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What the 2015-16 Salary Cap Going up Means for the New York Rangers

The salary cap next year will be somewhere around $73 million, does that mean that the Rangers get to keep all of their toys? More importantly, are all of their toys worth keeping?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago news came out that the NHL salary cap, which was expected to remain stagnant at $69 million, is going to rise to somewhere in the ballpark of $73 million.

The cap increasing is not only great news for the health of league in general, it's also fantastic news for the New York Rangers who are going to have some very tough decisions this upcoming offseason. There are several players on the current Rangers roster that are pending free agents, both RFA and UFA, that are a huge part of the club and its success. The Rangers have three major unrestricted free agents that they have to make decisions on- Marty St. Louis, Marc Staal, and Mats Zuccarello, and two significant restricted free agent forwards that are likely in line for significant raises- Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin. Of those five players the only one that might not have a cap hit increase is Martin St. Louis and that is because he might be persuaded to sign a +35 contract similar to the deal that Jarome Iginla signed with the Colorado Avalanche this offseason.

"There is little doubt that the Rangers will want to re-up St. Louis. The issue is whether St. Louis will be amenable to signing a one-year, over-35 bonus-laded contract that the Rangers likely will have to offer No. 26 in order to maintain some flexibility under the cap next summer." -Larry Brooks

It's worth pointing out that retaining RFAs and making decisions on UFAs has never been easy, especially for the New York Rangers, but this offseason in particular will present some very critical decisions for the club because the of the key names involved in contract talks and what it means for ongoing contract negotiations this season. It isn't often that Glen Sather signs players to contract extensions during the season, but we just might see that start to happen in the next few months because of how chaotic the upcoming offseason's free agency auction could be.

Key Main Roster New York Rangers Free Agents

Player, Status

2014-15 Cap Hit


Contract Negotiations?

Martin St. Louis, UFA



Very Likely

Marc Staal, UFA



Yes, wants $36 million over 6 years.

Mats Zuccarello, UFA



Some, talks start 1/1

Lee Stempniak, UFA




Matt Hunwick, UFA




Cam Talbot, UFA




Derek Stepan, RFA




Carl Hagelin, RFA




J.T. Miller, RFA

$894,167 (EL)



Jesper Fast, RFA

$805,000 (EL)



John Moore, RFA




Here are some of the Rangers' noteworthy non-roster players that have contracts expiring at the end of the season. My gut feeling is that we might see some significant turnover with the Wolf Pack's roster next season, but that is almost always the case.

Conor Allen, 24, RFA

Danny Kristo, 24, RFA

Mat Bodie, 24, RFA

Jason Missiaen, 24, RFA

Dylan McIlrath, 22, RFA

Oscar Lindberg, 23, RFA

Marek Hrivik, 23, RFA

Chris Mueller, 28, UFA

Marc Staal's current contract status and the trade rumors that are slowly starting to gain heat with him feels all too familiar to what the Rangers went through last season with Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi. The difference this time around is that there is no player to keep instead of Staal like there was with Girardi (why oh why didn't we sign Anton Stralman). If the Rangers and Staal can't reach a compromise on how much the alternate captain is worth, we might very well see #18 moved. That decision will be influenced not only by Staal's play but also by what the Rangers playoff hopes look like as deadline day approaches. You can say what you will about Marc Staal, but we just got a very fresh reminder about the lack of quality defensive depth in the organization. If the Rangers can move Staal for another defenseman that can play top four minutes, like an Andrej Sekera, that should be something the club looks into thoroughly, but it will likely be very hard for the Rangers to make a deal that will both move Staal and improve the team for this season. It's not easy to sell UFAs, especially UFA blueliners, except to competitors that think they are just one key piece away from lifting hardware in spring.

The Rangers could also find themselves in a similar situation with both Mats Zuccarello and perhaps even Carl Hagelin. As popular as Zuccarello is in New York, the Rangers would be remiss to let someone with as much offensive prowess as him walk in the offseason without landing some assets for him. The Rangers and Zuccarello agreed to a one year, $3.5 million contract with contract extension talks to start on January 1st.

Zuccarello would be a hard player to lose in a trade or in free agency but he is a difficult guy to place a dollar value on. In my opinion, the Rangers would be out of their minds to let Zuke go unless he is asking for an obscene amount of money. Despite his lack of production early this season, Zuke does so many good things on the ice and creates so much offense that letting him go would be criminal. He's critical to the team's success and the very definition of valuable depth scoring. He's too good not to get back into his groove and start ending up in the box score again soon. As hard as it is to put a dollar value on Zuke, it may be even harder to put one on RFA speedster Carl Hagelin. Hagelin is a guy that has been moved around the Rangers middle six (the second and third line) quite a bit. Hagelin would be very tempting trade-bait but he is also a very dynamic and useful player in the Rangers' lineup that would be tricky to replace. There are some rumors (Ottawa Sun rumors... so take them with a grain of salt) that the Rangers are looking for another forward, and if that is the case a guy like Hagelin could be involved in a deal if the Rangers want to make an upgrade or a change at forward.

But the free agent that will likely have the most impact on the future of this club is Derek Stepan who is playing in the final season of his restricted free agency and is likely going to get paid, big time. Why Stepan's next contract already worth keeping in mind? It was only fifteen months or so ago when Stepan was a contract holdout that missed the Rangers' training camp and the contract negotiations between Stepan's camp and the Rangers turned more than a little bit ugly.

"It's unfortunate that Derek has decided to listen to his agent instead of realizing that he's in a situation that he's going to get paid; it's just not today... I hope he starts to get a little wiser about this decision. Every day he misses is going to hurt him." -Glen Sather (Sean Hartnett).

Since returning from his injury in training camp Derek Stepan has been exceptional and has been producing for the Blueshirts. Last offseason the Rangers gave then RFA Derick Brassard $25 million over 5 years and it goes without saying that Stepan is going to be making more than Brassard will, the only question is just how much more? Last offseason we heard plenty of talk about Stepan wanting to be paid for the player that he was going to be, which is a true number one center. Glen Sather and the Rangers played hardball with Steps and, in the long run, it might end up costing them a little bit more. It certainly is a good thing there will be a little bit more cap space to play with in the offseason, isn't it?

As the season slowly marches along we have to start asking tough questions about the players on the Rangers' roster, especially those players with expiring contracts. Just how much is Derek Stepan worth? What about Carl Hagelin? How much will it cost to keep Martin St. Louis in New York? Can you imagine paying the price we paid for Marty only to watch him leave in free agency after this season? Will Marc Staal still be a Ranger a few months from now? What kind of money will Mats Zuccarello be asking for when his contract extension talks start in January? In addition to those major questions there are plenty of decisions to be made about the makeup of the Rangers' farm club.

Eventually the Rangers are going to make a move or sign someone to a contract extension and when that happens the other dominoes will start to fall and the idea of what the Rangers are going to do with their key UFAs and RFAs will slowly come into picture. The only real question that is left is which domino should fall first?