New York Rangers NHL Free Agency preview

The New York Rangers will be active in free agency, even if it’s just to do some housekeeping. They have six restricted free agents to sign and decisions on three unrestricted players. When it comes to signing some players to fill out needs on the roster, July 28th will signal the dinner bell for Free Agent Frenzy.

New York Rangers Free Agency (UFA/RFA)

While there is no firm date on when qualifying offers have to be in or when players can file for arbitration, it is usually after the draft which takes place on July 23rd and 24th. This summer the Rangers have six RFAs to sign, but only two have arbitration rights.

  • Pavel Buchnevich (Arb Rights)
  • Igor Shesterkin (Arb Rights)
  • Filip Chytil
  • Brett Howden
  • Julien Gauthier
  • Libor Hajek

I fully expect for expansion draft purposes all will receive their qualifying offers as soon as possible. With that being said, I believe Pavel Buchnevich, Igor Shesterkin, and Filip Chytil will receive multi-year deals.

In the case of Buchnevich, he could be looking at a substantial raise in the neighborhood of $6 million per season. Igor Shesterkin is a player the Rangers should lock up for at least five years. That means buying some UFA years at an increased price. It would be wise to sign the 25 year-old goalie until he’s 30, even if they have spend a few extra million in AAV to do so. It would still be cheaper than a bridge deal of 2 years. I’m thinking $3.5 million to $5 million depending on the number of years.

rangers free agency
Apr 17, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Pavel Buchnevich #89 of the New York Rangers is acknowledged by fans after being named first star of the game for his three goal performance against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

As for Filip Chytil, they need to sign him up for sure. I’m believe a 2-3 year deal in the range of $2 million makes the most sense. That will keep him an RFA until about 24 years of age and give him arbitration rights when the deal is complete. The remaining RFA’s will simply have to sign their qualifying offers which would in essence be a between a 5 to 10% increase.

Rangers UFA’s are Phil Di Giuseppe, Brendan Smith, and Jack Johnson. Chris Drury could opt to sign Smith to a 1 or 2 year deal as the 7th defenseman. The deal would have to be in the $1-1.5 million range for it to make sense. Both Di Giuseppe and Johnson are unlikely to be re-signed.

New York Rangers UFA shopping list

The Rangers need to go out and get some skilled sandpaper in this lineup. Two players I believe they should target are the Islanders, Casey Cizikas and the Hurricanes, Jordan Martinook.

Cizikas is not a large player at 5-11 and 195 lbs, but he can still be the lynchpin to a stellar fourth line and win key face-offs. Losing draws is something the Rangers desperately need to address this offseason as well. At 30 years-old he isn’t a kid and the Rangers need to balance that their neophyte lineup better. He’s coming off a deal that paid him $3.35 million so he’s not cheap. While that seems expensive for a fourth line player, the Islanders are pretty thrilled with him. Cizikas finished the season with 14 points in 56 games and face-off win percentage of 53.2.

Jordan Martinook with the Carolina Hurricanes is someone that fits the bill for me. He willl turn 29 in July but can play a high intensity style with an in-your-face attitude at 6-1 and 204 lbs. Martinook won’t come cheap as he’s coming off a deal paying $2 million, and looking for an increase. Another plus, Martinook can also take some draws.

This season, he had 13 points in 43 games. If that gives you pause, then you are also under the same illusion that some other fans have that every player on the roster should be a skill guy. Martinook does have skills however, they just better fit a third or fourth line role. He is ferocious forechecker and a physical player that refuses to back down. The guy is also vocal in the locker-room, beloved by his teammates, and wears a letter on his sweater too.

For the defense, Alec Martinez would be a perfect addition to this young Rangers blue-line. He is a proven winner. A fact the Blueshirts fanbase knows all too well after he ended the team’s Stanley Cup dreams in 2014. The left defender will be 34 years-old when free agency opens on July 28. This season he racked up 32 points in 53 games with a solid +26 rating in Vegas. He did so by averaging 22:34 minutes a game, that would be second to only Adam Fox’s 24:42 this past season.

Another key UFA that the Blueshirts are rumored to be targeting is Toronto’s Zach Hyman. He’s 28 years-old and the Maple Leafs want desperately to retain him. His next contract is likely to come in at the $5.5-$6 million range which could be more than Toronto can handle. Prior to the dismissal of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton there wasn’t much chatter about the Rangers going after a player like Hyman in free agency. That was due more to the fact his next deal was closer to top six money and not something they were looking to do.

The bottom line is the Rangers have changed management, and Chris Drury is likely viewing the bottom six a little different from his predecessors.

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