Jeff Gorton has been a busy man this week, locking down J.T. Miller (coverage here), Emerson Etem (coverage here), Jesper Fast (coverage here), Oscar Lindberg (coverage here) and Dylan McIlrath (coverage here) all to contracts below what was originally anticipated.
The moves are essentially a continuation of what has really been a fantastic, smart and efficient summer for the Rangers new general manager. The biggest piece of the summer puzzle remains on the table, of course -- and we've already discussed how the fallout from the Derek Stepan negotiations will answer a lot of questions about Gorton -- but right now everything he's touched has been positive.
According to General Fananger the Rangers have roughly $6.925-million worth of cap space (assuming all reported cap hits are accurate). That figure isn't entirely true, though, because it includes the cap hits of McIlrath ($600K) and Jayson Menga ($600K). I think it's fair to assume right now McIlrath probably won't make the team, and Menga was never expected to be anything more than AHL depth once the start of the season came around anyway, so we can factor out their salaries and give the Rangers another $1.2-million worth of cap space.
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That increases the Rangers free space to roughly $8.125-million; more than enough to sign Stepan and leave the Rangers with the wiggle room teams so desperately want going into the year.
Assuming Stepan signs at $7-million per year -- which, again, I think is on the higher side of where he'll come in -- the Rangers would have about $1.1-million worth of cap space without having to make any salary-motivated decisions.
If the Rangers wanted to make a bigger splash (Alex Semin, anyone?) they should be able to unload Kevin Klein's $2.9-million cap hit and (preferably) Tanner Glass' $1.45-million from the books. If the Rangers moved both of them they would save an additional $4.35-million this year, which they could use on a guy like Semin or keep until next year when the Dan Boyle cap hit ($4.5-million) comes off the books and use it to help re-sign Chris Kreider and the next crop of free agents.
Something worth keeping in mind: because Miller and Etem signed their qualifying offers, both are arbitration-eligible next year. If both blossom the way the Rangers are hoping they do, they will become quite a bit more expensive and hold some leverage, so keeping spare room under the cap might not be a bad move in the long run.
There's already been reported interest from teams looking at the costs of acquiring Klein, and if the Philadelphia Flyers can move Zac Rinaldo, there's no reason to assume Gorton can't move Glass if he wants to. The options to create more room exist.
Either way, the Rangers have flexibility to create even more cap space than they already have because of the work Gorton has done in the RFA field this year. Stepan's situation is still unresolved, but Gorton has created enough space for him without having to do anything outside of the organization to get there.
It's been a long, long time since the Rangers have had this good of a summer and Gorton has earned the right for us to assume that won't change after Stepan is locked up.