Dwindling Cap May (Thankfully) Force Jeff Gorton's Hand

Next year's salary cap isn't going up by as much as expected, and that's bad news for the New York Rangers.

Larry Brooks has been dropping bombs on the New York Rangers fanbase all summer. The biggest one, until this weekend, was the notion Jeff Gorton would not be buying out or moving on from Dan Girardi this year, but was open to moving pretty much anyone on the team.

This one is a little different, because while it's not about the Rangers themselves, it is about the rules in which the team operates under the CBA. Brooks is reporting the NHL salary cap will not be going up to the over $74-million many teams expected. Instead, the cap will drop unless the NHLPA opts for 5% escalator, but even then the cap would still be below the projections. From his story:

According to a source with ties to the Players' Association, the cap — set at $71.4 million this year — would be reduced to approximately $69.3M for 2016-17 unless the PA triggers the 5 percent escalator. If the union does exercise the bump, then the cap should increase to approximately $72.8M. The union, which debated the issue at meetings at the end of the week, has voted for the increase all but once.

You don't need me to tell you how this changes the landscape of this summer for the Rangers. I've already speculated about how some of the comments and reports floating out of the organization haven't been too positive in terms of the Rangers making the right moves this summer.

And with reports of expansion coming next year -- Las Vegas for the win -- the Rangers might be forced to protect players with no movement clauses even if those clauses expire 10 days after the expansion draft. So that Girardi's contract turning into a limited no trade clause July 1st will not help the Rangers in the event the draft is before the draft -- which by all indications it will be. By the same token, free agents with no movement clauses who aren't free agents until July 1st would also have to be protected. Imagine being forced to protect a player you're going to lose to free agency in a week anyway?

The evidence mounting is leading to one decision: The Rangers have to drop dead weight this summer. Not wait and see. Not let's see how things go. Not let's take a risk on an aging player because we don't want to swallow our pride and we think he's going to get better for no logical reason.

The Rangers might have enough money to keep all their RFAs and UFAs (I'm really thinking Viktor Stalberg here) with the exception of Dominic Moore (the Rangers have reportedly already moved on) and Keith Yandle (because when you mess up you should mess up as big as possible). The lack of extra breathing room will make things difficult, though, even though Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei are very cost-efficient players who will be in the regular lineup next year (we hope).

We've beaten the "trade the dead weight" horse to death. Then we created a serum to revive him, did that, and then beat him to death again. The only thing this new information should do is reinforce the decisions to move on rather than force the Rangers to do it, but however they get to the right answer is fine by me.

What this might do is make the Rangers re-think the no buyout stance they've reportedly taken. I understand a lack of a desire to have dead weight sit on the salary cap for the next eight years with Girardi -- if there's no deal to be made, even if the Rangers have to eat salary -- but the Rangers made their bed and now they need to sleep in it.

Hockey Stat Miner did a really good analysis on how the Rangers cap would be impacted withe buyout:

The point isn't just to clear space now -- maybe to keep Yandle? -- and make sure the Rangers can improve the team to keep the Cup window open for the foreseeable future. It's so that the Rangers can do that and NOT have to protect a player in the expansion draft, thus exposing other quality players to Las Vegas. Not that the Rangers can be decimated (I believe a team can only lose two players at the max) but imagine being forced to lose a quality player because of the shortsighted moves from a summer before?

Not that Rangers fans sort of haven't gotten used to that, already. Here's to that not continuing to happen again.