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.

Rangers Sign Kolarik To Extension

According to Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News, the New York Rangers have re-signed forward Chad Kolarik.  Kolarik, 25, was acquired from Columbus for Dane Byers on November 11, 2010.  Kolarik was very effective for the Whale, scoring 17 goals and adding 14 assists in his 36 games there.   

Kolarik had a brief four game stint with the Rangers in January and showed himself well as a third line type player.  In those four games he had one assist, but what you noticed most about him was his willingness to go to the front of the net and how the puck seemed to have a way of finding him.  Keeping him is a good move for both the Whale, as they need veteran scoring, and the Rangers if there are injuries at the NHL level.  

Rangers Cannot Buy Out Drury's Final Year Due to Knee; Time To Retire?

For those who got all excited about the various reports last week that Chris Drury was going to be bought out by the Rangers, today comes cold water on the whole thing.  Larry Brooks at the New York Post reports the Rangers cannot buy out the final season of Drury’s contract because of a degenerative condition in his left knee that could render him medically unable to play next season.

It was this condition that caused his knee to be in such bad shape this season and miss virtually the entire second half before returning in the regular season finale and playoffs.
While Drury has yet to file the necessary paperwork, sources report he plans to do so. The Rangers, who had been planning a buyout, could file a grievance against Drury, but that is a remote possibility, at best.
The option now is to put Drury on Long-Term Injured Reserve, but that does not make the cap issues easy as Brooks points out.
But in order to gain the full value of the $7.05 million exemption, the Rangers would have to go that far over the cap. In other words, if the cap is $62.5 million (an estimation before it is officially established by June 30), the team would have to get to $69.5 million (including Drury) before the season-opener in Stockholm to reap the full LTI benefit.
If Drury is going to be medically unable to play next season it is likely that his career is over in the NHL and would potentially set the stage for him to have one last act of leadership in retiring to leave the Rangers in a better position for next season.