Which pending RFAs will the New York Rangers extend and when?
The New York Rangers have several important restricted free agents that will see their contracts expire in July. It will be nearly impossible for GM Chris Drury to keep them all as the salary cap is only going up by $1 million to $83.5 million.
Even if it was going higher, several players likely don’t see a future with the Blueshirts and will want opportunities in other organizations.
Here’s a look at those players, including their current cap hit, qualifying offers (QO), and expiry status.
|K’ Andre Miller
New York Rangers restricted free agents
So which of these players will the New York Rangers extend and when? That’s a great question and one we posed to NY Post reporter Mollie Walker in an interview we conducted Monday, which you can watch in its entirety on the Forever Blueshirts YouTube channel. Please remember to Like and Subscribe!
“I think a lot of those conversations are going to come after the season,” Walker noted. It wouldn’t surprise me if K’Andre Miller were signed sooner rather than later. I haven’t heard of any conversations happening this early but the Rangers are in a precarious position due to the cap. I just don’t see a scenario where everyone can stay.”
In attempt to answer these difficult questions, I’ve broken down each key RFA’s situation and outlook going forward.
Alexis Lafreniere: When the Ottawa Senators announced an 8-year contract extension for Tim Stutzle in September worth $66.8 million ($8.35M AAV) a league source told me to bust out my calculator because he didn’t see Lafreniere signing for less. Flash forward a few months later and the first overall pick in 2020 has struggled with 22 points in 48 games. There’s no chance Alexis will see that contract this summer, and he’s heading for a bridge deal likely in the neighborhood of $2.5M to $3M with bonuses.
Filip Chytil: After struggling with consistency since being drafted 21st overall in 2017, Chytil has now been a reliable offensive threat. With 29 points though 41 games this season, he’s definitely set up to cash in. According to Arthur Staple of The Athletic (subscription required), the Rangers and Chytil’s camp have had preliminary contract talks but no extension is expected soon. A league source informed me that Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett ($4.425M) is a fair comp for Chytil’s next deal. The Rangers will want to avoid arbitration here if they can and sign him after the season ends.
Julien Gauthier: It took the big and fast winger awhile to stick with the Rangers but he’s doing a good job this season with 9 goals in 35 games on the fourth line. Teams may be interested in him at the trade deadline, but it’s unlikely Drury will move him. As younger players like Will Cuylle are knocking on the door next season, Gauthier will have his rights traded at the draft or allowed to walk as a UFA.
K’ Andre Miller: I’ve been screaming for the Rangers to extend him for awhile. The young defenseman has already surpassed previous career highs in points and assists. Miller enters the All-Star Break with 25 points in 49 games and the best odds of being extended during the season. This summer, the Rangers will get back $3,427,778 in buyout penalties per Cap Friendly. All of that and some more should be allocated to extending Miller for at least four seasons. That would be beneficial for both parties as the Rangers can likely find an AAV around the $4.5 million mark and Miller’s camp can ride that contract to unrestricted free agency at 27 years of age.
Libor Hajek: Similar to Gauthier, it’s hard to see a future with the Rangers for Hajek. Especially after the team extended Ben Harpur for two seasons. With his value at an all-time low, the Rangers will likely hold onto him at the deadline for depth. If someone wants his rights at the draft, so be it. Otherwise, the Rangers could let him walk.
Vitali Kravtsov: By far the most interesting restricted free agent. If he isn’t packaged at the deadline for either Patrick Kane or Vladimir Tarasenko, then the Rangers should absolutely qualify him and try to keep him around. Should the Rangers fail to retain Chytil or Lafreniere, despite how unlikely that seems, it will be good to have the talented winger in the fold. Plus, his next contract won’t be for too much more than his current $875K even if he gets to salary arbitration.
Zac Jones: Much like Kravtsov, Jones is likely going to be a trade asset for the upcoming deadline. With his path currently blocked by Ben Harpur’s extension and the Rangers plan to give Matthew Robertson a real shot on left defense next season, the writing is on the wall. I’m not even sure Jones would want to re-sign with the Rangers this summer. If he’s still here after the deadline, expect him to go the same route Nils Lundkvist did demanding a trade.
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