Rangers impending cap crunch means Sather has to make movesChanges must be made in time for Stepan to be activated from LTIR (Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News)
It feels like we talk about this every year, but once again the Rangers are under the salary cap by the skin of their teeth. This offseason was worse than others, as Glen Sather was forced to let key players like Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and Brad Richards leave in order to resign their more important free agents.
The Blueshirts started the season with about $2,300,000 in cap space thanks to Derek Stepan being placed on long term injured reserve (LTIR). However, after calling up Michael Kostka due to Dan Boyle’s broken hand, the Rangers were left with roughly $1,700,000.
So now, Sather must work his magic one more time when Stepan is able to return, as they would be over the salary cap by about $1,400,000. In order to be cap compliant once again the Rangers must move at least two players down to Hartford, and even then they might not make it. Here are my top five candidates to be sent down.
J.T. had a solid training camp, but has struggled through three games going pointless with a plus-minus of -4. With the emergence of Kevin Hayes as a center, there might not be a place for Miller once Stepan returns. However, Miller could be moved to the wing should he outplay another forward. J.T. has a cap hit of $894,167.
Same as with Miller, there might not be room once Stepan returns. Through two games, Hayes has averaged over 14 minutes per game (compared to Miller’s 12) with 0 points, and a plus-minus of -3. However, Hayes has only won 33% of his faceoffs, while J.T. Miller has won 39%. Like Miller, Hayes could be moved to the wing if Alain Vigneault wants to keep the Boston College Alum on the NHL roster. Hayes has a cap hit of $900,000.
Kotska was originally reassigned to Hartford, but after Dan Boyle went down with a broken hand, Kostka was recalled. He was inserted into the lineup Tuesday against the Islanders in favor of Matt Hunwick, and proceeded to turn the puck over three times, along with a plus-minus of -2 in 15:42 on the ice. AV lost his trust in Kostka, going back to Hunwick against the Hurricanes tonight. If I was a betting man, Kostka and his $650,000 cap hit will be in Hartford shortly.
Through three games, Fast has gone pointless with a plus-minus of -1, and averaging 12:41 on the ice. During the Ranger’s win over the St. Louis Blues, Fast lost his balance attempting to block a shot, and the shot hit him in the forearm. Many were surprised to see him suit up against the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs, but he sat Tuesday against the Isles. Fast could still use some seasoning in the AHL, and if AV decides to keep J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes, there might not be any room for him. Jesper has a cap hit of $805,000.
Many fans were left scratching their heads after Glen Sather gave out a three year contract with a cap hit of $1,450,000 to free agent Tanner Glass. Sather then signed many free agent forwards like Lee Stempniak, Matthew Lombardi, Kevin Hayes, and Ryan Malone to more affordable contract. This led to fans calling for Glass to be exiled before he even put on a jersey. Through four games Glass has done very little, only recording two shots, two penalty minutes, and a plus minus of -4. Glass does have a physical aspect to his game that the Rangers haven’t had since Brandon Prust, and his contract wouldn’t be completely buried in the AHL, so I think he stays.
Of course, Slats can always make a deal but with a cap this tight, it would take more than just Jedi mind tricks.
All stats are from www.hockey-reference.com and www.capgeek.com