Rangers Rumors & News
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And now presenting our third and final episode of Thoughts On a Failed Season, in which we’ll take a look at the Rangers’ salary cap situation and project what this team might look like next September.

Be sure to check out Parts I & II for the rest of our analysis.

I’m no salary cap expert, but I’ll do my best. The cap ceiling this season was set at $50.3 million and reportedly is set to rise to roughly $55 million next season. The Rangers have 13 players under contract for next year for approx. $36.36M. They are: Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Petr Prucha, Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts, Henrik Lundqvist, Christian Backman, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Fedor Tyutin, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr.

So that leaves us roughly $19 million with which to play. In Part II of this breakdown I predicted the return of restricted free agents Nigel Dawes (950k cap hit) and Freddy Sjostrom (900k), as well as UFAs Jason Strudwick (500k), Sean Avery (2.7M), and Martin Straka (1.9M). For the sake of this unscientific exercise, let’s assume those figures are roughly accurate. Let’s also assume that the Rangers bring in a backup goalie for 900k or less, whether its Stephen Valiquette or a veteran free agent like Johan Hedberg. Those moves bring the Rangers’ cap number up to around $44.18 million and leave the team a little less than 11 million to fill the four remaining spots on their 23-man roster.

Here’s the lineup we’re looking at:
Line 1: Avery | Gomez | ?
Line 2: Dawes | Drury | Callahan
Line 3: Straka | Dubinsky | Prucha
Line 4: Hollweg | Betts | Sjostrom

D1: Staal | ?
D2: Tyutin | Girardi
D3: Backman | Strudwick

G1: Lundqvist
G2: Valiquette/ Hedberg

Scratches: Orr, ?, ?

I’m inclined to believe that the Rangers will dip into Hartford to round out the roster with guys like Lauri Korpiskoski, Greg Moore, and Thomas Pock. Needless to say, the job security of guys like Prucha, Hollweg, Backman, and Strudwick will all be in flux.

So as you can see, the team has two primary needs: Find a winger to pair with Gomez, and find a No. 1 defenseman to pair with Staal and man the point on the powerplay. Even were Jaromir Jagr or Brendan Shanahan willing to accept huge paycuts, neither player fills those holes. In fact, Jagr’s inability to develop chemistry with Gomez at any point this year was one of the most disappointing aspects of the season. Michael Nylander was allowed to depart as a free agent last offseason in large part because the team felt it could upgrade their top line by pairing their captain with another All-Star caliber player. Instead, Jagr ended up playing the majority of the season with rookie Brandon Dubinsky while Gomez recorded 16 goals and 54 assists playing alongside a rotating cast of characters, none of whom ever seemed able to keep up with the speedy Gomez.

If Jagr returns it leaves the Rangers paying Gomez $7.357M per for six more seasons without anyone with whom to play. It relegates Chris Drury to a third line role, which can’t be what Glen Sather had in mind when he signed him to a five-year, $35.25M deal. Bottom line, Jagr can not return under any circumstances. The roster simply isn’t built to accommodate him, and given his cryptic remarks throughout the season I sense Jaromir likely saw the writing on the wall before many of the fans.

hossa.jpgThe name you’ve probably already heard a zillion times and will likely hear a zillion more times is that of Marian Hossa. There’s a good reason for that. Hossa is quite simply the lone premier free agent on the open market this offseason (assuming he doesn’t resign in Pittsburgh). He earned himself a fair amount of detractors after disappearing in the playoffs last season when the Rangers swept Atlanta in four games, then for an encore recorded just 26 goals and 56 points in 60 games for the miserable Thrashers this season. However since moving to the Penguins at the trade deadline, Hossa has enjoyed a resurgence. His deft finishing touch has proven a perfect complement to the playmaking Sidney Crosby. Hossa is a pure goal scorer who, unlike Jagr, doesn’t need to dominate the puck in order to be productive and is content to find open ice and finish the scoring opportunities that his centerman creates.

The problem with Hossa, of course, is that as the offseason’s lone free agent superstar he is practically guaranteed a mega-contract. He’ll attract every bit of the $35.25 million handed to Drury for five years of his service, and will probably end up signing a deal closer to Gomez’s seven-year, $51.5 million pact. The Rangers certainly have the cap space to offer Hossa a deal in the neighborhood of six years, $44.5 million, however they would kiss goodbye any hope they had of adding a free agent defenseman like San Jose’s Brian Campbell. Colorado’s John-Michael Liles and Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik are a couple of options among the second-tier of free agent defenseman, however neither player is the powerplay-QB that the team would like to add.

