A Kaapo Kakko offer sheet is a legitimate concern for the Rangers
The New York Rangers are expected to have roughly around $11.6 to 12 million in available cap space next season if the ceiling does indeed climb to $82.5 million.
They will have 16 players under contract (8 F, 7 D, and 1 G). Chris Drury will be tasked with finding a new backup goalie, and at least five forwards. Of course, among those are their own key free agents; Ryan Strome (UFA), Kevin Rooney (UFA), Kaapo Kakko (RFA), Sammy Blais (RFA), and Julien Gauthier (RFA).
*Cap info per CapFriendly
New York Rangers cap games
Playing with cap hypotheticals can get complex. For the sake of simplicity let’s make some educated assumptions.
A capable veteran backup will likely cost the Rangers between 1.5 to 2 million. If it’s a veteran like Braden Holtby or Martin Jones the number will be on the higher end.
As far as Rooney, Blais, and Gauthier they should all receive raises to stay. Let’s bump Rooney from $750K to $1.5M and let’s give Gauthier a nice two-year bridge deal at around 1.5M. Blais, who suffered a season ending injury will likely get a one-year show me deal of around $2M.
If my calculations are correct, that is an estimated total of $4.5M to $5M. There are still two very big players left to sign in Strome and Kakko with about $6.5M to $7M left to spend.
Retaining Ryan Strome makes things difficult
Dating back to the summer, I’ve raised the red flag on the Rangers cap situation and Strome, stopping short of saying he was definitely gone. Chris Drury would be foolish to at least not make an attempt to see if Strome may be open to a home team discount.
Yesterday, Larry Brooks reported that the Rangers have at least begun talks with Strome’s camp. What that means remains to be seen. Brooks also indicated that his next deal could be in the $6M AAV range. I reached out to a knowledgeable source that indicated if the term is right, Strome may take a deal worth $5.75M.
That’s a risk as Strome will be 29 years old in July, but that may be the only way to fit him in.
Of course, if you give Strome that contract that leaves the Rangers with just about 1 million dollars for Kakko.
Chris Drury is going to have to start thinking about shedding salary, and he can immediately start with Patrik Nemeth. The 29 year-old has two years left on a deal that pays $2.5M per season. Drury can’t eat any of the contract and will have to give up a draft pick for someone to take the entire salary. Even so, he needs to be replaced with a Zac Jones type player for a net savings of about $1.5M.
Is the predicament becoming clearer?
The reality is that players like Rooney, Gauthier, and Blais may not be able to return at the estimated $5M I mentioned. Morgan Barron, Will Cuylle, and Lauri Pajuniemi are cheaper options that amount to just $2.8M.
That should give the Blueshirts around $4 to 4.5 million to bridge Kaapo Kakko for three seasons.
Rangers at risk for a Kotkaniemi type offer sheet
Now that I just did some cap gymnastics (probably poorly), you may feel somewhat comforted that the Rangers can go into next season with their top players still around.
Wait a minute. Kakko is the 2nd overall pick of the 2019 Draft.
While he hasn’t exactly exploded on to the scene with points, he has all the tools to be a dominant scorer in the NHL. His size of 6-3, 199 lbs combined with his strength, speed, hands, and vision already have teams looking at the possibility of an offer sheet.
This was pointed out to me starting in October.
To be clear, Kakko isn’t going to receive a massive offer sheet like the one Montreal tried with Sebastian Aho years back. It will be a finesse move the Hurricanes just did for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It was a one year offer sheet of $6.1M that handcuffed the Canadiens and forced them to not match.
Remember, Kotkaniemi was coming off a season where he scored just 20 points in 56 games. The move by Carolina was to steal a young player with great potential. It’s a risky play by the Canes as he only has 8 points in 21 games this season. However, for a yearly contender like the Canes, who don’t have the luxury of high draft picks, it was worth it.
This is also a risk another GM could be willing to take. That includes Jeff Gorton and whomever he hires in Montreal this summer.
Chris Drury has some big decisions to make and it won’t get any easier. This has been some first year for the rookie President and GM of the Blueshirts with more challenges ahead.
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