Something to Think About: The Rangers Pending Free Agents

They're beautiful, aren't they? - Bruce Bennett

Looking ahead to the 2014 offseason... it's never too early to get worried when you're a Rangers fan.

At the end of the 2013-14 season the Rangers are going to have $33,395,000 in cap space (if the salary cap stays where it is) and will have ten players from the current roster become unrestricted free agents. Ten sounds like a lot of UFAs because it is. Those ten potential UFAs represent 43.5% of this year's roster. Among those names are the team's best player Henrik Lundqvist, its captain Ryan Callahan, and all-star blueliner Dan Girardi. Below is a list of all the players slated to become UFAs and what their cap hit is this season according to capgeek.com.

Player (Age)

Cap Hit in 2013-14

Henrik Lundqvist, 31

$6,875,000

Ryan Callahan, 28

$4,275,000

Dan Girardi, 29

$3,325,000

Anton Stralman, 27

$1,700,000

Brian Boyle, 28

$1,700,000

Taylor Pyatt, 32

$1,550,000

Benoit Pouliot, 27

$1,300,000

Martin Biron, 36

$1,300,000

Dominic Moore, 33

$1,000,000

Arron Asham, 35

$1,000,000

Obviously there are some players on this list that the Rangers can let walk without suffering much worry of losing someone truly irreplaceable but there's also no denying that there are some important names on that list. In addition to the ten players that will become unrestricted free agents the Rangers also have five players on the current roster that are becoming restricted free agents and some noteworthy names that are currently in the Rangers system including Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo.

Player (Age)

Cap Hit in 2013-14

Derick Brassard, 26

$3,200,000

Michael Del Zotto, 23

$2,550,000

Mats Zuccarello, 26

$1,150,000

Justin Falk, 24

$975,000

Danny Kristo, 23

$875,000 (EL)

John Moore, 22

$840,000 (EL)

Chris Kreider, 22

$800,000 (EL)

The remainder of the Rangers RFAs and UFAs currently playing in the minor leagues can be found here.

...That's a lot of hockey players that need new contracts in the 2014 offseason and though the Rangers obviously won't be keeping all of their pending free agents, cap space is going to get tight because several of the players that the Rangers are planning to bring back are almost certainly going to demand pay raises. Obviously the biggest names on the list are Lundqvist and Callahan. I can't imagine the Rangers dropping the ball on re-signing them but anything could happen. Getting their contracts done first, hopefully at some point during this season, would be in the team's best interest because it would allow for a clearer picture of how much cap space is left for the pending RFAs and UFAs of lesser importance.

I can see Callahan taking the Dustin Brown route and staying under a cap hit of six million to help the team he captains to stay competitive but I do expect his next contract to take up more than his current one does by a significant amount (his current cap hit is $4.275 million). Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, deserves big money and is almost certainly going to ask for it. In my opinion, Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie in the NHL and he'll be getting a contract that represents that. Below is a breakdown of the highest paid goalies in the league to give you an idea of what elite goaltenders are making.

Name

Age

Cap Hit

Salary

Length (Years Left)

Pekka Rinne

30

$7,000,000

$7,000,000

7 (5)

Tuukka Rask

26

$7,000,000

$6,000,000

8 (7)

Henrik Lundqvist

31

$6,875,000

$5,125,000

6 (0)

Carey Price

26

$6,500,000

$5,750,000

6 (4)

Cam Ward

29

$6,300,000

$6,600,000

6 (2)

Ryan Miller

33

$6,250,000

$6,625,000

5 (0)

Kari Lehtonen

29

$5,900,000

$6,625,000

5 (4)

Jonathan Quick

27

$5,800,000

$7,000,000

10 (9)

Honestly I'd be shocked if Lundqvist's name wasn't at the top of this list after the 2014 offseason and I wouldn't be surprised if his cap hit started with the number eight followed by six more digits. Since the 2004-05 lockout there has been no better goaltender in the NHL than Henrik Lundqvist. Just how much he'll make and how much cap space he'll take up is a bit of a mystery but we do know two things; the Rangers need him and he is going to make a lot of money. There will be plenty more to say about Henrik Lundvist and his contract situation as the season progresses. It has to get done so it will get done.

As for the other big pending UFA, Dan Girardi, I really can't say it better than Blueshirt Banter member Blue Blooded said it in this FanPost. If you haven't read it by now then you really should find the time to give it a look.

The reason I wrote this piece is to encourage everyone to start thinking about the big picture and which players on this season's roster are going to be here next season and what it will cost to keep them. Players like Taylor Pyatt, Martin Biron, Arron Asham, and Justin Falk are guys that the Rangers can let walk without much debate. But players like Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and Benoit Pouliot are names that Rangers fans are going to be debating over furiously seven or eight months from now. Who stays? Who goes? How much will key RFAs like Michael Del Zotto, Derick Brassard, and John Moore make? Will the Rangers bring Zuccarello back again? Is this Boyle's last year in New York? Is it Girardi's? Will we see deadline deals involving noteworthy names this season?

We should all be keeping a sharp eye on how these pending free agents play this season and how they fit into coach Vigneault's system. You hear it and read it all the time, players that are on the last year of their contracts are playing for their next contract. Hopefully this means that the 2013-14 Rangers are a highly-motivated and hungry team that are going to leave it all out on the ice every night.

No other team faces an offseason quite like what the Rangers are currently looking at in the summer of 2014. The potential turnover for next season's roster is staggering and there's real potential for a major shift in the team's character, identity, and chemistry. Perhaps the potential for a big shake-up isn't such a bad thing with a new head coach and a new system in town. I guess we'll all just have to watch what happens and take note of which players make themselves irreplaceable in the eyes of the Rangers management and coaching staff. If you ask me, the 2014 offseason is going to be an unforgettable one.

Just something to panic think about during the 2013-14 season.

Let's go Rangers.

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