Jeff Gorton faces cap hell with his RFA’s this summer making Pavel Buchnevich a must add ASAP
Pavel Buchnevich is an offensive talent that will turn 21 next month. His goals are of the highlight variety. His speed, skating and stick handling are breathtaking. All things the Rangers want and need on the wing. The same reasons why his KHL team has offered him an extension to stay in Russia. All the more reason for Jeff Gorton to offer him a max entry level contract as soon as possible.
So what’s the problem? In an interview Buchnevich did with Russia’s Championat he was asked if he’d like to go directly to the Rangers and skip the AHL. His answer was, “Of course. Who wants in the AHL? Why go to the AHL?”
To be fair, this is a Google Translation. If anyone speak Russian you can find the original Russian version here and for those who want to read it translated, here. If you have a better translation for me, please enter it in the comments below.
The question for Jeff Gorton that will be asked of him when a contract is offered to Buchnevich is will he be guaranteed a spot on the big club next season? While, it is not fair to just give any rookie a spot without justifiably earning it out of camp, the Rangers will have no choice to grant his demand. However, not exactly for the reasons you may think.
This summer the Rangers will be up against the cap and the only foreseeable relief they will get is the expiring contracts of Dan Boyle, Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg. Most of that money is going to go to pay and keep Keith Yandle.
Another issue will be, to keep Eric Staal or not. If he still wants 9M in salary the answer is an easy NO unless he wins the Conn Smythe Trophy to help the Rangers win the Cup. Moving Rick Nash after the season is another way to free up 8M in cap space as he only has a no trade clause which limits where he can be sent.
Signing Buchnevich for next season would not be necessarily replace Staal or Nash but likely one of the younger Rangers who are RFA’s this summer. Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Dylan McIlrath are all up for raises this summer and all 4 will likely not be here next year.
Cost controlled young players are all the rage in today’s cap strapped NHL. J.T. Miller is a lock to remain but the same can’t be said for the other three. Chris Kreider’s play of late has warranted a strong consideration for sure. This leaves Hayes and McIlrath truly up in the air and with Brady Skjei in the wings, McIlrath may likely be moved for picks at the draft.
This uncertainty is why the Rangers need to ensure Buchnevich is signed, sealed and delivered for next year. In addition, there is no need to burn a year of his entry level contract by including him in the log jam at wing this year.
Buchnevich, a 2013 third-round pick and the Blueshirts’ top forward prospect, could sign an entry-level contract with the Rangers once he’s eliminated. It’s unlikely that GM Jeff Gorton and coach Alain Vigneault would try to turn Buchnevich into an NHL playoff savior, though, since playing Buchnevich on the Rangers at all this spring would burn the first season of his three-year deal. He’s more likely to join the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and crack the NHL next fall.
Jeff Gorton is playing a difficult game of chess against the current contracts he has and an uncertain NHL salary cap ceiling. Each piece on the board has high value, even the pawns. The pieces he chooses to sacrifice will be as important as the ones he chooses keep and position for the win.