How Can The Rangers Help Out The Bolts?
Now that the San Jose Sharks have fallen short of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup yet again, the Erik Karlsson rumors are starting to pick up. After a recent tweet by him, as shown below, it seems as if Karlsson is going to hit the open market on July 1.
The Rangers seem to be a team that is finding it’s way in the mix for Karlsson, but as per The Athletic’s Rick Carpinello, the Rangers will not pursue the Swedish superstar. The team that has come up the most in regards to pursuing Karlsson is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Karlsson wants to play for a winner, and not to mention his good friend Victor Hedman is down there as well. The issue with this is how would Tampa Bay be able to afford Karlsson?
With just over $8 million in projected cap, the Bolts find themselves in a tight spot financially. Karlsson, who can easily make Drew Doughty money in terms of AAV ($11 million), will have to take a serious pay cut to play with his fellow Swede and the Bolts. Tampa would still have a ton of work to do because their 92-point center Brayden Point is due for a hefty raise as well. I project Point will make an AAV of somewhere in the $8-9 million range, in the non-tax state of Florida. Tampa also has some other big RFAs due this summer and next, including Point and Paquette this summer, and Cirelli, Vasilevskiy, Sergachev, Cernak, and Joseph next summer. Even if Karlsson were to make an AAV of $6 million, an extreme discount for a player of his caliber, it would still be next to impossible to get him, re-sign Point this summer, and sign the plethora of very good RFAs next summer, one of which is a Vezina nominated goaltender. So how do the Rangers play into helping the Lightning acquire Karlsson?
In a recent post by our own Steven Voogel, he discussed the idea of the Rangers taking on a bad contract such as Patrick Marleau, and an asset such as Kasperi Kapanen attached to it to help Toronto clear some money to pay Mitch Marner.
I think that there can be something similar can be done here with Tampa to help them out in acquiring Karlsson. As we know, the Rangers and the Bolts have been trading allies for quite some time now. They clearly have a good relationship, and the Rangers are a perfect fit for this situation. The Rangers have an abundance of cap space (projected at just over $19 million as per CapFriendly), and can have even more room if they move some other pieces. If they were to help out Tampa, the Rangers would likely have to bring back former captain Ryan Callahan, who has one year left on his deal carrying an AAV of $5.8 million. Attached to Callahan could be Anthony Cirelli. Cirelli, who is only 21-years-old and has one more year left on his ELC before a solid pay-raise, is exactly the type of player the Rangers should target when making a move like this. Cirelli has 50 points in 100 career games, and had an excellent first full year in the league. In 2018-2019, Cirelli played in all 82 games, compiling 39 points; 19 of which were goals. Cirelli also represented Team Canada at the World Championships where he won a silver medal. In the tournament, Cirelli had four points (3G, A) in ten games.
With all of the big-name UFA buzz surrounding Panarin, Duchene, Karlsson, etc., I would rather see the Rangers go this route. I am not putting down the fact of signing a career point-per-game player in Panarin, but acquiring a guy like Cirelli for taking on a bad contract in Callahan for just one season may fit the Rangers timeline better.
Jeff Gorton and co. have put themselves in a fantastic spot heading into this off-season. They have compiled picks, re-stocked the prospect cabinet on defense, got the number two overall pick in the 2019 draft, and have cap flexibility. There are so many things that Rangers brass can do this summer, and I am really looking forward to it.