Cap strapped New York Rangers must trade or buyout Patrik Nemeth

The New York Rangers have gotten off to a promising offseason by signing Vitali Kravtsov and Sammy Blais on the cheap. However, with limited cap space and the need to sign several other players, they must find a way to move on from Patrik Nemeth.

This past offseason the Rangers were looking for a physical veteran defenseman for their third pair. Chris Drury went to the Colorado Avalanche for permission to speak with the pending UFA, whom they signed to a 3-year deal worth $2.5M per season and a limited no-trade clause.

Patrik Nemeth’s rough season

The 30 year-old defenseman scored 10 points in 52 games while averaging 18:01 per night for the Avs in 2020-21 and seemed like a solid pickup. He had been regarded as a stay-at-home type, who was utilized by other teams with heavy defensive zone starts around 66%.

At 6-3 and 228 lbs, he was a physical presence that Drury envisioned could help fellow Swede and highly touted prospect Nils Lundkvist acclimate to the NHL. That experiment did not go as planned with Lundkvist eventually demoted to the Wolf Pack in December.

Nemeth’s struggles continued and eventually he became a permanent scratch in the playoffs. That made way for trade deadline acquisition Justin Braun to pair with outstanding rookie Braden Schneider.

For the season, he finished with 2 goals and 7 points in 63 games. Nemeth has -9 rating but posted solid numbers in the blocks (102) and hits department (115). The biggest issue was his inability to suppress shots despite who his partners were as he finished the season with a 40.7 CF%.

Rangers must trade or buyout Nemeth

patrik nemeth
Nov 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Patrik Nemeth (12) and Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) battle for the puck during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

New York just went on a run to the Eastern Conference Final likely a year before expected. Their Stanley Cup window is now open but they only have $11.93M in cap space per CapFriendly after signing Sammy Blais for less than his $1.6M qualifying offer ($1.525).

It’s safe to assume that signing RFA Kaapo Kakko and either UFAs Andrew Copp or Ryan Strome could eat $7.5M to $8.5M. That leaves around another $3M for a back up and possibly Tyler Motte. Taking that into consideration, the Rangers need more cap room.

Patrik Nemeth, who has 2 years remaining at $2.5M on his deal is the top candidate to find it.

The first option for Drury will be to explore the trade market. There are logical places to deal Nemeth along with a draft pick to a team that will assume his full cap hit. Take for example teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres that need to reach the cap floor.

Here’s the rub, Nemeth has an 8-team no trade list and it’s likely the Yotes and Sabres are on it. Trading him will be difficult, but there’s always the possibility that he could be amicable to waive the clause.

Of course, enticing a team to assume the full hit for two more years will be costly. One knowledgeable source told me that would likely need to be a high draft pick, along the lines of a second round selection.

If the Rangers need to eat 50% of his salary in order to trade him, then a buyout is the best route.

Per CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, a Nemeth buyout would add $1.5M this offseason to work with. It’s even bigger in 2023-24, where the full $2.5M is back on the books. That’s just in time for Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, and Filip Chytil’s new deals. There’s a -$1M penalty for two seasons after, which the Rangers can easily manage.

If they can move some or all of Nemeth’s $2.5M cap hit, that extra money can be used to possibly re-sign UFA Frank Vatrano as well.

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