If and when this lockout ends, it is fair to assume that the salary cap ceiling will not remain at $70.2 million. In fact, there is a solid chance that the salary cap will actually stay at last year’s number of $64.3 million*. If that winds up being the case, then the Rangers have positioned themselves well for the next several years.
Looking at Capgeek, the Rangers have $59 million committed to the cap for the 2012-2013 season. That number includes Chris Kreider, but does not include Michael Del Zotto. It also includes Michael Sauer, who will be placed on LTIR if need be, giving the Rangers an extra $1.25 million to work with. All in all, that gives the organization more than enough room to sign MDZ and still remain under the cap.
But with so many key players (Sauer, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh) approaching restricted free agency, the concern has always been for next season.
While those four guys are indeed approaching free agency, only three are due for a raise. Sauer’s injury history will likely prevent him from scoring the raise he was in line for before Dion Phaneuf decapitated him. So working with just Stepan, Hagelin, and McDonagh, we limit the increase to the overall salary cap number.
Then there is the $1,666,667 set aside this year for that Chris Drury buyout. That number goes away, and all of a sudden, the Rangers have just $51 million committed to 16 players. Assuming the same salary cap figure of $64.3 million*, the Rangers will have $13 million to get these players under contract, plus address depth needs. That’s more than enough space.
So while next offseason was a concern, it’s not a big concern anymore. Many can point to Glen Sather’s past mistakes and cap-mismanagement, but the numbers don’t lie when it comes to the current situation. Slats shrewdly replaced Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky with cheaper players (Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern) more suited for the role they will have with the team.
Of course, this doesn’t factor in the 2014 offseason, when the Rangers have just three (!!) players under contract. That will change with the new deals for the RFAs, but three players under contract is a bit on the low-end. Slats has done well so far, it’ll be interesting to see how that situation plays out.
*-I use $64.3 million consistently because I believe that when all is said and done, the cap ceiling will remain the same for a year or two. A static cap ceiling, combined with consistent revenue growth, means the NHLPA gets less of a cut of the HRR. The players get their $1.87 billion, and the owners get the players’ share down. Win win.