New York Rangers start work on next season’s squad with limited cap space

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Feb 8, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24), and New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) celebrate with New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenière (13) after Alexis Lafrenière scores a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Rangers inked center Filip Chytil to a four-year contract extension with an AAV of $4.4375 million, it was the first significant move to shaping next year’s roster.

Chytil, 23, is setting career-highs in all three major stat categories with 22 goals, 20 assists, and 42 points in 66 games and counting. The new deal has no type of trade protection and will take him to UFA status at the age of 27 in the summer of 2027.

The Blueshirts now have 14 players under contract for next season, and if the cap only goes up by the projected one million ($83.5M), it gives them just $12,373,809 per PuckPedia to sign multiple players.

Needless to say, that’s not ideal.

New York Rangers cap situation

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will have the following key players become restricted free agents in 2023:

  • Alexis Lafrenière
  • K’Andre Miller
  • Libor Hajek (arbitration rights)
  • Zac Jones

Let’s begin with Hajek, since I’m not even sure the Rangers would qualify him and probably trade his rights at the draft. As for Jones, he’s an intriguing piece that the organization appears to want to keep around. However, if Jones doesn’t see a future on the blue line next season he may ask for a trade.

One thing in all of this that’s abundantly clear, a bulk of the remaining cap space will go to extending both Lafreniere and Miller. Right now, your guess is as good as mine on what it will take to keep them. Both players are likely to get at least two-year bridge deals since they don’t have arbitration rights. For argument’s sake, let’s assume anywhere between $5-7 million will be used in order to make it happen.

That’s now 16 players under contract in 2023-24 with the need to sign at least four forwards, one defenseman, and a backup goalie with just about $6-7 million in cap room.

Not an envious task for President and GM Chris Drury. Especially when you know that it’s near impossible to go an entire season without having an extra forward/defenseman on the roster.

Where can the Rangers find more cap space?

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s a chance the cap ceiling could go up to around $86.5 million based on current revenue projections. This is of course tied to escrow owed to the owners being paid in full.

The Rangers could certainly use that extra $3 million but for now can’t hope for a salary cap miracle.

There is some good news, the Rangers can fill a few of their holes next season with team friendly contracts already on the books.

Let’s start by promoting Louis Domingue and his $775,000 contract up from the Wolf Pack. Follow that with Will Cuylle ($828,333) making the team to replace pending UFA Tyler Motte on the fourth line. Top prospect Brennan Othmann ($894,167) will get a look at replacing pending UFA Vladimir Tarasenko. And on defense, promote Matthew Robertson ($797,500) to pair with Braden Schneider or sign Zac Jones to a bridge deal with an AAV of around $1.5 million if you want to let Niko Mikkola walk via free agency.

All of a sudden, the Rangers have solved their backup goaltending and defense needs, plus addressed some open forward spots for approximately $3.5 to $4 million in cap space.

That leaves them with around $3 to $3.5 million in space to ink two or three more forwards.

If the Rangers hope to have any chance in bringing back Patrick Kane on a discounted deal (if he would even take one), they will need that projected extra $3 million to hit. Otherwise, the logical choice is to move the one forward with limited trade protection.

As it stands, fourth line center Barclay Goodrow and his $3.6 million AAV is an obvious cap casualty. The Rangers could replace him with a youngster like Jake Leschyshyn ($766,667) or veteran Jonny Brodzinski ($762,500).

Honestly, even if the cap were to go up higher than projected this is a move the Rangers may make in order to keep the current top-nine intact as much as possible.

There’s a lot of work to do this summer, but the good news is that there’s plenty of roads for the Rangers to take to get there.

For now, the Rangers are focused on this season and winning a Stanley Cup. Although, it’s always wise to plan ahead.

Note: Salary cap data referenced in this article via CapFriendly and PuckPedia

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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