Should the Rangers consider re-signing Niko Mikkola

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers added Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a conditional first-round pick (2023), a conditional fourth-round pick (2024), forward Sammy Blais, and prospect defenseman Hunter Skinner early in February.

Gerard Gallant expected to pair Mikkola with Braden Schneider and did so out of the gate. However, he’s spent the last several contests with Adam Fox due to Ryan Lindgren’s shoulder injury.

The Mikkola and Fox pairing will stay together until Lindgren returns.

Niko Mikkola has been a solid addition

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins Niko Mikkola
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mikkola, 26, has 5 assists in 66 games to date. He also has a cap hit of $1.9 million and will be a UFA when this season comes to a close.

At 6-4, 210 pounds, he’s a physical defender that’s averaged 2.065 hits per game since joining the Blueshirts. Prior to the trade, he ranked third on the Blues in hits (96) and blocked shots (68).

Overall, Mikkola has been as advertised and hasn’t withered playing a much heavier workload than intended. In his first 8 games with the team on the third pair, he averaged 16:42 and registered an assist. Once Lindgren was hurt, he was bumped into a top-four role playing 21:26 per game and also adding another assist.

While there have been times he and Fox experienced miscues, they’ve been solid 5 on 5 with 8 GoalsFor and 8 GoalsAgainst. Prior to that, Mikkola had a -3 differential with Schneider. Some of those goals against can be allocated to new team/new system issues.

So the question is, should the Rangers consider re-signing Mikkola? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Rangers should consider re-singing Niko Mikkola

New York’s cap situation for 2023-24 has them at 13 roster players signed with approximately $16.8 million in order to fill out the rest of the lineup.

First and foremost, they need to take care of their key RFA’s in forwards Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and defenseman K’Andre Miller. After they figure that out, they can get to work on the rest of the lineup.

New York Rangers

  • Projected Cap Hit: $82,876,524
  • Projected Cap Space: $5,123,476
  • Current Cap Space: $5,123,476
  • Roster: 22/23

The Rangers already have Ben Harpur secured with a team friendly cap hit of $787,500 to be their seventh defensemen. Re-signing Mikkola would block the path of any up and coming defenders like Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson.

Jones, 22, will be an RFA at the end of this season and will want some assurances that if he re-signs that there’s a spot for him next year. If so, he’ll be looking for an increase over his current $925,000 salary (albeit not much). Unlike Nils Lundqvist, he’s not a first-round pick with a high-ceiling, so demanding a trade might not work out for him.

Robertson, 22, has another season at $797,500 left on his ELC and would fit this team cap wise. However, he’s yet to show that he’s ready to be a full-time NHL defenseman.

So are the Rangers, who are in their Stanley Cup winning window really looking to have a hole on their third pair next season?

The biggest key in re-signing Mikkola is what he’s looking for on his next deal. With the uncertainty of the final salary cap numbers for next season, it could once again impact contracts for players like him.

If the Rangers can get him on a two or three year deal in the neighborhood of $2.5 million per season, it’s worth considering.

–Cap Data via Puck Pedia

–Stats via

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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