Replacing Keith Yandle, because that’s what it is starting to look like
The Rangers are heading straight for the inevitable and that’s Keith Yandle hitting the free agent market on his way out of NY. TSN just released its list of top 30 UFA’s and Yandle was in the top 10 and also the #1 ranked defenseman available.
All the factors that make his departure this summer inevitable are there. The Rangers are cap strapped and have too many large contracts that will be hard to move. They need to spend their money wisely this summer in order to be competitive and not completely mortgage the next 5-8 years.
The Rangers currently have 14 players under contract and need to sign about 8 more with almost 18 million in cap space for next year. That breaks down to 6 forwards and 2 more defenseman. Let’s lock up the RFA’s and insert Pavel Buchnevich along with Nicklas Jensen into the roster, assuming they can sign all 4 RFA’s (Kreider, Miller, Hayes, McIlrath). We can call this option 1, which has no Yandle.
Note: The RFA numbers are an estimate as I believe it will take a mix of 11 million to sign all 4.
OPTION 1: SIGN YOUR OWN AND DON’T REPLACE YANDLE
Assuming the cap ceiling is 74M, this would give the Rangers almost 5 million to sign another defenseman and improve the team up front. The problem with this lineup is there are way to many players on the decline (Girardi/Staal/Glass) and way too much inexperience (Buchnevich/Jensen/Lindberg/Skjei). Plus we didn’t address replacing the loss of Yandle.
Let’s now look at the only reasonable play the Rangers have to replace Yandle and not take a major hit up front. This is Option 2 and involves trading Rick Nash.
OPTION 2: TRADE NASH FOR SHATTENKIRK, SIGN LOUI ERIKSSON
Now this is a much better option. This allows the Rangers to get younger and not take a huge hit up front or on the blue line. Plus it allows them room to improve on the 3rd or 4th line with a little over 2M in cap space. Most importantly, it sets them up for a brighter longterm future with their RFA’s locked up and money to re-sign Shattenkirk once they are able to trade Girardi next summer.
Finally, let’s keep Nash, sign our RFA’s and look for some UFA help on defense.
OPTION 3: IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
This is another viable option, but as you can see leaves very little cap space to help improve up front or adding an extra forward. Plus with only about 2.5 – 3.5 to sign a UFA defenseman, is a player like Kris Russell really helping our defense? The answer is no and that is why this is my least favorite option unless they can get their RFA’s to sign better deals to free up about 2 million more for an Alex Goligoski.
Keith Yandle is going to test the market and get 6-7M out there. This all but assures his departure leaving the Rangers hurting on the blue line. The only way I see the Rangers being a contender next season and not destroy their future is to trade Rick Nash.
By moving the big winger’s contract, the Rangers could lock up their RFA’s, replace Yandle with Shattenkirk and possibly add a solid scoring winger to replace Nash. To me it seems like the only way.