Rangers options to replace Barclay Goodrow after center claimed by Sharks

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

It was an early offseason win for the New York Rangers, clearing $3.6 million off the salary cap the next three seasons when the San Jose Sharks claimed Barclay Goodrow off waivers on Wednesday. That bumps New York’s projected cap space to $13.695 million, giving general manager Chris Drury a bit more breathing room to make some moves this offseason.

There might be more trimming to come. Jacob Toruba could have his contract bought out, which would save $4 million against the cap the next two seasons, though incur penalties the following seasons. A trade or two can’t be discounted since Drury did say nothing is off the table this offseason.

The Rangers need to find a top-six right wing and a 6th/7th defenseman, plus re-sign defensemen Braden Schneider and Ryan Lindgren, each of whom becomes a restricted free agent July 1. Lindgren has arbitration rights and is one year away from unrestricted free agency, so New York may have to ante up for his next contract.

Oh, and now that Goodrow is no longer on the team, the Rangers must fill his spot as a fourth-line center and key member of the penalty-killing unit.

Related: Why Sam Reinhart is complicated free-agent option for Rangers

Rangers options to replace Barclay Goodrow

NHL: Calgary Flames at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Drury said after the Stanley Cup Playoffs ended that he’d consider internal and external options to fill vacancies on the roster. At the time, it appeared he was discussing right wing and defense. But the same holds true for the fourth-line center opening.

Jonny Brodzinski among internal options

Let’s start with this, it’s going to be difficult to replace Goodrow’s leadership and championship pedigree as a player who won the Stanley Cup twice in his career. He’s also a terrific penalty killer and an effective checking center.

But the Rangers didn’t get much production out of him last season, that is until he scored six goals in 16 playoff games.

The Rangers do have several internal options to replace Goodrow, each much more affordable than what the 31-year-old was being paid.

Jonny Brodzinski played an NHL career-high 57 games this past season, with time on the third line and fourth. He scored six goals and had 19 points, and coach Peter Laviolette likes the speed and energy he brings to the lineup. However, when push came to shove, Brodzinski only dressed in three postseason games.

Brodzinski signed a two-year contract extension this past season, and it carries a modest $787,500 cap hit. That, coupled with the fact that the coach likes him, could give the 31-year-old a leg up on the competition.

Then there’s Matt Rempe. The Rangers would likely prefer to bring him along as a wing, but the popular 6-foot-8 forward is a natural center. It’s a stretch to think Laviolette will trust the 21-year-old enough to play 8-12 minutes a night as the fourth-line center, but it is Rempe’s stated goal to play the position and be on the Rangers penalty kill in the near future. So, there is that.

Jake Leschyshyn (pictured above) is 25, a former second-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, plays center and has 77 games of NHL experience. He spent all but one game in the AHL last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack and could be a classic ‘tweener — not quite an NHL regular — but he also might be in the mix come training camp.

Adam Sykora won’t turn 20 until Sept. 7 and has played quite a bit of left wing in recent years because he’s been in men’s leagues at a young age. But Sykora is expected to be a solid two-way center with plenty of intangibles to his game in the future. The 2022 second-round pick scored eight goals and had 23 points in 66 games as a rookie pro with Hartford this past season, and still needs to bulk up physically. So, he may not be the perfect option yet to step in as fourth-line center but could arrive sooner than expected because of his smarts and commitment to playing good defense.

Kevin Stenlund among external options

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Figuring the Rangers want to fill this lineup spot with someone who’s affordable — think Erik Gustafsson on the third defense pair this past season with an $825,000 cap hit — their options are probably limited in free agency. Of course, Drury could trade for a fourth-line center but that’d be too much conjecture at the moment to propose.

One intriguing option on the free agent market is Florida Panthers center Kevin Stenlund. The Blueshirts saw first-hand what Stenlund brings to the table in the Eastern Conference Final. He’s big (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), wins puck battles, defensively responsible, plays with an edge (62 penalty minutes this season) and is solid in the face-off circle, where he won 51.4 percent of his draws this season and 53.2 percent in 2022-23 with the Winnipeg Jets.

Stenlund, who turns 28 before training camp, also established NHL career highs with 11 goals and 15 points with the Panthers. He made $1 million this season. Figuring on a modest raise, Stenlund still could be a good value for the Rangers.

Yakov Trenin is a big (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) physical center, who hits the open market at 27 years old. Trenin scored 17 goals two seasons ago with the Nashville Predators, and had 12 this past season playing for the Predators and Colorado Avalanche. He had 207 hits, which put him Top 30 in the NHL and would’ve been second most on the Rangers behind Will Cuylle (249).

Trenin isn’t great on face-offs, so that’s an issue. And he’s coming off a two-year, $3.4 million contract with an AAV of $1.7 million.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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