The Rangers have cap space and holes. Here’s how to fill them
The Rangers have traded Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan to Arizona, as well as Oscar Lindberg being selected by Vegas, Jeff Gorton now has a lot of cap space to complete his roster for next season. But with these moves, the Rangers have lost two centermen and a backup goalie that need replacing. Add in Dan Girardi’s buyout, and Gorton will have to find all the right pieces to fill in those gaps.
So who do the Rangers go after to replace their former teammates?
There have been numerous reports that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was looking to trade his star centerman.
McKenzie: "Duchene – his time is up in Colorado. I think the #Avs know that. I think Duchene knows that."
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 22, 2017
Duchene is a highly skilled player that will put up points and is able to play on the wing as well. He plays with a ton of speed, which will certainly be good for Alain Vigneault’s system. If the Rangers are able to trade for him, he could become the true number one center the Blueshirts have been looking for. One downside to Duchene is his cap hit. He has two years left on his contract, making $6 million per year. It is better than Stepan’s contract, which had four years left at $6.5 million per year. If the Rangers are planning on keeping Duchene long term, he will command a very large payday.
This is an interesting one. Kane has had a lot of issues off the ice, but when he is playing, he can be a difference maker. Kane put up 43 points in 70 games least season with the Sabres and plays a speed game as well. He plays with a bit of an edge that can be both a positive and a negative. His contract though makes him very enticing to most teams. He will be in the final year of his contract next season and makes just over $5 million. If the Blueshirts can acquire him, they would add another point-producing winger to their arsenal.
Editor’s Note: Rangers are likely dangling their second 1st round pick (21 overall) for a top six forward. Buffalo might bite. – Anthony
If the Rangers don’t wish to go the trade route, they can go after longtime Sharks center Joe Thornton. The grizzled veteran put up 50 points this past season and had been a mainstay on the Sharks top line for the last few years. Thornton turns 38 this summer and is coming off of a contract that paid him close to $7 million per year. He won’t get that kind of money from the Rangers, but if he would be a nice signing for the Blueshirts as a second or third line center.
Should he find chemistry with Rick Nash like they have in international play, 1st line center isn’t out of the question.
One name that hasn’t been mentioned at all is Martin Hanzal. He put up 20 goals last season in a year split between Minnesota and Arizona. Hanzal is good in the faceoff circle and is also a good penalty killer. He would come cheaper than any of the other players mentioned above and would be serviceable as a bottom six center.
A player that doesn’t have a lot of hoopla around him is Brendan Smith. The defenseman from Mimico, Ontario was acquired at the trade deadline by Jeff Gorton and was a good player in his stint on Broadway. Smith is coming off of a two-year $2.75 million contract, and will likely command a bump in his salary. Smith returning to the Rangers would be good for the Rangers. He is very good in his own zone and really clicked with Brady Skjei toward the end of the season and playoffs. If Kevin Klein retires, they could use some of his $3 million on re-signing Smith.
When it comes to the Rangers defense, the biggest and the most talked about name has been Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is the player that would help the Rangers out the most. He is a right-handed defenseman who can play in his own zone. He has good skating ability and can bring some offense from the point.
But for all the hoopla that surrounded the New Rochelle, NY native, it almost seems as if the fire has died down. Shattenkirk has a similar skill set to former Ranger Keith Yandle. But when it came time for the Blueshirts to offer Yandle a new contract, terms could not be reached. If Shattenkirk is willing to make some concessions for his childhood team, then he could become a huge piece in solidifying the Rangers blue line.
If the Rangers want to look for a cheaper right-handed defenseman, they should give Cody Franson a look. Franson is a puck moving defenseman with a heavy shot. He can look a little slow at times, but is a big body on defense at 6’5″. If the Rangers can sign him, they could save some room on the cap to sign other players as well.
With the Rangers now needing a backup goaltender, Keith Kinkaid is a solid and cap-friendly option. Kinkaid has served as the backup to Devils netminder Corey Schneider, and average a .911 SV% during that time. Kinkaid has shown that he can play 25-30 games a year He made under $1 million last season, and would be a good and reliable backup for King Henrik.
The second option at backup could be Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper put up two solid seasons backing up Devan Dubnyk, posting a .908 SV%. Kuemper made just $1.5 million last year, and won’t be getting much more than that to become Henrik Lundqvist’s backup.
The third candidate to replace Antti Raanta is journeyman backup Jhonas Enroth. Enroth has played on five teams over his nine-year NHL career and has put up a .905 SV%. He has represented Sweden before and played much better with his entire nation watching him.