Jeff Gorton is getting ready for the offseason. He has his hands full with the upcoming draft, finding a new coach, and signing his restricted free agents. All of which fall into the “longterm” plans for success. However, there is another road to be explored once the UFA market opens this summer.
Light Speed Rebuild
Heading into the summer, the Rangers only have 13 players signed to a committed total of around $51,000,0000. If the salary cap rises to the lowest estimate of around $78 million, it will give them $27 million to play with. Sounds like a lot, but don’t get too excited.
The Rangers could get lucky and land one of the top 3 picks in the draft. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, and Filip Zedina all have the potential to play in the NHL next season and would come with an affordable entry level contract. While that would be a best case scenario, even if they got one there’s no guarantee the Rangers would keep them with the big club.
There are also the rumors of adding Ilya Kovalchuk on July 1st. If the numbers are really $6 million per for 2 seasons, it’s a hefty price tag. Regardless, the team is getting ready put this rebuild into warp speed in one fell swoop.
Should John Tavares hit the open market this summer, the Rangers are ready to make him one of the NHL’s richest players. It would not surprise anyone if the Rangers are ready to give him double digits and max years. An opening offer of 10 million or more is not out of the question to land the 27 year old center in his prime.
The Move Has Consequences
The Rangers have 5 big RFA’s they need to sign this summer:
- Kevin Hayes
- Vlad Namestnikov
- Brady Skjei
- Jimmy Vesey
- Ryan Spooner
No matter how you slice it, even with some bridge deals all 5 must be re-signed and will come with a total combined price tag of around 17-20 million dollars. Gorton also needs to retain John Gilmour but he should be relatively cheap. Once you add Alex Georgiev as Lundqvist’s backup and a player like Vinni Lettieri in place of Matt Belesky (he is signed) that’s 21 players under contract with 2 spots to fill and less than 10 million in cap space.
The math doesn’t add up to add a John Tavares alone, nonetheless Kovalchuk also. That means hard decisions will need to be made. One of these 4 roster players will need to be traded in order to make room for a bonafide NHL superstar center.
At $4.5M and 30 years of age, he makes the most sense in terms of a rebuild to move. A top 6 winger any contender would want.
At $5.7M and 31 years of age, he also makes sense. But unlike Zuccarello who is a top 6 winger with a great contract, Staal’s better days have passed. Which leaves the buyout option. This would give the Rangers an additional $3.7M to play with this year and will likely be explored unless Staal waives his no trade and a miraculous trade is pulled off.
The 26 year old winger is a perfect fit for what the Rangers want to do going forward. He is one of the few Blueshirts that stands in front and his speed is elite. However, he does make $4.6M and the Gorton may be forced to consider a deal. In my opinion, this is very unlikely.
He’s 24 and makes $5.3 million and loaded with talent, much of it untapped. Why trade him? Partially it is the untapped potential which he has yet to be able to do on a consistent basis. He is also prone to injury as once again he was hit by the bug. Still, those are not enough reasons to consider moving such a talented young player.
Since last summer, the Rangers via draft and trades have added a ton of centers. Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vladislav Namestinikov, and Ryan Spooner. All can play the position and if you add John Tavares it will cause a major logjam. Look at this way, if you could trade Zibanejad for Tavares, you would do it in a heartbeat.
Ultimately, the Rangers would need to consider trading one of these players and buying out Staal to fit Tavares on the roster.
A Career Defining Summer
Jeff Gorton came to the Rangers a highly touted young executive. He is now in full control on one of the grandest stages in the NHL. The opportunity in front of him is career defining, especially if he can execute one of the fastest rebuilds and turnarounds in NHL history.
The Rangers GM is already on the right path, but should John Tavares hit the open market and jump from Brooklyn to Broadway it would be a major coup. Again it is a big IF, but Gorton is going to be all in should Tavares goes to free agency.