Rangers’ Chris Drury preparing for first encounter with UFA’s & RFA’s as GM

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President and GM Chris Drury has been a factor in the decision-making process of signing free agents in the past.  This season is a bit different as he now is the man who makes the final decision for the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers are going to have some tough decisions to make when the 2020-2021 season officially concludes in July.

Unrestricted free agents along with restricted free agents are the keys to improving a hockey team.  Every decision is crucial to the organization and involves research and some luck in order to make the right moves to be a successful team.

The Rangers go through this every season as do most NHL teams, but this time around they are lead by a rookie GM with plenty of risk on the line.



RFA’s and UFA’s

A quick review of the team’s status via CapFriendly.com shows the hard work Drury has ahead of him. The decisions of who and how much to offer a player are hard enough, added to the equation is the Seattle Expansion draft, the NHL Draft, and the beginning of the free-agent signing period.

UFA

The Blueshirts have three unrestricted free agents on their roster. UFA’s are free to shop for other teams or negotiate with their current clubs.  The Rangers have no rights for these players once their contracts expire.

Philip Di Giuseppe, Brendan Smith, and Jack Johnson qualify as UFA’s at the end of this season.

RFA’s

Restricted free agents are players who have their contract expire but the club still retains their rights to play. Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, and Libr Hajek are RFA’s at the end of this season.

There are also Arbitration Eligible restricted free agents. Here a third-party arbitrator is used to determine a fair contract term and length for an expiring RFA player. Arbitration can be requested if a player meets the following conditions (CBA Reference 12.1 (b)):

  • The player qualifies as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA).
  • The player has not signed an offer sheet.
  • The player has met the required professional years of experience. (via CapFriendly.com)

The Rangers have two players who qualify for this section, Pavel Buchnevich, and Igor Shesterkin.

Buchnevich signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal in July of 2019.  His AAV was $3.25 million for each of the last two seasons.

Shesterkin signed a two-year, $7.75 million dollar entry-level contract that was loaded with bonuses in May of 2019.

Decisions, Decisions

Let’s start with the no-brainer, the team will absolutely re-sign Shesterkin.  He had the torch handed to him from the Henrik Lundqvist era and though he struggled at points this season he will be the man between the pipes for years to come.  The numbers will work themselves out one way or another.

Buchnvevich is a tough one, I’d anticipate this situation at least being scheduled for an arbitration hearing.  Buch is coming off a strong year that saw him score 20 goals with 48 points in 54 games.  He became a leader on the ice as was evident in the Tom Wilson fiasco where he was punched in the back of the head, the picked himself up to defend Artemi Panarin in the same play.

He will be looking for a long-term deal that will end with him being an unrestricted free agent. How much and for how many years will be the result of a long and most likely uncomfortable process.



Brendan Smith is the most compelling story to tell. A few seasons ago he was in the AHL with Hartford and ended the season injured after having a fight in practice with a teammate.  Fast forward to this season and he has become a player the kids look up to on and off the ice.

He played different positions with David Quinn as his coach while becoming a valuable and trusted player on the ice.

Now the problem changes from do they want to re-sign him to how can the club re-sign him now. Plenty of teams will be inquiring about his service offering more money and more years than the Rangers may be willing to offer.

His time with the club is most likely over. It would be hard to offer a big contract to a defenseman who will be a third-pair player.  He is probably ranked sixth out of the six defensive spots behind Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller.

Trades, signings, or re-signings are how teams succeed or fail in today’s NHL. Drury needs to have a solid game plan for his first go-around or the teams can find themselves out of the playoffs next April. A scenario this club would prefer to go through again.

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