Photo credit Jared Silber/Getty Images
Once the Cup is raised in mid June the famous tag line for hockey fans has always been “Is it October yet?”. With the Coronavirus giving us a three month hiatus, we all get to ask “Is it August yet?”. The NHL and NHLPA reached an agreement on the return to play format and CBA extension which means we’ll get some late summer and fall playoff hockey – great news for everyone.
If you’re a Rangers fan though you know that the current cap situation will not be changing for the next few seasons. Pair this with the lack of salary cap compliance buyouts and there are quite a few teams in the NHL that will be in cap trouble for the coming years. This is not exactly great news to hear given that the club recently got out of cap hell from some of the atrocious contracts Glen Sather left Jeff Gorton saddled with. For a team fresh out of a rebuild the last place that you want to be is in cap hell. The good news for the club is though that they a plethora of young fresh faces coming through the pipeline thanks to the rebuild by Gorton and Co. Even with all that being the case and the Rangers having a fully restocked cabinet of prospects there is still an issue with some of those players not being NHL ready and the Rangers currently only having $3.8M in cap space.
Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, Jesper Fast, Ryan Strome, and Alex Georgiev are all slated to be free agents this October and there is surely not enough money to go around. Especially considering the fact that the Rangers will be staring down $7.5M in dead cap space next year thanks to the Dan Girardi and Kevin Shattenkirk buyouts. The Shattenkirk buyout last summer was ill-advised and now – of course in hindsight- looks truly awful, especially when you had other candidates in Marc Staal and Brendan Smith on the table.
Now of course you are never able to foresee a global pandemic shutting down the world but when running a franchise you know that any decision you make will impact your future decisions. Buying out Shattenkirk last year the Rangers had to know that they were still going to have all that dead money on the books but the club had to be banking on the fact that the cap was going to be on the rise and the impact of the buyout would sting far less than it’s going to now.
For the next few season’s Gorton has left himself with not much flexibility to be able to try and navigate the waters his team’s boat is currently occupying. One solution for the Blueshirts would be to bridge DeAngelo and Strome which would still eat up valuable space but it would allow them the flexibility to get to the 2022-2023 campaign where the Rangers would lose a lot of big money contracts like Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, and Brendan Smith.
Once all that money is gone and off the books the club will be able to breathe a lot easier but until then it’s going to be tight for Gorton and company as he tries to return this team to the promised land.