Friday, June 17, 2011

Could Rangers Delay Signing a Restricted Free Agent For Cap Purposes?

There is no doubt that the New York Rangers being unable to buy out Chris Drury from the final season of his contract complicates what the team will do this summer.  The rising NHL salary cap, and allowance to be 10% over whatever the final cap number is will certainly help the Rangers to some extent.  The reason the help will not be significantly large is because Wade Redden’s contract will be back on the book and soak up the allowed overage. 

Having to carry the full $7.05 million of Drury’s contract is certainly painful this summer, but those who are looking at the full amount have to remember they were going to have to carry $3.716 next season anyway.  The real difference between what the Rangers will now have to spend this summer and what they would have had if the Drury buy out had been possible is $3.33 million.

While buying out Wojtek Wolski appears to be the popular response, other than Drury retiring, to the Drury news this morning, Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News floats another potential move the Rangers could make.
With the players they currently have on their roster, including Wade Redden, the Rangers should be a little over $55 million on the summer cap once they make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents. With the 2011-12 cap expected to be between $60-63 million, and the summer cap 10% higher than that, the Rangers would have room to operate.

The complication in that scenario would be that if the Rangers were to make a big-money acquisition (read: Brad Richards), they would be hamstrung with regard to actually re-signing their restricted free agents. Brandon Dubinsky, for instance, is not going to sign a contract for his qualifying offer of $2 million – getting a deal done might have to wait until the Rangers can get Drury to long-term injured reserve, and Redden back off the cap in the AHL (or with some other solution). Other teams might be able to force the Rangers into a difficult spot by signing their restricted free agents to offer sheets, but that practice has become quite uncommon in the NHL.
As Jesse points out, the team is required to carry their qualifying offers against the summer cap.  The total of the qualifying offers per Cap Geek for Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle, Anisimov and Sauer the total is $6.36 million.  Any of those players who signs a contract for next season has the full amount of their deal added to the cap for next season, but until they do only the qualifying offer counts.  Attempting to wait until they can move Redden to the AHL at the start of training camp is a dangerous move because of offer sheet possibilities, but still an option to be considered. 

Also, combining the thought of waiting on signing a restricted free agent and the potential of triggering a second buy out window by taking any of the restricted free agents to arbitration would give the Rangers more time to decide on buying out Wolski if it is the final option. 

The move to buy out Wolski is the most commonly thought of right now because of the large cap savings and his somewhat disappointing play in New York.  There are other options to think about though and if they do have to buy him out it creates another spot on the roster that has to be filled by a contract.  The whole conversation would obviously be moot if Drury retired and saved the Rangers the full $7.05 million and/or the Rangers do not sign Brad Richards.