There has only been a few days since the New York Rangers season ended, but that has not stopped everyone including myself from attempting to put together the best possible roster for the 2014-2015 season. Now that it's the off-season, talks range from the possibility of acquiring Eric Staal to how the Rangers can re-sign Anton Stralman for a couple of dollars rather than the $4-5M he will get.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the team must work with the Salary Cap when putting together the roster for next season. Assuming Brad Richards is given a compliance buyout, the Rangers will have $23,774,167 to work with with only 12 players under contract. Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, John Moore, and Mats Zuccarello are restricted free agents needing new deals, while Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot, and Anton Stralman are notable unrestricted free agents.
Going forward, New York must choose between using that money to re-sign their players that got them to the Stanley Cup Finals, or shedding the depth in favor of a top center or scorer. After signing their restricted free agents, the Rangers will likely be left with approximately $12M left to spend on five roster spots. I like to call this the off-season of prioritizing, as the Rangers will need to figure out who they want the most and get them signed quickly. For example, if the Rangers give Benoit Pouliot a $3M deal, they could then realize that they're $500K short on Anton Stralman. Have to get the right guys signed first.
Signing Paul Stastny is certainly an appealing possibility, but Stastny will be able to get a contract worth at least $5.5M per year, leaving the Rangers with only $6.5M to spend on four roster spots. That means goodbye at least one, and likely both of Brian Boyle/Anton Stralman. Similarly, if the Rangers trade for Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler (who doesn't want to be a Ranger anyway) or Eric Staal, the team will not only have not enough $ to keep their depth, but they will further deplete their already shallow prospect pool.
The more realistic trading possibility for the Rangers would be to sell a player like Marc Staal for prospects and/or draft picks, then work to use his $3.9M shed cap space on re-signing players, or replacing him with a cheaper option. Staal is just one example due to his one year left under contract, but it remains a much more likely option than the Rangers acquiring a player for their own prospects. Not only can the Rangers not afford to do so financially, it would hurt the team's future drastically.
Now, on Rick Nash and Dan Girardi. Trading Nash would be an excellent decision financially for the Rangers, but as I wrote in an article coming out tomorrow on Nash, the Rangers would need to both replace his regular season scoring, and get assets for him. It's tough to say if a Nash for other high scoring high paid winger trade is a realistic possibility, but the idea of "just trade Nash" is silly at best. With a cap hit of $7.8M Nash kills depth possibilities, while now having the monkey on his back of being a poor post-season performer. It will be a tall task to get a team to bite on that.
As for Girardi, put the chances of him being dealt at 2% at best. Girardi was just signed to a new deal which also happens to include a no movement clause. There is little to no reason to believe that Girardi would allow such a trade to happen, nor would the Rangers be dumb enough to deal him based on what boils down to a five-seven game stretch of poor play. Give up on the Girardi trade ideas.
Finally, to wrap it all up, the Rangers will have approximately $12M to spend on five roster spots. With that $12M they can likely get Brian Boyle for $3.3M per type of deal, Anton Stralman for $4.4M, Moore for $1.8M, and have $2.3M to spend on a left winger and/or a top line center. Perhaps the way to go is to let Boyle leave in free agency and use that money to sign a Mikhail Grabovski type to play on the second line. Maybe you still believe the Rangers should get a top line center and give up on their depth. That's all for you to decide, but with the understanding that the Rangers will be working hard against the budget. That means no biting on Ales Hemsky for $4.5M a year, and no P.A. Parentau trade rumors, please.