I. Compliance Buyout (To Buy out or Not to Buy out)
Easily the first decision made has to be whether to buy out Richards or not. Currently there is $14 mil in cap space with, in my case, 5 necessary players that need to be signed; Stepan, Hagelin, Zuccarello, McDonagh and Clowe as well as options for additional depth. Richards is not fast, nor overly physical, but he can distribute the puck which sounds a lot like Henrik Sedin. If Torterella wasn’t fired this would be an easy decision and Richards would have a house on the market, but AV is the coach for him to bring Richards back to form. Richards still has nine 60 point seasons since entering the league in 2000-2001 and when he didn’t it was due to injury or a lockout and last year was still third on the team in points. However, depending on the cap next year and his 2013-2014 I would have no hesitation in pulling the plug because his cap hit gets scarier as he approaches 40.
Side Note: I acknowledge the injury concerns with him, if he’s hurt the Rangers can never buy him out, but his game isn’t based on his athleticism or his checking it’s his intelligence and hands. The world didn’t end when Drury couldn’t keep up with a snail, instead he mentored Callahan into the player we see today.
II. Unrestricted Free Agency
In my opinion this section begins and ends with Clowe. Hamrlik and Gilroy and Eminger are expendable now with the acquisition of Falk and they will not be resigned.
Clowe is the it player the Rangers need; he is Brian Boyle with the ability to put up 20 goal seasons regularly and does not shy away in the playoffs. People cite his concussions, which is reasonable but he is not Sauer. He has been cleared by the doctors after the playoffs. Different players react differently to concussions. In fact, if he suffered one in San Jose as Larry Brooks states then he got better after that concussion goal scoring wise.
While the injuries are always a worry this is not a chronically injured player. He has played 4 straight seasons of over 71 games played since tearing his knee apart in 2007-2008 and averaged 20 goals a year and 54 points. And since that knee injury in 55 playoff games, including both this and the postseason he tore his knee to pieces, he has 14 goals and 40 points.
Clowe is a horse and the guy you need in the playoffs. He does everything you can ask for him, get in someone’s face, score a goal, set a guy up, and simply grind away on the board and I’d hate to put it this way but his injury should reduce his price and suitors from other organizations. All in all I think Sather can get him for two seasons at $2 mil a year, which is the cap hit Raffi Torres was signed at.
III. Restricted Free Agency
As everyone is well aware by know the restricted free agents of Stepan, Hagelin, Zuccarello and McDonagh will all be resigned, it’s just a matter of how much and for how long. Let’s start with McDonagh.
McDonagh is unquestionably a top 2 defenseman in the league. He can skate like the wind, shutdown anybody and shows that he has some offensive flair. For some comparison let’s look at look at Marc Staal and Roman Josis first two seasons vs. McDonaghs first three.
McDonagh has clearly been more valuable in the early stage of his career to the Rangers than Staal was. Staals first contract coming off his ELC was for 5 years at a cap hit of $3.975 mil when the cap was at $59.4 mil. In addition, the recent Roman Josi signing for 7 years at $4 mil a year is comparable since both have a similar PPG. I think in the end Sather can get something in the 5 year $4 mil a year.
Derek Stepan has emerged very quickly as the future #1 center, course when you score a hat trick in your first NHL game expectations are going to be high. From my calculations Stepan has not missed a game in his NHL career so far (knock on wood). A similar player, Matt Duchene, also rarely misses a game and has similar point totals.
Duchene got a new contract last year for 2 years and a $3.5 mil a year cap hit. So a player with more goals and points, got a contract when the salary cap was higher cap at $3.5 mil a year. Sather loves bridge deals off of ELC’s so a 2 year contract for $3.5 mil should be reasonable.
Hagelin is an interesting character. He has spent a lot of the time on the first and second line in his career but he certainly hasn’t shown the high skill to play there night in and night out. However, he is the ideal third line player, he is high energy, speedy and a severely under rated offensive board player. Players like David Perron, Nikolai Kulemin, Michael Grabner and Mason Raymond had similar two season stretches before receiving their contracts.
|Player||Games||Goals||Points||PPG||Cap Hit (Millions)|
I’m in the camp where I wouldn’t sign Hagelin for over $2.5 mil max. Mason Raymond after a 25 goal and 53 point season, better than Hagelin last year and this season adjusted for a full season, he received a 2 year $2.55 mil contract, notably with a salary cap at $59.4 mil. Hagelin has put up the necessary PPG pace warrant a contract for $3 but he is not on a team that is lacking in top 6 scoring like the other teams like the Islanders when they signed Grabner. Hagelin also doesn’t have the goal scoring talent that the others do. I think a 2 year $2 mil bridge deal is perfect to keep his cap hit down and to make sure Hagelin can consistently play top 6 minutes and justify a more lucrative contract.
Side Note: Similar Victor Stalberg and Matt Read are both coming off similar two year stretches, though Stalberg is a UFA.
The last RFA, Zuccarello, is finding his game the more he plays with the Rangers. In addition to his power play IQ, he is excellent for shoot outs. Another one year contract for $1 mil should keep him around and provide valuable depth to the third line.
IV. Trades/UFA Signings
In order for the cap space to work someone is going to have to be traded and the odd man out is Pyatt. Interestingly enough Pyatt’s best seasons were his first two with A.V. but that was six years ago. He has only cracked the 20 goal mark once while in the NHL and has been on decline since, except for one year in Phoenix. $1.55 mil a year is not justifiable for a fourth line player that can’t skate anymore and hasn’t fought any one since, ironically enough, Dorsett in March of 2012.
Whoever he is traded to, my choice would be the Avalanche who need to hit the cap floor and have no one on the right wing, would not give back much, maybe a 5th round pick, but most likely a 7th. But the return isn’t what’s important it’s the cap space.
As for signings, there is exactly $869,583 left which doesn’t leave room for many additions. Instead, the holes at the NHL level will be filled with the likes of J.T. Miller, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, with McIlrath stepping in for injuries on the defensive side.
The salary cap reduction and the need to resign four key free agents coming off cheap, ELC deals has reduced the turnover in the roster this year. A new coach and the surgeries to Hagelin and Callahan means this team will have a tough start. The youngsters in the minors will not only have to step up for the seasons opening but be just as ready if needed in the heat of the playoffs. But with another year comes experience for a young team yet to reach their potential.