Rangers face critical free agent decisions with little room to spend
Rangers general manager Glen Sather delivered an unmistakeable challenge to his pending free agents Saturday.
“[If] you move on, it doesn’t always work,” Sather told reporters. “You have to decide what’s the important thing: Winning or making a few more dollars someplace else. My book, it’s always winning.”
The Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final may lead to a free agency period in which useful components Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot and Anton Stralman are offered deals by rival franchises the reigning Eastern Conference champions cannot match. Free agency begins on July 1.
The Rangers have $23.307 million in available salary cap space after using their final compliance buyout on Brad Richards and trading Derek Dorsett and his $1.633 million cap hit to Vancouver Friday.
Much of the available cap space will be earmarked for restricted free agents Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and John Moore, all of whose representatives Sather said he has contacted.
Using a combined $14 million in salaries for the four restricted free agents as a baseline, Sather would have roughly $9 million to try to re-sign his unrestricted free agents and scour the marketplace for additional player personnel.
Brian Boyle told reporters on breakup day he wished for a greater role other than fourth-line center/wing, although that is where head coach Alain Vigneault sees him as being most effective. That might spell the end of the relationship between the two sides.
Also, the contracts signed by the Flyers’ Andrew MacDonald (six years, $30 million) and the Oilers’ Nikita Nitkinin (two years, $8 million) have set the pay scale for top-four defensemen, such as Stralman. It’s unlikely the Rangers could shell out that much for one player.
It is not feasible to think the Rangers will be major players for Paul Stastny, Mikhail Grabovski or Mason Raymond, despite having thrived for Vigneault in Vancouver, either.
Instead, it seems much more reasonable organizational prospects Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Danny Kristo, Connor Allen and Dylan McIlrath will have the opportunity to earn jobs in training camp and preseason.
“We traded [Dorsett] to give us some relief,” Sather said. “We had a real good idea [the cap ceiling] wasn’t going to be $70 million.”
Prior to the start of the draft Friday, the NHL and NHLPA announced in a joint statement the cap figures for the upcoming season. The floor is $51 million, the midpoint is $60 million and the ceiling is $69 million. The Rangers currently have about $45.6 million committed to next season.
“Realistically, I think some of the guys have to pull their horns in a bit,” Sather said. “We liked everybody. [We'd] like to keep everyone together.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.