Rangers youth and prospects hold key to sustained success in cap era

JT Miller(USA Today Sports)

JT Miller(USA Today Sports)

The NHL of 2015 is not the same as the NHL of 2002. Gone are the days when Glen Sather can just open Jim Dolan’s wallet and hand a 5 year 45 million dollar contract to Bobby Holik. That is all due to the salary cap.

However, even with the salary cap in place, Glen Sather has had no problem dishing out huge contracts to big name free-agents such as Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Brad Richards. Luckily for Sather, he was able to send all three packing: Gomez via the McDonagh trade, and the latter two via amnesty buyout.

With that being said, in today’s NHL, teams must configure their rosters to ensure maximum production from their players as well as the financial commitment to each one of them. Since 2010, three different teams have won the Stanley Cup, and each has had an effective group of young, cheap players to supplement the group of stars already there.

In 2010, the Blackhwaks had Toews, Kane and Hossa, and supplemented that group with guys like Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Viktor Stalberg. These three players were shipped out of Chi-town the following off-season due to cap issues. The Bruins inserted Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand into their lineup in 2011, and they had a major impact in Stanley Cup Finals vs. Vancouver.

Finally, as we all saw last year the Kings had Dwight “Goalie Interference” King, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in the lineup to compliment the talents of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter. As you can see, keeping a Stanley-cup winning team together is not an easy task in the salary cap era, which is why I am amazed as to how Chicago was able to recoup much of the cheap talent they lost after 2010 and bring in a new group to win it all in 2013.

Buchnevich (NYR)

Buchnevich (NYR)

The aforementioned explains why the Rangers must rely heavily on young talented players like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skeji over the next few years. The Blueshirts currently find themselves in a cap-crunch, meaning they are right at the salary cap ceiling. Most of the higher payed players on the team are locked into long term deals and their salaries aren’t coming off the books any time soon.

What complicates things even more is that the Rangers do not posses a first-round pick this year or next year, with this year’s pick going to Tampa Bay in the Martin St. Louis deal and the 2016 pick going to Arizona in the Keith Yandle deal. That may severely hinder the Rangers ability to stick the kids on entry level contracts into the lineup.

Luckily for the Rangers however, Head Scout Gordie Clark has done a fantastic job of finding talent in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, like Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast– both 6th round picks, and Glen Sather has done a great job signing talented college free agents like Hayes, Ryan Haggrety and Matt Bodie to make up for the lack of first round picks.

Hayes and Miller should be in the fold for the foreseeable future along with the hopeful arrivals of Buchnevich and Skeji which is crucial because they will be on low-paying contracts while the Girardi and Glass deals continue to wind-down. What will come more into play during this era is the Glen Sather special “bridge deal” that he gives to impending RFA’s, like he did with Derek Stepan two years ago. This gives the Rangers some more breathing room with regards to the cap, and keeps young talented players on the roster at a relatively low cost.

When Hayes’ and Miller’s contracts expire respectively, watch for the bridge deal because the Rangers will desperately need their talents in the lineup when Sather won’t be able to open up the checkbook like he used to.

 

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