The New York Rangers are no strangers to big off-season (and trade deadline) changes, and this summer has been no different.
- They traded away Derek Stepan and then signed his expected replacement Mika Zibanejad to a five-year contract that carries a $5.3 million cap hit. Antti Raanta also found his way to the Arizona Coyotes, with former Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec inheriting the No. 2 gig.
- Whether Nick Holden gets traded or not, this is a period of profound change for the Rangers’ defense, as Dan Girardi was mercifully bought out while Kevin Shattenkirk took something of a hometown discount to play in New York.
- The Rangers also lost some of their impressive forward depth, as Oscar Lindberg was the Vegas Golden Knights’ selection in the expansion draft. (Then again, signing David Desharnais may limit some of the damage.)
Phew, that’s quite the series of changes, and it’s not necessarily covering every single facet.
So, that leaves us with some questions: what are the Rangers left with, and what does the future look like beyond 2017-18?
Spending on players in their own zone
When checking out the Rangers’ salary structure at Cap Friendly, it’s clear that the Rangers’ long-term commitments lie in Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million cap hit through 2020-21) and the defense in front of him.
Shattenkirk, 28, is the highest-paid blueliner of the bunch … at least for now.
His $6.65M cap hit is more manageable than some anticipated, particularly since the term isn’t too risky at four years. Shattenkirk, Marc Staal (30 years old, $5.7M), and Brendan Smith (28, $4.35M) all see their contracts expire after the 2020-21 season.
Shattenkirk may not be the most expensive Rangers defensemen for too long, as Ryan McDonagh is due for a raise quite soon. The 28-year-old’s $4.7M cap hit is a bargain, but his deal runs out after 2018-19. McDonagh would hit unrestricted free agency if the Rangers can’t figure something out there.
As mentioned before, the Rangers are trying to shake Holden’s $1.65M cap hit (a deal that only runs through 2017-18), but either way, he likely won’t be part of the mix for long. Brady Skjei, on the other hand, stands as an especially intriguing consideration. His rookie deal expires after next season, and with it that $925K cap hit. It will be intriguing to see how much he gets, and when the Rangers aim to sign him (as they technically could do that now if they’d like).
Staal’s $5.7M is a problem, especially going forward. Otherwise, the Rangers seem to be spending their money reasonably wisely on the blueline.
The goalies behind that defense should be fascinating to watch, as Pavelec has plenty to prove after years of Raanta giving Lundqvist very valuable breaks.
Uncertainty beyond Zibanejad?
It’s one thing to have three defensemen locked down for at least three seasons; it’s another to see that the Rangers only have three forwards with at least three years of term remaining.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for a team that once made a lot of shaky bets on long-term deals for scorers.
Right now, these are the three Rangers forwards who are signed through 2019-20 or later:
Those deals are good-to-great, and the best news is that those players are in the thick of their primes.
It’s fascinating to note some of the decisions that are looming, though.
After a long stretch of being a trade rumor magnet, Rick Nash, 33, will see his $7.8M cap hit evaporate after 2017-18. That could come in handy as the Rangers will see noteworthy forwards (and also Skjei) like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Jimmy Vesey become RFAs. Desharnais is slated to be a UFA, and most importantly, Michael Grabner is too … and will almost certainly command a significant raise from his dirt-cheap $1.65M.
All things considered, the Rangers are in pretty good shape. It’s up to GM Jeff Gorton to keep it that way.