Where Rangers stand after NHL salary cap increases beyond expectations

NHL: New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL and NHLPA announced that the ceiling for each team’s salary cap next season will increase to $88 million. That’s a jump of $4.5 million from this past season, more than expected, and music to the ears of the New York Rangers.

After navigating a flat, or near flat, cap for several seasons due to financial ramifications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rangers will have some extra breathing room financially this offseason.

But it doesn’t end there. If the salary cap’s ceiling rises by five percent in each of the next two seasons, before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends after the 2025-26 season, teams could spend up to $97 million in their player contracts a couple years down the road.

“I believe we’re going to continue to see robust growth in the cap,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday.

With Igor Shesterkin eligible for a contract extension beginning July 1 and due to be an unrestricted free agent after next season, the Rangers would benefit greatly from significant salary-cap space. Reportedly, Shesterkin could be looking for $12 million per season on a new contract, and appears a lock to pass Carey Price (10.5 million average annual value) as the highest paid goalie in the NHL.

The Rangers have Artemi Panarin on the books through 2025-26 at an AAV of $11.64 million. Adam Fox ($9.5 million), Mika Zibanejad ($8.5 million) and Vincent Trocheck ($5.625 million) are signed through 2027-28; and Chris Kreider’s deal ($6.5 million) runs through 2026-27. Jacob Trouba has two seasons remaining at $8 million per.

Breakout star Alexis Lafreniere is eligible for a contract extension July 1 and will be due a significant raise. Same for K’Andre Miller.

Related: Why Rangers should not force Kaapo Kakko trade this offseason

Salary-cap outlook for Rangers in 2024-25

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
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Per PuckPedia, the Rangers have $12.45 million in salary-cap space ahead of next season. Ten NHL teams have less space than the Blueshirts, though 21 teams are in a better position. The Philadelphia Flyers have less than a million dollars in cap room, so have some massive work to do this offseason. The Utah team, formerly Arizona Coyotes, have $40.85 million available and need to spend $18 million just to reach the cap floor in 2024-25.

The Rangers likely will be shopping for a top-six right wing and a defenseman to fill a 6/7 role, depending on their plan for Zac Jones. If they move on from Jacob Trouba, they’d have to bring in another defenseman. Plus they have three of their own restricted free agents to sign.

Braden Schneider’s next contract will likely be a bridge deal and not too expensive coming off his entry-level deal. Kaapo Kakko, who could also be traded this offseason, is either looking at a modest one-year prove-it contract or a second straight bridge deal with a slight bump from his past $2.1 million AAV.

The one RFA due a significant raise (from his $3 million AAV) is top-pair defenseman Ryan Lindgren. But that won’t be an easy contract to hammer out either since Lindgren will probably want a longer deal for security, especially one year removed from being an unrestricted free agent, which the Rangers could balk at because of his injury history and likelihood the 26-year-old will break down physically from the wear-and-tear of playing the style he does.

The Rangers have room to operate in free agency but it’s unlikely they’ll re-sign any of their UFAs. Erik Gustafsson could be an option to return on the blue line. Alex Wennberg, Jack Roslovic, Blake Wheeler and Chad Ruhwedel are less likely to return.

Whether trade or free agency, the Rangers have wiggle room this offseason to make a significant addition or two. And the rising salary cap will come in handy for Shesterkin, Lafreniere and Co. down the road.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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