Our top moves for Jeff Gorton and the Rangers this off-season

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The Forever Blueshirts team weighs in on the top moves for the Rangers this summer.

James – Buy-out Brendan Smith: A Brendan Smith buyout is something that I have been calling for since the beginning of the season. After a marvelous playoff run the year he was acquired, Smith got a 4-year deal carrying an AAV of $4.35 million.

After an extremely disappointing first year of the deal, Smith made some waves on both the back end and even at wing, but still overall, a massive disappointment. Smith still has two years left on his deal carrying that $4.35 million AAV, and a buyout of him makes much more sense than Marc Staal. First of all before numbers are discussed, the idea of Kevin Shattenkirk getting bought out should exit everyone’s mind. He is a movable piece if the Rangers retain some salary.

Staal will ride out the rest of his deal being a leader in the locker room for the young Rangers club. Smith, who does not have the long lasting Ranger blue in his blood like Staal, will most likely be bought out this summer. If he is bought out, the Rangers will save $3.379 million in 2019-20, and $1.204 million in 2020-21. They will be hit with a penalty in 2021-22 and 2022-23 of just $1.145 million each year; a very nice number. The Rangers need some more cap room having some RFAs to sign, and having a plan to make a run at a big Russian fish currently residing in Columbus, Ohio.

Russ – Trade Chris Kreider: This summer, to avoid another awkward situation this year, Gorton should find a suitor for Chris Kreider. The 6′ 3″ power forward has had a memorable career in New York, but with young blood coming in and the Rangers getting their cap situation in order, a new 6 or 7 year deal for Kreider shouldn’t be in the cards. Kreider may not be as much of an effective player at the end of that deal. We don’t want a Lucic situation on our hands. Maybe a trade of Kreider and Winnipeg pick could be something to look at? Or could the rumors of Kreider to the Jets for Trouba have more truth behind them than we thought.

Steve – Draft Pavel Dorofeyev and Patrik Puistola: As someone who has been a fan of Dorofeyev since before the season started, I think he fits the mold of what the Rangers need perfectly. A strong skater who moves the puck well and his mature style of hockey translates well to the pro-level as shown in the KHL. Patrik Puistola is that pure goal-scorer we are sorely lacking. He showed in the u18s how dangerous he can be, with 5 goals in 5 games. His season in Finland has also been quite remarkable, after being loaned out to LeKi in Mestis. Puistola is a highly underrated prospect and a typical boom-or-bust player we need to target now that we have a solid foundation.

Kevin – Re-sign Brendan Lemieux: With the influx of younger talent in Fox, Kravstov and possibly Kakko, and second year players in Chytil and Andersson, the Rangers will need to maintain some sort of protection for the younger stars. Given his limited role with Winnipeg, Lemieux has shown that with increased ice time that he can be a game changer. He dishes out hits and he smart about when to fight the opposing team’s enforcers.

Although an argument can be made that you could just find another 4th line goon for next to nothing, Lemieux has shown he is more than that with a small scoring touch. Depth guys like that don’t come around often and it’s good to seize someone like this at a discounted price instead of overpaying for the same production and influence. Unlike other enforcers, he is actually a solid defensive forward and can round out the bottom 6 nicely (+10 in WPG this season). Being that this is his first free agency (RFA), he most likely won’t demand that much money and this could save the Rangers significantly when trying to sign bigger fish when July 1st comes around.

Jordan – Trade Vlad Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey: Both Namestnikov and Vesey are set to become unrestricted free agents after next season. The problem is that the Rangers have new forwards coming in and are also trying to secure a top free agent like Artemi Panarin. Vesey is currently making $2.275 million, which is a pretty high number for a player who has only scored over 30 points once. Namestnikov is a hard working player but only notched 31 points this season while earning a salary of $4 million. With forwards like Vitali Kravtsov and either Kaapo Kakko or Jack Hughes entering the mix, forwards such as Namestnikov and Vesey should be moved to help make room for rookies and a high end free agent.

Johnluke – Sign Erik Karlsson: I’m obliged to say the Rangers should bring in Erik Karlsson. What better way to improve the defense by bringing in one of the more versatile, defensive threats of the decade? Karlsson would not only legitimize the back end but could be served as a mentor to the young players defensively. The addition of EK65 will make what was an anemic backend in 2018-19 that much better. Also, with Libor Hajek likely to make a full-time jump, a likely Brendan Smith buyout, Brady Skjei in the second year of his new contract, and the addition of Harvard star Adam Fox, the Rangers backend can start taking some real form.

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