The New York Rangers have been one of the most positive surprises this NHL season. Going into the year, most people were placing them anywhere from 4th-10th in the conference. A playoff team, but nothing more than that.
Whatever the reason may be, this team has exceeded all of our expectations. Even with some of our biggest contributors last year (Dubi and AA) struggling more than any of us would have imagined, we are still somehow the best team in the league. (PPG wise).
While that is definitely worth of excitement, we need to remember where this team stands in their development. This is only the beginning. Most of of our guys are young or in their prime, and with Dubi/AA/Richards struggling, this team is only going to get better. With the likes of Kreider, Thomas, Erixon, Mcilrath, Miller, and maybe a few others coming up in the next year or two, it gives us cheap options to improve the team.
Now let's talk about the future.
After this season, Prust, Mitchell, Fedotenko, Eminger, Woywitka, Wolski, Stralman, MDZ, Bickel, and Biron are all free agents. For argument's sake, lets assume Feds, Woywitka, Wolski, and Bickel and are not resigned. From that point, the other six are all brought back.
That could give us a potential lineup, assuming certain contract amounts, of...
FORWARDS - Artem Anisimov ($1.875m) / Derek Stepan ($0.875m) / Marian Gaborik ($7.500m) / Carl Hagelin ($0.875m) / Brad Richards ($6.666m) / Ryan Callahan ($4.275m) / Chris Kreider ($1.300m) / Brandon Dubinsky ($4.200m) / Christian Thomas ($1.000m) / John Mitchell ($1.200m) / Brian Boyle ($1.700m) / Brandon Prust ($1.200m) / Michael Rupp ($1.500m)
BUYOUTS: Chris Drury ($1.666m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $57,733,334; BONUSES: $712,500
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $6,566,666
NOW. That number looks enticing. Enticing enough to entertain the thoughts of trading for or signing one of those big names. Parise, Weber, Suter, Green, Ryan, or whoever else you guys like to imagine on the Rangers. But, before we get carried away, we have to remember that bringing in another big contract is extreme short-sighted.
With Anisimov, Stepan, Hagelin, McDonagh, and Sauer all being restricted free agents two years from now, we need to be conservative in our spending in order to insure that we can keep all those guys. When you think about it, that 6.5 mil, plus the 1.6 relief we get from Drury's buyout hit ending, could potentially all be used up by giving these guys raises.
So sure, next year we can afford a Parise-type player. But what about the years after that? It might end up with us having to trade away some of our core guys in order to stay cap compliant, and at some point that signing isn't worth it.
CONCLUSIONS - I am fine with making trades that improve this team. I don't believe anyone is un-tradeable. I am fine with trading my favorite players if it makes this team better. HOWEVER, I realize that there is a salary cap, and there are repercussions if you fail to look to the future. This team is only starting to emerge. This team will continue to improve over the next couple of years, and it would be unwise to risk that future because of the allure of a big name player. PATIENCE
Disclaimer - The final point I will make specifically refers to one player. Parise. If we could potentially sign him for less than 7 mil, I would be more than happy to bring him in. It would result in us trading Dubinsky for picks/prospects, and some slick cap maneuvering. If we could replace guys like Rupp for guys making 500-600k, it would be enough to keep all of our kids, and swap Dubinsky for Parise AND picks.