Chris Drury’s next job will be more difficult than the one Rangers’ general manager completed at Wednesday’s opening of the free agent market.
Because after adding second-line center Vincent Trocheck within the narrow parameters that Rangers’ decision should work with, Drury now needs to retain enough space on the roster so his team will be able to bid when the rental season opens.
Remember: Space connections throughout the season. Starting with $ 2 million on opening day would translate to $ 9.3 million by deadline, according to the folks at CapFriendly. Drury was able to handle impunity last season because Blueshirts had earned almost unlimited space approaching the deadline.
That’s why he was able to add four players – Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte and Justin Braun – without losing as much as a cent of NHL pay to do so. There will be no repetition of that kind of last-minute shopping extravaganza this year.
Even if managed properly, there may be enough for just one targeted purchase of large tickets. When Patrick Kane becomes available – hopefully later rather than before from Blueshirts’ perspective – Rangers will have to be in the mix. The same goes for JT Miller if he’s still with the Canucks deep into the year. Maybe Jonathan Toews will play well enough to deserve consideration. Vladimir Tarasenko could be an option. Players will always be available.
Let’s start with 12 strikers who are expected to be on the opening list as follows (and line combinations here are used as examples): Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Sammy Blais; Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Vitali Kravtsov; Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko; Dryden Hunt, Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves.
Kakko is not yet under contract as a limited free agent, but it is safe to say he will come in at around a $ 2.4 million ceiling on what is likely to be a two-year deal. In that case, the 12 forwards would account for nearly $ 46.5 million.
The expected six-man defense of Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba; Libor Hajek and Braden Schneider would combine for $ 23.15 million. Igor Shesterkins and Jaroslav Halak’s goalie tandem would account for a pinch under $ 6.8 million. So it will be $ 29.95 million behind the blue line.
Rangers also carry dead cap space of approximately $ 3.428 million. Thus, the total of this expected 20-player shadow list would amount to $ 79,816,469. That would leave just under $ 3.7 million in space.
To add a 13th striker, free-agent signing Ryan Carpenter, a center who played for Gerard Gallant with Vegas (note a trend?) And signed on Thursday, said it would cost an additional $ 750,000. And the addition of a seventh defender – for the sake of argument, Zac Jones – would amount to an additional $ 925,000.
Under this hypothetical 22-man list (13 strikers, 7 defenders, 2 goalkeepers), the Rangers would enter the season with just over $ 2 million in place. Entry-level bonuses could become a problem that bleeds into next season if Lafreniere reaches its max of $ 2.85 million and both Miller and Schneider hit their max of $ 400,000 per game. So that’s another reason why Drury can not – can not – go to the $ 83.5 million ceiling. Rangers need a bit of a pillow.
The team list is not locked, although 16 places are carved in stone. If Brennan Othmann or Will Cuylle were to earn a spot, it would probably come at the expense of Kravtsov, Hunt or Carpenter. There would be little impact on the ceiling, though Othmann would have a maximum bonus package of $ 450,000.
Similarly, there would only be a minor impact if Blueshirts add a veteran left-back in the $ 1 million range if the club does not leave the left side of the third pair to either Hajek or Jones.
That’s where Rangers stand three months before the start of the season. There is room for maneuverability, but not much. Without Copp and Vatrano, the team will expect the kids to produce.
That’s fine, though. Because when a team imagines a Stanley Cup candidate, as the Eastern Conference finalists certainly do, the roster on opening day is not as important as the roster coming out of the deadline.