Monday, December 6, 2010

Does Rising Salary Cap Change Rangers Options? Richards/Parise Types Now Possible?

The salary cap and what number it is set at each year is something that New York Rangers fans have had to follow very closely over the past few years because the club was in salary cap nightmare based on some of the huge contracts given out by Glen Sather over the years.  Last season the cap after being expected to go down surprisingly rose from 56.8 to 59.4 million and while 2.6 million might not seem like a whole lot is the reason deals like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi got done this past summer.  Now this coming summer there has been a lot of talk and speculation about the Rangers going after Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars, but before that happens the Rangers have five integral players who are RFA’s this summer: Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, and Michael Sauer. 

The news on next year’s cap that first started over the weekend with Darren Dreger of TSN when first on twitter and then on that the cap could rise another 2 million dollars this coming offseason to a cap ceiling of 61.4 million.

Preliminary projections assume the Salary Cap will go up at least another $2 million in the 2011-12 season from the current level of $59.4 million.  This of course is under the assumption that the NHL Players' Association requests a five per cent inflator as is their right. 

Well this morning as the Board of Governor’s meetings are getting underway in Florida the reports are now circulating from Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail that the bump could be as much as 3 million for next year if the inflator is exercised and bring the cap to 62.4 million for 2011-12 season.  The reasoning from David is the following is that since the cap is based on revenues it means revenues are likely increasing but that those increases are being carried by the Canadian teams over the lackluster performances of some American markets. 

The reality for Rangers fans is they really do not care why the cap will be whatever it will be just what it is and what it means for their hockey club.  So, what does an increase to 62.4 million mean for the Rangers?

Before all Rangers fans go writing the checks to and buying the jerseys for Brad Richards on Broadway let us look at what the current cap scenario looks like, project what the key pieces that the Rangers should bring back are and then see what is left.  The following guys will surely be one from the team roster by next season: Alex Frolov, Todd White, Matt Gilroy, Vinny Prospal and probably Ruslan Fedotenko.  The key players that the team needs to sign are those I listed at the start and possibly Steve Eminger as an unrestricted free agent. 

Currently the Rangers have 13 players under contract for next season at a cap hit of 41.85 million dollars.  The players on that list in declining cap numbers are: Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Henrik Lundqvist, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Sean Avery, Derek Boogaard, Michael Del Zotto, Erik Christensen, Derek Stepan, Martin Biron and Brandon Prust.  Having those 13 players in place the Rangers have a grand total of 20.5 million dollars under the cap to bring back the guys they want and/or add new ones.  If I had to project right now I would guess that the combination of Dubinsky (3.75), Callahan (3.4), Sauer (850K), Boyle (1.3), Anisimov (1.6) makes a grand total of 10.9 million.  That would give the Rangers 18 players under contract and 52.75 million spent with 9 million left to fill out the last five roster spots. 

If Mats Zuccarello is ready to make the team that is 1.75 million and you will either bring back Eminger at basically his current salary or call up one of the young guys from Hartford but let’s take that at 1.25 to be safe and call the combined 3 mil.  Those two moves give the Rangers six million to fill out the last 3 roster spots which is a considerable amount of flexibility but not nearly enough for a big name whether it be Richards, Semin, Ehrhoff as UFA’s or any other significant contract like a run at Zach Parise as an RFA.  Also must consider if any of the prospects like Horak, Hagelin, Kreider, Werek might be able to step in or Weise from the Whale to take spots.

The key to any big move for the Rangers this summer will still be the moving of Michal Rozsival in a trade and not taking back a significant salary in any such move.  If the Rangers could move Rozsival who will have value, especially to a team looking to hit the cap floor of 46.4 million but not spend that as his cap hit is 5 million but his salary is only 3.  Now if they are able to move Rozi it means that Eminger is either coming back or they are bringing in another top 4 defender to the club. 

The other place that this 3 million dollar bump really helps the Rangers is the summer when Wade Redden’s 6.5 million counts against the cap again but teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% which this summer will be virtually the full amount of Redden’s deal. 

In the end the 3 million is certainly a huge help to the Rangers in planning for next season, but that money alone does not afford them the flexibility to bring in a huge salary and if I was running the show, which obviously I am not I would play it how the Rangers initially did coming out of the lockout where you don’t spend and in a year you are looking at likely only needing new deal for Del Zotto and Prust while huge contracts like Drury, Rozi (if still here) and smaller ones like Avery, Christensen go away and your young talent is able to play or spend the money with a better understanding of what your long term needs are.  Remember this is a bad economy, it is time the Rangers show some fiscal responsibility.