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Rangers Front Office Faces Salary Cap Conundrum

The Rangers are $4.1 million over the cap and will have to be under the NHL’s salary-cap ceiling. That could mean buying-out Kevin Shattenkirk or trading Chris Kreider.

Pavel Buchnevich has been re-signed by the Rangers to a two-year-contract, worth $3.25 million-per-year. The 24-year-old had his best season in New York last year. He recorded career-highs in goals (21), even strength goals (14) and power-play goals (7).

Heading into next season, the Rangers are looking for a solid winger who can be a complimentary player to their stars, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Playing on the first-line with great offensive players like those two can make Buchnevich a lot better. However, he will not get the job easily. He will have to compete with second-overall-pick Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravstov, who both could be top-six forwards next season.

After ending their arbitration period, the Rangers now enter their second buy-out period of the offseason, where they will have to face getting under the NHL’s $81.5 million cap-ceiling. The Rangers are $4.1 million over the cap. They should definitely consider trading or buying out a player making above $4 million. Here are two ways the Rangers can fix their problem.

Buy-out Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk is a buy-out option because he has underachieved since he signed a four-year, $ 26.6 million deal in 2017. Last year Shattenkirk scored just 28 points, with a -15 plus/minus in 73 games.

Larry Brooks of New York Post says that Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox could replace Shattenkirk on the power-play next year. If Shattenkirk does not beat out Fox or Anthony DeAngelo on the second D pairing, it would not make much sense keeping Shattenkirk around next season at his current pay grade.

According to Larry Brooks, a buy-out of Kevin Shattenkirk “would clear $5.17 million of space for this season, which would give the Rangers a little over $1.1 million” left over.

Brendan Smith’s buy-out savings would be $3.4 million, which would not be enough to bring the Rangers under the cap, which makes buying out Shattenkirk the Rangers’ best solution to their cap conundrum. Would they buy out both Smith and Shattenkirk? Possibly, but a buyout and a trade could be the answer. You don’t want to carry over too much salary buyout over the next few years.

Make a Trade

The Rangers could solve their salary-cap-mishap by trading players with big contracts; such as the ones the Rangers owe Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Strome, and Chris Kreider.

I think if the Rangers choose to make a trade to solve this cap issue, then it should be Namestnikov. He is a small center and he will not earn more playing time than bigger and more talented centers like Filip Chytil or Mika Zibanejad next season. Which makes Vlad a third-line center at best. Vlad makes $4 million and trading all or part of that salary away would help the Rangers get close to being under the cap.

Ryan Strome is probably the Rangers second-best center as we head towards training camp. He is 26-years-old, skates very well, and scored 33 points last season. Would there be a team interested in a center like Strome? Yes, but the Rangers would have to package Strome with draft-picks or some players from Hartford to get anything good in return for the 26-year-old.

If the Rangers choose to trade Chris Kreider, then they would completely solve their cap problem. Still, how many players can you find like Chris Kreider? His physical style of play is something the team could really use and he is one of the fastest players in the game. Kreider is too valuable to the Ranger’s rebuild to trade him now.

The Rangers’ will have no problem finding a team to trade for Chris Kreider, they probably won’t find anyone to take the last year left on Namestnikov’s $4 million-contract. That leaves buying out Kevin Shattenkirk as the Rangers’ best option to get under the cap-ceiling by Wednesday. Larry Brooks also said that the buy-out of Shattenkirk would “burden the club with $1.4 million in dead space for 2021-22 and 2022-23” and add to a total of $7.5 million of dead space. However, Brooks and I agree that trading Chris Kreider would hurt the Rangers much more than eating a fraction of Shattenkirk’s salary over the next two years and trading some spare parts for picks.


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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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