Rangers’ quiet offseason did no harm to long-term roster building
So the Rangers’ offseason business is essentially complete with Friday’s signing of Brendan Lemieux to a two-year deal for an annual cap hit of $1.55 million per that leaves them with enough remaining space so that potential bonus payments on entry-level contracts shouldn’t have a deleterious impact on the opening roster.
That is perhaps the most pertinent takeaway of this signing that took place on the cusp on the winger’s scheduled arbitration hearing. The Blueshirts avoided hearings with all four of their restricted free agents who had filed, with the combined average annual value of $13.275 million necessary to extend Lemieux, Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev probably amounting to from $700,000-to-$1 million less than management had budgeted.
If the Blueshirts did not necessarily address their organizational lack of depth down the middle or their identity, which leans too far to the talent end of the meter at the expense of straight-line grit and toughness, this was an autumn in which the hierarchy of president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton did no harm to the long-term building process.
Over a unique offseason, featuring a flat cap and industry-wide thrift in confronting the impact of the coronavirus, perhaps that is the most that could have been expected from the front office that also engineered the buyout of Henrik Lundqvist and the trade of Marc Staal in the three months since the team’s inglorious exit from the NHL’s bubble.
There was a limited trade market, if any, for DeAngelo; a limited market, if any, for Strome; a limited market, if any, for Pavel Buchnevich. Restructuring will have to wait for this team, which will go into 2020-21 with just about the same lineup that coach David Quinn sent onto the ice following the trade deadline.
The Post’s shadow roster of 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders — plus the dead space devoted to buyouts and transactions, plus the entry-level bonus charges — amounts to $78,228,133, leaving $3,271,867 of space.
Goaltenders (2): Igor Shesterkin ($925,000); Georgiev ($2.245M).
Defensemen (6): Jacob Trouba ($8M); DeAngelo ($4.8M); Brendan Smith ($4.35M); Jack Johnson ($1.15M); Adam Fox ($925,000); Ryan Lindgren ($925,000).
Centers (4): Mika Zibanejad ($5.35M); Strome ($4.5M); Filip Chytil ($894,166); Kevin Rooney ($700,000).
Wingers (8): Artemi Panarin ($11,642,857); Chris Kreider ($6.5M); Buchnevich ($3.25M); Alexis Lafreniere ($925,000); Kaapo Kakko ($925,000); Lemieux ($1.55M); Brett Howden ($863,333); Julien Gauthier ($863,333).
The Blueshirts presumably will add another forward and defenseman to the mix. Keep in mind that, at least for the first half of the season, entry-level players would be charged the full amount of their respective cap charges that would include all potential bonuses.
But the team has the required amount of space to accommodate, say, K’Andre Miller, whose cap hit would be computed at $1.25 million (including $300,000 in bonuses), or maybe Tarmo Reunanen, whose hit would be $941,667 (including $132,500 in bonuses). Libor Hajek would come in at $863,333 and Yegor Rykov at $925,000.
Up front, Vitali Kravtsov and Morgan Barron are each carrying cap hits of $1.775 million, which includes $850,000 apiece in bonuses. It is unclear whether Kravtsov, who has had an excellent start to the KHL season, will be available to the Blueshirts at camp or whether he is committed to his Traktor Chelyabinsk club through the playoffs. The point, though, is that neither player would be kept off the team because of cap constraints.
The Rangers took care of some housekeeping items these past three months. They stood pretty much pat coming off a season in which their winning percentage improved from .476 to .564. They are not a complete team and the vision of what this will look like when it all comes together still seems a bit clouded.
But with offseason business all but coming to a close Friday, the autumn takeaway is that management did no harm whatsoever to the long-term building process.
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