If and when the lockout ends, there will be a flurry of player movement. For one, the terms of the new CBA may be drastically different, causing teams to get rid of dead weight.
Additionally, teams will have a limited amount of time to make cuts and to upgrade their team before the season starts. You may see an "amnesty" clause, similar to what was used in the NBA, that allows a one-time cut of a player that won't affect the books.
Because of this, the weeks preceding the start of the season may be even more chaotic than a normal free-agency period.
The Rangers won't be exempt from all this. Teams will be calling them, and the Rangers will be making requests to other teams.
Which Rangers are most likely to get the boot once the lockout ends?
Read on to find out.
Michael Del Zotto is currently a restricted free agent.
Because we don't know how the new CBA will deal with current restricted free agents, we can't know for sure what's going to happen.
But, if the Rangers and Del Zotto can't come to a deal, and if arbitration leaves one side with an undesirable figure, a move may be made.
Why give up Del Zotto?
Well, the economics may force it.
If arbitration values him higher than the Rangers do, they may want to get the salary off their hands. On the other side, if Del Zotto feels slighted by whatever arbitration awards him, then he may decide to hold out.
Either way, it could end up with Del Zotto in a new town.
What can the Rangers expect to get in return?
Depends on the contract, but putting that aside for a moment, the Rangers will ask for a high draft pick, a young defensive prospect (someone who is closer to being NHL-ready than not) and perhaps another prospect or pick.
That young defensive prospect, however, has to be pretty blue-chip.
Remember, Del Zotto will only be traded on two conditions:
- The new CBA necessitates a move
- A deal cannot be reached and either the Rangers find his price too high, or Del Zotto finds his price too low
If one of these two scenarios happens, then I think there will be a lot of takers.
Del Zotto is a young defenseman with high offensive skill and improving awareness and skill in the back end. He's never going to be a shutdown defender, but he put up 10 goals and 31 assists last season, in only his second full NHL season.
He's still an improving player, and if the Rangers want, they could probably get a nice value for him.
But it will only happen if the economics of the new CBA dictates it.
It's quite possible that the new CBA will allow a one-time "amnesty."
This amnesty will allow teams to get rid of one player, one time, with no consequences on the cap or the books.
This is what happened in the NBA.
The Rangers have a lot of long contracts, but I cannot imagine them trading Gaborik or Richards. Still, it's foolish not to use the clause, or be inspired by the clause to trade a player.
One of the prime candidates, then, is Mike Rupp.
Rupp only played in 60 games last season due to injury. He was never that effective, scoring only four goals and adding one assist.
Of course, Rupp is there to fight, but he didn't do that too much. According to hockeyfights.com, he only had 13.
That wasn't even first on the team, as Brandon Prust led the way with 20.
Rupp doesn't really do much other than fight. He wasn't too effective, and his place may have been taken by Arron Asham, who is pretty much the same player.
Between Asham and Stu Bickel, they should have the fights covered.
Rupp is due, according to CapGeek, $1.6 million this year and $1.2 million next year. Getting rid of $2.8 million may not seem like much, but it is when that money can help go to re-signing the swath of restricted free agents that will hit the Rangers in the upcoming years.
Every bit helps.
If the Rangers decide to trade Rupp, they will probably get a low-round pick, or a low-level prospect in return.
But the ability to get Rupp's salary off before the impending RFA storm is attractive, especially when he is essentially a spare part.
As I mentioned in the last slide, the Rangers are about to face a RFA storm.
- Ryan McDonagh will be a RFA after this season
- Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin will be RFAs after this season
- Michael Sauer will be a RFA after this season
- Chris Kreider will be a RFA after the 2013-2014 season
That's five core players up for a new contract in the next two years.
Because of the large contracts to Rick Nash and Brad Richards, along with Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Dan Girardi becoming unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 season, the Rangers simply may be unable to get everyone under contract.
The Rangers will do what they can, but the math may not work. Presumably, McDonagh and Kreider are going to want—and deserve—long-term deals.
Even if the Rangers decide to let Sauer and, for argument's sake, Gaborik walk, they are still going to re-sign Lundqvist, Callahan and Gaborik.
So that's five players with high priority. That means someone has to go.
In this scenario, it's Derek Stepan.
I may be in the minority, but I think Derek Stepan has underachieved.
17 goals and 34 assists last season is certainly not terrible, but he has the talent level to do more. His postseason struggles—one goal in 20 games—only compound the issues.
Stepan is always around the net, but for someone who's always buzzing, he isn't always scoring. He needs to be a 25+ goal scorer.
Stepan is still on his entry level contract of $875,000, so cost is not an issue for teams.
What can the Rangers get?
The Rangers would want a draft pick, of course, but would also want a NHL player, or a NHL-ready player—someone who can step in and take Stepan's place.
The Rangers might have an alternative to Stepan in the minors in Kyle Jean, who has scored four goals and added five assists in seven games.
Either way, the Rangers need to make a decision: Lock up Stepan for cheap now, or have a tough decision to make when the season's over.
I'd recommend locking him up to a team-friendly deal now, but of course Stepan has to like what he sees.
If they can't get him under contract for something that will allow them to sign their upcoming RFAs, then he might find his way out of town. Trading him when the lockout ends, before a poor performance could tarnish his value, would make sense.
Piggybacking off of last slide's discussion about Stepan, a similar fate could befall Carl Hagelin. We outlined the RFA situation on the previous slide.
Hagelin is an RFA after this season.
If the Rangers decide not to move Stepan, the other option is Hagelin. Hagelin, who also makes $875,000, is coming off a fantastic year. He scored 14 goals and had 24 assists in only 64 games.
He made his way to the top-line and became a force on the forecheck.
Trading Hagelin would be less desirous than trading Stepan, but tough decisions have to be made, and if a deal can't get done, then Hagelin could be on his way out.
The Rangers would want a NHL player or a top prospect for Hagelin. Draft picks would also likely be involved.
It's better to make a deal now than during the season, when it's entirely possible that Hagelin hits a sophomore slump.
It's going to be impossible to re-sign all of the "RFA 5," while re-signing Lundqvist, Callahan, Girardi, Gaborik and Staal. Not only do they have to prioritize (for example, letting Sauer go over McDonagh), but they also need to keep cap flexibility for the future.
McDonagh and Kreider will probably get long-term deals.
Stepan and Hagelin won't.
Because Lundqvist and Callahan (and possibly Girardi and Staal) will be Rangers for life, concessions have to be made.
The choice, at least in my mind, is Stepan or Hagelin.
I think trading Stepan is the lesser of two evils, but in either case, the Rangers should expect to get some top-flight talent in return.