NY Rangers: 4 Contracts That Will Be a Problem Under a Reduced Salary Cap

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIINovember 20, 2012

NY Rangers: 4 Contracts That Will Be a Problem Under a Reduced Salary Cap

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    The New York Rangers have almost $30 million tied up in four players: Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik. Richards is signed through 2020 and makes $6.6 million per year. Nash is signed through 2018 and makes $7.8 million per year. Lundqvist is signed through 2014 and makes $6.875 million. Marian Gaborik is signed through 2014 and makes $7.5 million.

    This could potentially present a problem for the Rangers going forward. If the deal struck by the NHL and NHLPA is one that reduces the salary cap, the Rangers might be in trouble.

    The salary cap is currently $70.2 million. The Rangers, at present, are at $59.2 million. That gives them room to work with.

    But let's say, for argument's sake, that the cap is reduced to $55 million. The Rangers are going to have to make big changes. The four players mentioned above are the big problems. 

    We'll run down why they're an issue and what the Rangers can do to fix it. 

Brad Richards

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    Brad Richards is signed through 2020 and makes $6.6 million per year. Of the four highest-paid players on the roster, Richards makes the least. That could make him the most expendable.

    Of course, Richards is a valuable player and a leader. It's going to be tough to get rid of him. 

    But if teams are offered an amnesty, like what was offered in the NBA, where they can get rid of one player with no impact on the salary cap, then Richards would be the easiest. He makes the least money.

    Still, how can you get rid of Richards? He was invaluable during the playoff run. He is the most experienced guy on the roster and is an alternate captain. He has a Stanley Cup under his belt and is quite familiar with John Tortorella.

    A reduced cap will present tough choices. Richards is signed through 2020. It's quite possible that there may be another labor dispute before that time (although we certainly hope not). Any deal struck may only be for a few years. Are the Rangers really going to be able afford $6.6 million, under a reduced and potentially uncertain cap, for eight years?

    The answer may be no. Richards is one of the three most valuable players on the Rangers roster (the others being Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist), but we have to divorce ourselves from the player and focus on the economics. He's signed for a long time, and a reduced cap might make the existence of large contracts impossible. 

    If this becomes the case, then Richards might get the boot. It would be a shame, but the Rangers may have no choice. 

Rick Nash

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    One of the newest Rangers is also the most expensive. He's signed through 2018 at a $7.8 million yearly rate. Nice if you can get it.

    But it may not be nice for the Rangers. While the Rangers would not be inclined to get rid of Nash, especially when they gave up so much to get him, they may not have a choice.

    If there is a reduced cap, there will almost certainly be an amnesty clause. That will allow the Rangers to get rid of one player with no consequences. The Rangers could get rid of $7.8 million in one fell swoop, get under the cap and be able to sign some of the restricted free agents who are coming up.

    Sounds good, no? Well, the Rangers gave up two serviceable players and a top prospect for Nash. It would be hard to justify to the fanbase (and to the team, for that matter) that Nash needs to go. Nash is supposed to be the missing link, the player who will get them to the promised land. Cutting him won't go over well.

    Yet, if we think about this in strictly economic terms, it makes sense. He makes the most money on the team and is signed for a long time. With restricted free agents coming up like Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin, the Rangers are going to need to find room and going to need to find even more room if the cap is reduced significantly.

    I doubt this is an outcome we'll see, because getting rid of Nash would result in a mutiny from the fanbase, but in strictly economic terms, it makes the most sense. 

Henrik Lundqvist

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    Henrik Lundqvist makes $6.875 million through 2014. He is the backbone of the Rangers, and their success is almost wholly dependent on him.

    But that's a lot of money, and under a reduced cap it's going to present a problem. What are the Rangers to do? 

    Well, they can cut Nash as we mentioned in the previous slide, but that's very unlikely to happen. But get rid of Lundqvist?

    It seems impossible, I'll admit. How can you get rid of your best player, especially if you aren't going to get anything in return? Yes, it will save money, but they can find that money elsewhere. They would lose half their fanbase if they made such a move. 

    One of the problems of a reduced cap is that it presents really tough choices for teams. They have to choose between top players, and no decision is a good one. Each one has tremendous downsides and not many upsides.

    If the Rangers were to prioritize the men on this list, my guess is that Lundqvist would be first, followed by Richards, then Nash, then Gaborik. 

    Lundqvist is safe. But because he is safe, that makes the other decisions that much tougher. 

Marian Gaborik

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    Of the "Potential Cap Problem Four," Marian Gaborik is the one who might be the most expendable. 

    He makes $7.5 million through 2014. While incredibly talented, he's out until at least December with a shoulder injury, and we don't know how he will respond after he comes back.

    Gaborik scored 42 goals last season, but he had a bad 2010-11 and a bad postseason this year. The Rangers have Rick Nash to take his place.

    Gaborik probably won't be re-signed when his contract is up. By then, Nash will still have four years left on his deal and Chris Kreider will be a high-scoring veteran. They won't need Gaborik, and a 32-year-old player with durability concerns will not find a lot of takers on the open market.

    So, it's possible that the Rangers could amnesty Gaborik now. While having both Nash and Gaborik is ideal, the Rangers could ask Kreider to fill that role. Nash is, arguably, a better player than Gaborik anyway.

    Obviously, the Rangers want to keep the duo of Nash and Gaborik together. But of the four players in the piece, Gaborik is the most expendable. 

    My guess is that if there is a reduced cap and the Rangers are forced into making a move, then Gaborik will hit the chopping block.