Adam Fox extension shows Rangers spending like contenders

Adam Fox extension shows Rangers spending like contenders
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Are the New York Rangers done with their rebuild, and ready to contend? The Adam Fox contract extension provides the latest bit of evidence that, whether they’re true contenders or not, the Rangers are spending like one.

The Rangers confirmed that they signed reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox to a seven-year extension. According to various reporters, including the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the cap hit will be $9.5 million per season.

Fox, 23, just began what would have been a contract year. With that in mind, Fox’s extension carries that $9.5M cap hit from 2022-23 through 2028-29.

By itself, Adam Fox extension is a no-brainer for Rangers

During the 2021 offseason, prices went wild for top defensemen. Big deals weren’t just thrown around for clear top blueliners. Teams practically tore muscles stretching to pay up for defensemen they merely hoped would look like No. 1 blueliners. (Look at the hasty Seth Jones extension, and the trade cost to acquire him.)

Amid what sometimes resembled chaos, the Avalanche actually attained value for a genuine, young, No. 1 defenseman. Credit the relative value on RFA leverage, but either way, locking down 23-year-old Cale Makar for six years at a $9.M cap hit was a no-brainer for the Avs.

Apply the same logic to Adam Fox and the Rangers.

Like Makar, Fox is in the meat of his prime at 23. Both are rare defensemen whose best days might come after signing for $9M/$9.5M. Worries about the aging curve are muted, if they’re there at all.

Considering Fox still has this last cheap year left, the Rangers now have him locked down for his prime years. Honestly, the Rangers shouldn’t have even flinched at Adam Fox’s extension. Grunt at the Harvard connection or not, but Fox is truly a brilliant defenseman.

Costs starting to really add up for New York, though

You’ve got to “spend money to make money.” In hockey, you have to spend money to keep players beyond their RFA years. For the special ones, you often have to open up the wallet for their second contracts.

So, again, the Rangers should not feel a second of regret about the Adam Fox extension. He’s already well worth $9.5M per year. If that goes wrong, it’s likely due to something few could have seen coming.

But the Rangers’ larger spending profile still raises a red flag or two.

The easy to defend

To start, consider a few of the bigger contracts that are easy for the Rangers to defend.

  • Fox is a premium defender. If he maintains his current level of play, Fox’s contract extension is a bargain for the Rangers. At his age, he might even get better. Scary for the rest of the NHL.
  • It’s early, but Igor Shesterkin‘s $5.667M cap hit (through 2024-25) looks like a very nice value. If not, it was a reasonable bet on the 25-year-old goalie.
  • At 30, Artemi Panarin could tussle with Father Time fairly soon. Then again, his savvy style could also age well. Either way, he’s been MVP-adjacent since joining the Rangers, so that $11.643M cap hit’s totally fair.

Lingering mysteries

  • Kaapo Kakko, 20, recently began his contract year. He’s set to become an RFA after this season. Frankly, the Rangers might want to extend Kakko, too — before he possibly breaks out.
  • Alexis Lafrenière, 20, has two years remaining on his rookie deal. It’s a mystery what he’ll cost in 2023-24 and beyond.
  • What does the future hold for Ryan Strome (28, $4.5M cap hit set to expire after 2021-22)? Can they maintain a spot for Filip Chytil (22, $2.3M AAV through 2022-23)? Alexandar Georgiev‘s Rangers days may also be numbered.

Possibly extravagant

  • Mika Zibanejad is a heck of a talent. The 28-year-old could easily be worth it when his cap hit raises to $8.5M starting in 2022-23. How well will that age, being that Zibanejad’s under contract through 2029-30? Plenty of people thought Zibanejad might get lost in the shuffle. (Although some of those thoughts were Jack Eichel-related.)
  • Chris Kreider, 30, is another Rangers player whose extension was mildly surprising. Kreider’s useful, but his rugged style might accelerate his decline. His $6.5M cap hit runs through 2026-27.
  • In their quest for grit, the Rangers splurged on Barclay Goodrow. Might they regret signing a 28-year-old supporting cast member at $3.642M for so long (expires after 2026-27)?
  • To some real relief, Jacob Trouba‘s bounced back from a profoundly terrible start to his Rangers career. That $8M price tag still stings, especially since the 27-year-old’s on the books through 2025-26.

Things could get tight pretty quickly for Rangers

Just to emphasize it once more: the Rangers had to sign Adam Fox to this extension. It’s highly likely to pay off, too.

That said, for a franchise that’s frequently paid marquee prices for sometimes off-Broadway results, it’s a little unsettling to see breathing room choke away so fast. That’s especially true if an opponent tries to squeeze them on young players who could hit RFA status.

Via the indispensible Cap Friendly, the Rangers devote almost $71M in cap space to 15 roster spots so far for 2022-23. They’re slated to spend almost $60M for 10 roster spots for 2023-24.

(The sticker shock lingers. In 2024-25: $53.45M to seven players. Six players command almost $48M in cap space for 2025-26.)

Naturally, optimism outweighs gloom and doom. The Rangers are loaded with young talent, and if their veterans age well, they could be a force. At 6-2-1, the Rangers already provide some proof of concept.

If things don’t come together, or they feel a piece or two short of completing the puzzle? That’s when they might regret some of their more luxurious decisions.

(But the Adam Fox extension counts as a necessity for the Rangers.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

    blackhawks
    Harry How/Getty Images
    13 Comments

    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

    Getty Images
    3 Comments

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

    Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

    tampa bay lightning
    Scott Audette/Getty Images
    2 Comments

    TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

    The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

    “This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

    Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

    Rasmus Sandin
    Julian Avram/Getty Images
    2 Comments

    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.