Is Pavel Buchnevich playing himself off the New York Rangers?

The Pavel Buchnevich hype has finally come to fruition in his 5th season on Broadway. Back in May of 2016 the Rangers signed the 21 year-old to his ELC. The player they drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft was making his way to New York after three years of anticipation. Coming with him, the promise he showed in the KHL as a playmaker and goal scorer.

Of course, success was not going to come immediately.

Pavel Buchnevich from confused rookie to first line winger

The young Russian hit the Rangers wide-eyed and confused for the most part in his first season. Head coach Alain Vigneault is not known for his relationship with rookies and it wasn’t a good mix. Even though Buchnevich showed an ability to score, his defensive issues saw him benched and scratched on many occasions. It certainly had an impact.

Buchnevich opened up to Sport-Express shortly after Vigneault was fired in 2017 explaining how he was not playing with any confidence. “Because everything depends on my confidence. When you do not think that the error will lead to consequences in the form of a reduction in playing time, then it is much easier for me,” he revealed. “A couple of matches you are doing well, in the third you struggle and instantly find yourself on the fourth line with five minutes of playing time. It’s hard.

However, things started to change slowly but surely with David Quinn in charge. It took Buchnevich some adjustments (and some scratches) but Quinn’s communication skills and approach brought out his best single season goal mark with 21.

As for last season, Buchnevich had his best offensive campaign with 46 points in 68 games. The 24 year-old was scoring at a clip of .67 points per game and now finds himself as the top right wing averaging .92 points per game. The sometimes too-hard on himself winger has 26 points in 28 games this season.

pavel buchnevich
Mar 6, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) celebrates a goal by defenseman Libor Hajek (25) (not pictured) during the second period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Signing Pavel Buchnevich

Trying to figure out what the NHL economy is in the era of COVID and a flat cap makes it very difficult. Buchnevich is not a UFA this summer, he’s an arbitration case RFA. That means the Blueshirts can do just a one year deal with him or accept the one year reward and figure out what happens next trade deadline.

If they do want to sign him longer term this summer, they would be buying years of free agency which always drives the cost up. Pavel may just want a one or two year deal if the Blueshirts are not willing to go the max seven years, which I get the impression is not on the table here.

Buchnevich is earning $3.25 million and will seek anywhere from $6 to $7.5 million on his next deal depending on length. More term, more money. The Rangers are probably looking for a number under $6 which they could get on a one year deal/award most likely.

What if he wants more?

Buchnevich is the 8th highest scoring RW, and 36th highest scoring forward at the time of this writing. He has more points than the Leafs’ William Nylander who earns $6.96 million and signed in 2018. That was pre flat cap so let’s look at the Jackets’ Oliver Bjorkstand who signed in January of 2021 for $5.4 million. He and Buchnevich have the same amount of points which is why I believe a fair number for Buchnevich is $5.75 million per for the next three to five seasons.

Is Buchnevich playing himself off Broadway?

So the big question remains, with cost controlled right wingers in Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Julien Gauthier could his contract be too big to keep? That depends of course on what the Rangers can do via trade this summer. If all the talk around the executive offices are true that Jack Eichel is destined to be a Blueshirt soon, his contract is $10 million AAV.

Taking Mika Zibanejad out of the equation to fit Eichel makes no sense since the whole point of bringing in Eichel is to have two elite centers. Mika is due a huge raise, slump or no slump someone is going to give him at least $8 million if not $10 million per season on his next deal in 2022.

The NHL doesn’t see the cap ceiling getting much higher than the current $81.5 million so what will the Rangers do? Artemi Panarin is north of $11 million, Mika will hit close to $10M, a trade for Eichel will be another $10M. That’s $31 million on three players, or 38% of the team’s entire cap.

That’s why one has to ask if Buchnevich’s stellar play this season could mean having to move him based on sheer math. However, I don’t believe the Rangers will without knowing for sure what they have in Vitali Kravtsov and if they can land Jack Eichel in a trade.

That’s why he will be here after the deadline and only moved in a deal for a top center – if he’s moved at all.

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