Yesterday the New York Rangers locked up Chris Kreider on a two-year bridge deal almost every RFA gets from Glen Sather exiting their ELC. That move came on the heels of the Rangers locking up Mats Zuccarello on a one-year deal worth $3.5-million.
Both Kreider and Zuccarello were arbitration bound -- with the Rangers actually agreeing to terms with Kreider minutes before the hearing -- and the team successfully navigated their way out of having to go in front of a judge. It was the smart thing to do. We talk about this all the time, but arbitration is a dangerous game to play and is better off avoided at all (reasonable) costs. The Rangers did that with Zuccarello and Kreider.
The good news, if you're a Rangers fan, is Sather did fantastic work with both extensions. The two-year deal for Kreider is a very fair value for a player of his caliber, and it was completed relatively painlessly. The Zuccarello contract has it's risks, but from a financial standpoint it's probably $1-million below his internal value as a RFA.
Derick Brassard (who is scheduled for arbitration Monday, July 28th) is the only RFA left who poses that problem for the Rangers. John Moore is also a free agent, but he wasn't arbitration eligible this year so there isn't as much of a rush on his new deal.
The Brassard extension is going to be an interesting one. There have been reports Brassard has been looking for a deal north of $5-million annually, which I think everyone can agree is a little too expensive for their blood. I would hope Brassard will come to terms around $4.5-million a year, on the lower end if possible. I think he's a great player, and I love that he's got a "show up in big games" reputation (which he's earned) and that he's a power play ace for a team that desperately needs one.
Let's take a quick peek at the Rangers' current cap situation. According to Cap Geek, the Rangers have a little over $6.3-million in space after the Zuccarello and Kreider extensions. That figure -- as pointed out to me yesterday -- isn't entirely accurate, because it also counts the cap hits of Chris Mueller ($800K), Mike Kostka ($650K) and Matt Hunwick ($600K). Assuming the Rangers keep one of Kostka or Hunwick with the team as a 7th defenseman, that's an extra $1.4-million that comes off the books.
So the real cap space figure the Rangers are looking at right now is a little over $7.7-million.
Let's throw Brassard and Moore on the higher end of the spectrum and assume they sign for $5-million and $1.3-million respectively. That leaves the Rangers with roughly $1.4-million worth of cap space to either make another UFA signing or use as wiggle room in a potential trade.
If you go to the lower end of the spectrum (Brassard at $4.5-million and Moore at $1.1-million) it leaves Sather with over $2.1-million to play with.
With David Booth off the market, the only other real options I see that make any sense are Ryan Carter or Daniel Winnik; both of which would add to the team's depth. It's been reported to Blueshirt Banter the Rangers did not have an interest in Dustin Penner, so I'm not expecting to see him as an option.
The Rangers aren't in as much of a jam in the depth department with the Lee Stempniak signing, but Carter would be a lovely Brian Boyle replacement on the fourth line, and he's probably going to be pretty cheap, too. It's been reported the Devils want to keep him in the fold, but it's been 24 days since free agency opened, so there might be more truth to him leaving than staying -- note that I'm 100% speculating on this .
No matter what happens, Sather has left himself some wiggle room thanks to some very savvy extensions. There's still work to be done -- and the Brassard extension could make or break this line of thinking -- but to this point he's putting himself in a very good position to continue to strengthen the team.