Now I’d love to go against the consensus here, but at this point, I just can’t. Jagr cannot return to the team for reasons I’ve explained. The Rangers need to find a scoring winger to pair with Scott Gomez. Marian Hossa is the only scoring winger available. Moreover, in recent years this organization has never prioritized the blueline when it comes to allotting payroll. I don’t see them turning around and handing $6 million per to a guy like Campbell, and especially not with offensive defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti coming up the pipeline. To me, it increasingly seems not an issue of ‘if’ with regard to Hossa, but ‘for how much?’

Final verdict: Glen Sather raids the team that sent his team home. Hossa and Orpik both wind up in Ranger blue come July.

But don’t be surprised if…

…with Hossa in the fold, Sather looks to move a contract like Prucha’s or replace a veteran like Straka with a kid like Korpiskoski in order to clear some cap space for a defenseman. In addition to Brian Campbell, Wade Redden is another guy whose name could pop up on the Rangers’ radar.

…a desperate GM overpays for Sean Avery and the Rangers counter by grabbing Jarkko Ruutu from Pittsburgh for a boatload less money.

…Brenden Shanahan returns in a reduced role, serving as combination fourth line winger, PP and PK specialist…and team captain.

There are currently 5 responses to “Thoughts On a Failed Season | Part III”

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  1. 1 On May 10th, 2008, Rob Abruzzese said:

    The totals which count against the Cap are averages and not how much players are actually set to make next season. Meaning Lundqvist will be making 7.750, but only 6.875 will count against the cap. So I have the Rangers owing 14 players (Including Thomas Pock) $33.942 million against the cap.

    However there may be two players, Petr Prucha and Christian Backman, who I could see the team dumping or keeping them in Hartford which would free up another $3.9 million.

    If they did that the Rangers would have about $25 million in free cap space. This is who would be left:

    X – Gomez – X
    X – Drury – X
    X – Dubinsky – Callahan
    Hollweg – Betts – Orr

    X – Staal
    Tyutin – Girardi
    Pock – X

    Lundqvist
    X

    RFA: Dawes and Sjostrom will probably be resigned for about $1 mil per season. Chris Holt will probably backup Lundqvist for $550,000. So you’d have about $22.5 million for four wingers and two defensemen. You also have to figure they’ll bring up two to three rookies, probably Korpikoski, Greg Moore, and maybe Baranka, which would add another $2 mil to the cap.

    So you’ve got about $20 mil to sign Avery(~3.5m), Straka(~1.5m), Jagr(~4.5m), Shanahan(~2m), Mara (~3m), Rozsival (~5m), or other free agents depending on who you want on the team.

  2. 2 On May 11th, 2008, gozer said:

    I know how the cap works. Did you factor in the bonus money owed Shanahan? If so, I’m not sure what accounts for that discrepancy of three or so million. It’s inconsequential though. Most reports estimate the Rangers’ cap space at about 19 million, but if you want to say they can wiggle their way to 25, that’s even better. What’s your proposition however? To bring back the guys you mention for the prices indicated?

  3. 3 On May 12th, 2008, Rob Abruzzese said:

    As far as I can tell they don’t owe any money to Shanahan that counts towards next season’s cap. I think they had enough space on this year’s cap to fit all of his bonus. Maybe I’m wrong there. I got all my numbers from http://www.nhlnumbers.com. I can’t be sure about those, but to me they look fine.

    As for the free agents, the numbers I posted are my guesses at how much they’ll make next season. Personally I would like to see Avery, Jagr, and Mara return. Which would mean their focus would have to be getting at least one new winger and a first pair defenseman for under $9 million. As long as I’m right about everything, which admittedly is a big stretch. Big stretch. We’ll see what happens.

  4. 4 On May 12th, 2008, gozer said:

    Oh, that’s the discrepancy then. I used nhlnumbers.com as well. The way they show it on there is a bit deceiving. I don’t know if it’s an error on their part or a quirk in the way they do their notation, but in any event, here were the terms of Shanahan’s deal, from Larry Brooks:

    “Shanahan’s contract includes a games-played and club-playoff performance bonus package of up to $2.8 million that can be deferred and applied against the 2008-09 cap.”

    So add another $2.8 M to your figures, and we came up with the same number.

  5. 5 On May 12th, 2008, Rob Abruzzese said:

    But there was cap space, why would Shanny’s $2.8 count toward next season?

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