Depth was a big reason why the New York Rangers made it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, but with a slew of free agents – both restricted and unrestricted – it could be a challenge to maintain that strength.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks took an in-depth look at that situation, indicating that Brad Richards’ buyout will be used to retain current players rather than making a typically splashy Rangers acquisition.
While he focused first on Rangers forwards, there are some key details about their defense.
For one thing, Brooks reports that the Rangers are dangling a three or four-year deal worth about $4 million per season to Anton Stralman (pictured). Some likely look at that as a fine offer for the unrestricted free agent, yet the advanced stats community labels him as a “secret star.” It should be interesting to see if the 27-year-old draws much more interest than that offer would suggest if he does hit unrestricted free agency, especially since the market is pretty dry.
The Rangers hope to keep Stralman in the fold, but it sounds like Justin Falk played his last game for the team. Brooks reports that they’ll pass on qualifying the 25-year-old at a $1.025 million clip, allowing him to become a UFA.
Ultimately, Brooks believes that Richards’ $6.67 million will funnel into the pockets of the breakthrough line of two RFA’s (Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello) plus one UFA (Benoit Pouliot):
Brassard probably goes from $3.2 million to at least $4.5 million per on a multi-year deal, if not closer to $5 million. Zuccarello, perhaps the biggest bargain in the league in leading the Rangers in scoring (19-40-59) while earning $1.15 million, probably is going to command at least $4 million per on a long-term deal, and maybe $4.5 million. And Pouliot, who rescued his career working for $1.3 million, likely is going to get at least $2.5 million.
Cap Geek estimates that the Rangers will have $23.78 million in cap space this summer, yet with an unclear cap ceiling that might be a little lower, it’s likely safer to call it approximately $23 million. Let’s consider what Brassard, Zuccarello, Pouliot and Stralman would cost combined based on Brooks’ numbers:
Brassard: $4.5 – $5 million
Zuccarello: $4 million
Pouliot: $2.5 million
Stralman: $4 – $4.5 million
Range for Rangers: $15 – $16 million
The Rangers also need to re-sign Chris Kreider and John Moore (both RFAs) while making decisions on the likes of Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore (both UFAs), so Brooks is probably accurate in saying that the Rangers will spend most/all of their excess cash on keeping the band together.
Naturally, Stralman could end up pricing himself out of Sather’s budget and guys like Boyle could fetch a ransom on the market, so this situation could change. Sather’s also known for being a tough negotiator with restricted free agents, so perhaps Brassard and Zuccarello wouldn’t be so expensive.
Every now and then, a team rides some contract year hot streaks to unexpected success, making for some tough organizational decisions. It’s only tougher to assess some of these players considering Alain Vigneault’s very different philosophy compared to John Tortorella. However this situation shakes out, it should be almost as entertaining to watch as the Rangers were during their impressive playoff run.