When the Rangers demoted Wade Redden to the AHL at the beginning of the year, it was a move that was necessary for the Rangers to get under the salary cap ceiling to start the 2010-2011 season. Although Redden’s $6.5 million cap number is off the cap for this year, each summer his contract will count against the team’s summer cap space, which is 10% higher than the cap ceiling for that season (this past summer’s cap ceiling was roughly $65 million). Although that seems like it could cause the Rangers more cap woes in the summer, when looking at the numbers and impending free agents, there is minimal adverse affect by having Redden count each summer.
When entering the 2011 offseason, the Rangers will have $17.7 million in cap space, not including the summer cushion and Wade Redden. It’s safe to assume that while those two are not included, they will effectively cancel each other out. So for argument’s sake, let’s use that $17.7 million in cap space for the 2011 summer.
The Rangers have several players entering restricted free agency, but only three of those players would be considered key cogs to the Rangers plans: Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan Callahan. While Anisimov is due for a significant raise from his $821,667 salary; Dubinsky and Callahan are currently not due too much in extra salary, barring breakout years for both of them. Should the Rangers re-sign all three, to an average of $2.3 million per player, they will have ten forwards signed who are playing in the NHL this season, plus Mats Zuccarello-Aasen and Evgeny Grachev, giving them a total of twelve forwards. That does not include Dale Weise, who is also slated for restricted free agency in 2011 (assume a comparable salary for him). Those forwards slated for unrestricted free agency include Alex Frolov, Vinny Prospal, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Todd White. It wouldn’t shock many to see all of them wearing other uniforms next season. That opens up two extra forward spots (White doesn’t play, Prospal is hurt) heading into the 2011 season.
On defense, Steve Eminger will likely be gone to unrestricted free agency, while Michael Sauer and Matt Gilroy are slated for restricted free agency from the NHL roster. Sauer is the easy case here, as it’s safe to assume he won’t get a huge bump in salary. Gilroy is the curious case, as he currently is a $1.75 million cap hit. He simply has not played well enough to be worth that kind of money, so Gilroy may wind up needing to take a pay cut to stay with the Rangers. With Ryan McDonagh ($1.3 million) likely to make the team next season, and Pavel Valentenko ($850,000, RFA in 2011) likely to get another deal and possibly crack the roster, the Rangers seem to be set on defense for the foreseeable future. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see two of the three NHL defensemen slated for free agency depart the Rangers next year. The great part is that most of the defensemen are signed to reasonable contracts, thus giving the Rangers that much more space to spend on the offense.
Using my superior* math skills (CapGeek’s cap calculator is down at the moment), when adding all those players together (13 forwards, 7 defense, 2 goalies), the Rangers will still have roughly $4.4 million in cap space. That number is barring any roster moves, such as trades or free agent signings, with the latter being the more likely of the two. Assuming the Rangers will have to make a move to clear enough room to sign Brad Richards ($5 million?), then that move won’t have to be a blockbuster move. They can clear the necessary cap space by simply not re-signing Gilroy.
*-Not really superior
Looking forward to the 2012 offseason, the Rangers will have Chris Drury ($7.05 million), Sean Avery ($1.937 million), and Michal Rozsival ($5 million) all coming off the books. That’s a total of $14 million from just three players, and the only key RFA to sign will be Michael Del Zotto (and possibly MZA). That’s a lot of cap space to work with for just three roster spots. Even with Wade Redden added to the summer cap for the next three offseasons, the Rangers have enough cap room to keep their key players under contract, and add necessary free agents to fill holes. The Rangers have cap room, a very young core in the NHL, and some exciting prospects (like Chris Kreider) in the system. Looks like that five year plan (post-lockout) of Glen Sather’s is panning out fairly nicely.