughly $71 million committed to next year’s payroll, according to CapFriendly.

That number does not include $4.5 million in potential performance bonuses.

Ryan Strome is the most significant unrestricted free agent pending this coming summer. His current deal has a $4.5 million AAV.

Greg McKegg and Kevin Rooney are the only other UFAs on the current NHL roster this summer.

The Rangers also have a long list of restricted free agents they’ll need to consider, both at the trade deadline and when their contracts expire this summer.

  • Kaapo Kakko
  • Alexander Georgiev
  • Libor Hájek
  • Julien Gauthier
  • Sammy Blais
  • Vitali Kravtsov

There are also eight players currently in the minors who will be RFAs this coming summer.

With the cap expected to stay relatively flat next year, that means the Rangers have around $10 million in cap space (before the performance bonuses) to work with before next season.

Patrick Kane
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Rent or Buy?

So the question becomes: should the Rangers target rentals at the trade deadline or players with term?

There are three key factors that play into answering that question.

  1. Who is the player coming back? (and what is their contract?)
  2. Who do you plan to re-sign this summer?
  3. What are you trading away to acquire said player(s)?

Renting a player for the rest of this season may be easier to envision. With a ton of cap space, the Rangers could be able to add just about anyone who’s available — assuming the price is right in trade.

A big ticket addition like Blackhawks’ superstar Patrick Kane is a fascinating proposition. He has a NMC and one year left on his current contract that carries a $10.5 million cap hit.

Obviously a player of that caliber is fun to think about, especially when you consider how well he played with Artemi Panarin when The Breadman was in Chicago.

But adding a player of that caliber would obviously cost a lot — both in assets and adding his cap hit for next year. Not only would the Rangers need to move significant young players to make Chicago even answer the phone, but they would also need to examine what money they would need to move off the books for next year to make it work.

Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.