5 best Rangers contracts after NHL salary cap increase

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With the NHL announcing Saturday that the salary cap will increase to $88 million next season, it’s a good time to evaluate the best contracts currently on the New York Rangers’ books.

The Rangers have $12.45 million in projected cap space and some decisions to make on restricted free agents Ryan Lindgren, Braden Schneider, and Kaapo Kakko. There’s also Igor Shesterkin, who’s eligible for a contract extension beginning July 1.

Rangers general manager Chris Drury will have to thread the needle between keeping players happy and balancing the salary cap, though with more room to breathe there in 2024-25. All while keeping the Rangers a serious Stanley Cup threat, coming off the best regular season in franchise history and long playoff run that was blunted by the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

In a cap sport, bad contracts can be an absolute back-breaker. Rangers fans have voiced their displeasure with the ones they view less favorably, such as Barclay Goodrow’s $3.6 million cap hit or Jacob Trouba’s $8 million AAV contract, which has two seasons remaining.

But Drury’s been pretty good in these situations, finding productive players and inking them to team-friendly deals.

Related: Where Rangers stand after NHL salary cap increases beyond expectations

New York Rangers best contracts heading into 2024-25 season

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5. Jonathan Quick — 1 year, $1.275 million AAV

Jonathan Quick’s one-year, $925,000 contract last offseason was met with raised eyebrows. The future Hall of Famer was coming off his worst season in the NHL, posting an .881 save percentage in 41 games with the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights in 2022-23.

Many believed that, at 37, he was done as a quality NHL goalie.

However, Quick returned to excellence in his first season with the Rangers, posting a 2.62 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 27 games, helping the Blueshirts stay atop the Metropolitan Division during Shesterkin’s midseason struggles.

He became the all-time NHL wins leader among United States-born goalies last season and received the Players’ Player Award for his role in the locker room.

His play earned him a one-year, $1.275 million extension in March for 2024-25. He’ll return to New York and give the Rangers a quality backup goalie who’s won the Stanley Cup three times at a very affordable price.

It might not be enough for Rangers fans to forgive him for standing in the way of Henrik Lundqvist’s lone shot at a Stanley Cup back in 2014, but it is certainly a great contract.

4. Jimmy Vesey — $800,000 AAV, 1 year left until UFA

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Jimmy Vesey signed a one-year, $750,000 contract at the start of the 2022-23 season to return to the Rangers after three seasons playing for four NHL teams. Originally signed by the Rangers in 2016 after winning the Hobey Baker Award at Harvard University as the top player in the NCAA, Vesey never panned out as a dynamic high-scoring wing in his first New York go-round.

However, he’s found a second life as an excellent checking winger in the bottom six. A successful first season back in New York earned him a two-year, $1.6 million deal, that runs through 2024-25.

Vesey has shined defensively alongside Barclay Goodrow and various fourth-line wingers, while also logging important minutes on an excellent Rangers penalty kill.

He’s also had some pleasant offensive upside, scoring 11 goals and 13 goals, respectively, in the past two seasons and even taking some shifts on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

To date, all five of Vesey’s 10-plus goal seasons have come in a Ranger uniform.

He gives the Blueshirts critical play on their top checking line and penalty kill, all for the League minimum. That’s some great value.

3. Alexis Lafreniere — $2.325 million AAV, 1 year left until RFA

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Alexis Lafreniere’s cap hit will rise very soon, and deservedly so.

The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft enjoyed a breakout season, posting career highs with 28 goals and 57 points, playing consistently in the top six alongside Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck.

Lafreniere’s 28 regular-season goals ranked third on the Rangers, and he kicked it into high gear in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he tied for the Blueshirts lead with eight goals.

He did all of this on a two-year, $4.65 million bridge-deal which he signed on August 23, just two months before the start of the season.

Now he’s one of the Rangers top offensive producers, particularly at even strength as he’s yet to crack the top power-play unit, and is looking like he could be a franchise staple for years to come.

His next deal will likely reflect his rise in production, but for the upcoming season, his $2.325 million cap hit is incredibly team-friendly.

2. Vincent Trocheck — $5.625 million AAV, 5 years left until UFA

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Vincent Trocheck’s deal has incredible long-term value, and he greatly outperformed its dollar value during this All-Star season for him and his outstanding postseason play.

Trocheck earned every ounce of the seven-year, $39.375 million deal he signed two offseasons ago, posting an NHL career-high 77 points and ranking fourth in the NHL with a 58.7 face off win percentage (minimum 700 faceoffs taken).

That was after a very solid 22-goal, 64-point inaugural season in New York.

He continued to have a profound impact this postseason, leading the team with 20 points and tying Lafreniere and Kreider for the team lead with eight goals.

Trocheck averaged 21:27 TOI this season, a career-high, playing an important role on both the penalty kill and top power-play unit as well as centering the Rangers’ most productive line at even strength.

As questions surround Zibanejad and his ability to contribute in the playoffs, it pays to have a center like Trocheck locked up long term on a very reasonable contract. Some were skeptical about the $5.625 AAV hit when the deal first was signed, but he’s proven himself to be worth every penny.

Trocheck has quickly ingratiated himself in the locker room over the past two seasons and become a fan favorite for everything he does in between (and after) the whistles. Don’t be surprised if the reigning Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner is named one of the alternate captains in the years to come.

1. Igor Shesterkin — $5.66 million AAV, 1 year left until UFA

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Enjoy this bargain contract while it lasts.

At a $5.66 million AAV, Igor Shesterkin is an absolute steal for the Rangers, since he’s arguably the best goalie in the NHL.

However, his looming free agency at the end of next season and eligibility to sign a contract extension after July 1 will make him less of a bargain moving forward. Reportedly, Shesterkin is looking to become the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL.

Still, it’s an excellent situation to have for this upcoming season.

After some struggles early, Shesterkin turned it on in the second half this past season, recording a 2.20 GAA and .929 save percentage in the 23 games after the All-Star break. Like Lafreniere, he took it to another level in the postseason, posting a .926 save percentage in 16 playoff games and a .930 percentage in the series loss to the Panthers.

Shesterkin’s postseason excellence has been a running theme, as he was excellent in the first round against the New Jersey Devils in 2023 and in the Blueshirts’ run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2022.

Shesterkin will soon become properly paid for his elite play, but for next season, he’ll finish off the four-year, $22.666 million deal that he signed back in 2021, a Blueshirts bargain.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

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