Rangers have quiet opening day of free agency; where do they go from here

what will rangers do in free agency
Feb 18, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith (42) celebrates his goal with center Ryan Strome (16) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The early stages of Chris Drury’s tenure as President and GM is getting mixed reviews by some fans and analysts alike. It started on a high note when he hired Gerard Gallant as his first head coach. A widely popular choice.

Then he made an aggressive move by trading for heart and soul forward Barclay Goodrow’s rights. Drury confidently gave up a 7th round pick knowing he would sign him to a new deal. That contract seemed to perplex many who live and die by analytics, which rightfully takes into account contract terms.

However; after seeing what some players got in free agency yesterday, Goodrow’s 6 year deal at $3.6 million was a good one.

Then came the trade of Pavel Buchnevich for Sammy Blais and a second round pick. To say some in the fanbase were upset would be an understatement. Reports also came to light that many of Buch’s teammates were very displeased. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin at the top of that list.

Yet, when the Blues signed Buchnevich to a 4 year-deal with a $5.8 million AAV, it made sense to me.

Rangers have quiet opening day of free agency

On Day 1 of free agency, the expectation was that Drury was going to make a splash. Whether that was a trade for a center or signing Phillip Danault, that money savings on Buch was going to address the need in the middle.

That didn’t happen.

Yes, the Rangers were in on Danault but the Kings did exactly what Drury wouldn’t do. That was give a 28 year-old defensive center a 6 year deal with an AAV of $5.5 million. For his career, Danault is a .50 point a game player. And last season that dipped to .45 so the trend is going in the wrong direction.

Heck, if they want a center to just win face-offS they could’ve gotten Luke Glendening. He signed with the Stars for just for two seasons at $1.5 million AAV.

Nope, Chris Drury instead stayed patient and filled out a few small needs.

will rangers trade for eichel
Rangers’ Chris Drury (Getty Images)

The signing of veteran left defenseman Patrik Nemeth was made official at 3 years and a $2.5M AAV. Then he added a bruiser and 7th defenseman in Jarred Tinordi to the tune of 2 years at $900K AAV. Finally, he made some depth signings that will help the Wolf Pack in Greg McKegg (1 year / $750K) and Dryden Hunt (1 year / $767K).

Per Cap Friendly, the Rangers have $17.7 million in space and 22 players on the roster. Assume $7.5 million will go to sign RFA’s Igor Shesterkin, Filip Chytil, and Libor Hajek. That still leaves them with $10.2 million to play with.

Where do the Rangers go from here

Yes, the big question is still out there. Do they trade for Jack Eichel? It’s not like they haven’t tried, and probably continue to stay in touch.

With suitors dropping like flies thanks to the Sabres astronomical ask acting like a bug zapper, Drury is actually still in the driver’s seat.

I know what you are thinking, Eichel makes $10 million a year and that eats up all the cap space. And what about his neck?

That second part I can’t answer, but any trade at this point is likely going to involve Chytil (QO $875K) and Alexandar Georgiev ($2.45M) since the Sabres lost Linus Ullmark to Boston in free agency. And yes, I’m aware they signed Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell – at best they would be backups.

Another player that would either be moved in the Eichel deal or in another cap shaving trade is Ryan Strome ($4.5M). If you total just those three players up it will likely come out to almost $8 million which means, the Rangers can easily take on Eichel’s cap hit.

As of right now, the Rangers are the best suited team to make a deal and Drury knows it.

Does that mean the Rangers are definitely trading for Eichel? Obviously the answer would be no. Plus it takes two to tango and the Sabres right now are an unwilling dance partner.

Free agency always seems like a sprint, and for the most part it is. But there are other players still unsigned like Casey Cizikas who would be a better third line center than Danault.

So yes, it was a quiet day for Drury. Yet, here we are not screaming about him overpaying for a player at the tail end of their career. If you ask me, Drury’s non action yesterday shows the ice in his veins as a player are still there as a GM.

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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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