Rangers not in the cap hell everyone thinks they’re in

Trouba (NYR Graphic)

Yesterday, the Rangers completed their top priority of the summer. By acquiring and signing Jacob Trouba to a 7 year deal worth $56M ($8M AAV) the Blueshirts upgraded their blue line for years to come. The transaction now puts the Rangers with basically zero cap space and three key pieces left to sign.

Trouba’s Sights Were Always NY

In an interview with Michael Obernauer on the Rangers website, Trouba confirmed what we reported back in June, that NY was his top destination. According to the interview, he and his fiancée did a little exercise of writing places they saw working and then shared it with each other.

“The Rangers were the first place on both of our lists. And the rest of the list was pretty jumbled. So I’d say it worked out pretty good for both of us that we ended up in New York. That was the place. We couldn’t be happier with how everything played out.”

Jacob Trouba

Trouba Will Be the Anchor of the Future D Corps

The Rangers see Trouba as the key piece to build the defense around going forward. Enough so that they gave him a No Move Clause starting next season to year five. Then a modified one with a 15 team no trade followed by a 12 team no trade in his final year, per Cap Friendly.

Skjei (Getty)

Right now the plan is to pair him with Brady Skjei as their #1 unit. Once Tony DeAngelo is signed to a deal likely in the 1 to 1.5M range, he will be penciled into the bottom pairing, but could be in a rotation with someone like Libor Hajek and Adam Fox next season.

What you are really looking at is the start of what folks close to the organization believe will be the defense of the future. The picture appears cloudy at the moment with Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brendan Smith in the fold. However, the expectation is that K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist will be ready to join and contribute in 2 years. When that time comes, all three veterans mentioned above will be off the books and spots opened.

Are The Rangers in Cap Hell?

If you look at the Rangers strictly from a numbers standpoint, zero cap space and three RFA’s to sign, it’s easy to run around screaming the sky is falling. Lately that is all the NY Post has been doing with a series of articles portraying the Blueshirts as being in trouble.

However here is the reality of it, the Rangers need about $6M to $7M in cap space to sign Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, and Brendan Lemieux. Both DeAngelo and Lemieux could be looking at 1 year, $1M dollar deals each. Remember they have no leverage due to a lack of arbitration rights. So it could be a take it or leave it situation for them.

Buchnevich could also be given a 1 year deal if the Rangers are that tight for cap space at around $3M, but a bridge deal at $3.5M is where they’d like to land. When you factor in about $1M in cushion space for short term call up during the season, there is that estimated $7M they need.

Here’s the bottom line, folks around the Rangers who understand the situation are very confident they can get cap compliant and retain all three RFA’s. They have plenty of ways to get there and buying out both Smith and Shattenkirk this summer isn’t an option.

Laying Out the Pathways

We’ve been reporting on this for awhile now. The easiest path numerically for the Rangers to get to $7M is to buyout Smith (cap savings of $3.379M) and trade Vlad Namestnikov for a conditional middle round pick, with no salary retained (savings of $4M).

You can expect Jeff Gorton to be extremely aggressive in the trade market before having to go the buyout route. Just remember, other GM’s have cap concerns and Smith has a modified no trade clause to add to the difficulty of a deal. That means, other GM’s are in the driver’s seat in any trade negotiations with the Rangers.

Still the most likely route even based on the limited demand for Vlad Namestnikov is a trade and Smith buyout. The Blueshirts could sweeten the pot and retain some salary on Namestnikov but that means they would need to move Ryan Strome as well. Namestnikov is set to be a UFA after next season so don’t expect a big return. Same with Strome who will be restricted, but certainly more attractive. Dealing Strome, which is not something the Rangers want to do saves $3.1M.

Of course, the last resort is trading Chris Kreider. We’ve been told the Rangers are trying to find ways to retain Kreider to start the season. Still, if they can’t find a path to $4M via trades mentioned above, he is the most asked about commodity and easier to move. That would take $4.625M off the cap and gets the Rangers to where they need to be once Smith is bought out.

Wrapping Up

Kakko (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

When this is all said and done, the Rangers will not only be cap compliant next season but in good shape for the 2020-2021 season too. Things would have been easier if the cap went up to $83M as was initially projected. But it still went up this year and is expected to do next summer as well.

A simple glance also shows that come hell or high-water, when it is time to start paying they’re young guns the big bucks over $20M will come off the books in 2021-2022. That summer Henrik Lundqvist’s $8.5M, Shattenkirk’s $6.65 and Marc Staal’s $5.7M will all be gone.

So while many are out there with gloom and doom scenarios for the Rangers, it is clear that when you stop to analyze it they’re really in great shape. This is an exciting time to be a fan of the team and while many teams are sitting status quo, this one is going to continue being active over the next two weeks.

Matter of fact, when you stop to smell the roses, you realize just how good this team is since “the letter to rebuild” went out in 2018. Artemi Panarin, Trouba are lynchpins for a team with young stars like Vitali Kravtsov and Kaapo Kakko now in the fold. So sit back, relax and enjoy the summer. I know that I will.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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