Now that the sting of the loss to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals has begun to subside, the New York Rangers can start looking ahead to the 2012-13 season. Hanging over the NHL offseason will be the upcoming labor dispute, as the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on September 15, meaning that all 30 NHL teams will have to operate this offseason without a firm grasp of what the salary cap will be. The summer cap will rise to about $75 million, but this past season’s limit of $64.3m could go down or up depending on what the labor negotiations yield.
Regardless of the where the cap is, however, the Rangers should have a decent amount of money to work with this summer as they try to supplement what is a very young, strong, but offensively lacking core. The primary need as of now is another top-6 scoring winger who can help make the Rangers more of threat in the postseason, particularly after Marian Gaborik’s disappearing act in the Conference Finals. Their problem is that Gaborik is their only player who is a constant threat to score over 30 goals, yet his lack of size and strength makes him an easy target for opposing defenses to shut down in the playoffs, at which point there is no one else to pick up the scoring slack.
The Rangers need to explore their options this offseason to see who they can add via trade or free agency, but first they have to take care of their own free agents.
The team is surely holding out hope that young Chris Kreider can be that player going forward after his fantastic NHL debut in the postseason, but there are no guarantees for a 21-year-old who has never played a regular season game. To that end, the Rangers need to explore their options this offseason to see who they can add via trade or free agency, but first they have to take care of their own unrestricted and restricted free agents.
New York’s top two offensive defensemen — Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman — are both RFAs and due for raises next year, and both should be in the team’s plans going forward. Del Zotto, despite a poor performance against the Devils, improved by leaps and bounds this year with 41 points and will still be just 22 next season. After making just over $1m this season, look for a 2-3 year deal in the neighborhood of $3-6m total, while Stralman should only get a mild raise, as he does not figure to have a role beyond that of a bottom-pairing defenseman next year with Tim Erixon ready to make the jump from the AHL. Stu Bickel, Jeff Woywitka, and Steve Eminger are also due to hit free agency, but only one is likely to come back as an extra blue liner.
In the forward corps, only Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust will be UFAs, and though both are valuable bottom-6 wingers, they are expendable if they get big offers on the open market. Neither should get anything over $1.5 million per season. Meanwhile the one forward RFA, Mats Zuccarello, is likely headed back to Europe.
Assuming Del Zotto is brought back at a $1.8 million cap hit, Stralman at $1m, Fedotenko and Prust at $1.5m each, and a backup goalie at $1m, the Rangers’ payroll will have approximately $7.5 million in cap space (assuming the cap remains the same). Now here’s where it gets tricky.
The team can’t just think about next season, as Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Artem Anisimov will all be RFAs after 2012-13 and due for about $7 to 10 million in raises between the five of them (assuming they all remain with the team). So whomever the Rangers sign this offseason, they have to make sure that they leave enough cap space to retain their young core going forward. To that end, it might be best to unload some of their current higher-salaried players in order to make a play for Zach Parise, who will likely earn close to $7 million per season as a free agent this summer but is a perfect fit given the system that the Rangers play and their needs heading into the offseason.
Gaborik and his $7.5m cap hit is a popular choice to be shipped out, but he is still the team’s only elite scorer, even with Parise in the fold. The logical choice is Brandon Dubinsky, who has a $4.2m cap hit and is coming off of his worst season as a pro. He could likely bring back a first round pick in a deal (after all, Paul Gaustad got the Sabres a first at the trade deadline despite having a career-high of 36 points), and would allow the Rangers to shop with impunity this summer.
Of course, given that getting Parise would likely require them to ship out one of their young core players, perhaps New York should simply look elsewhere. The problem is that there isn't a whole lot in terms of scoring forwards to be had. Alexander Semin would be just as expensive, and his allergy to defense makes him an atrocious fit for a John Tortorella team. Second-tier free agents Dustin Penner, Kristian Huselius, and Brad Boyes would all be valuable additions, but all would cost at least $4m per season and might not be able to produce enough to justify that salary level.
Whatever course they decide to take, the Rangers are sure to do something this summer to supplement their offensive output while keeping their homegrown core intact. And despite the bitter disappointment that an elimination at the hands of the Devils brings, this team's ceiling for the future is far higher than what they showed this season. It's just a matter of making the right moves to add on to what they've already built.
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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