The New York Rangers are just three days away from opening night, where they will begin the 2023-24 season against the Buffalo Sabres. Following the conclusion of preseason, the Rangers made their final round of cuts, and have seemingly finalized their roster for the regular season. Much of the roster looks as expected, but Will Cuylle has entered the mix as the sole rookie feature player.
With the roster now finalized, the Rangers can begin to analyze their cap space situation. Following the re-signing of Alexis Lafreniere this summer, the Blueshirts were sitting around $50k over the spending limit. With roster cuts and send-downs putting the Rangers back under the cap, they still have seemingly no maneuverability at all this season.
The Rangers have less than $700k projected cap space entering the 2023-24 season
With a roster size of 22 players, the Rangers’ projected cap space currently sits at only $675,084. To put how shockingly low this number is into perspective, the NHL’s minimum salary for 2023 is $750k. This gives New York almost zero options moving forward, and something must change soon to fix this issue.
Although the Rangers are confident in their current group, there will undoubtedly be flaws and cracks in the lineup that surface throughout the regular season.
When the NHL trade deadline arrives on March 8th, the Blueshirts must have some sort of flexibility to make minor trades. The deadline is still months down the road, but general manager Chris Drury must begin to prepare early on this season.
How can the team clear up more cap space?
A majority of the Blueshirts’ spending comes from their star players. Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Mika Zibanejad are the top three highest-paid Rangers, and those three alone take up roughly 40% of the team’s spending. There is much debate about which players are overpaid, but one thing is for certain: in an open cup window, none of these players are going anywhere.
One player the Rangers could look to potentially move to clear cap is Barclay Goodrow. As a bottom-six player, Goodrow has a cap hit of close to $4 million. He’s not taking up as much space as any of the Rangers’ stars, but when factoring in his yearly point production, the team seems to be overspending on his wages.
Goodrow’s performance has regressed during his time with the Blueshirts. Goodrow posted a 55% shot share and a 57% expected-goals share in his final season with the Lightning before coming to New York. These past two seasons, Goodrow has not eclipsed 46% in either stat.
How serious is the Rangers’ cap issue?
Currently, the Blueshirts are in no immediate trouble. It is true that the Rangers will need some cap maneuverability when the trade deadline arrives, but Drury has months to prepare for that. The real danger comes in the seasons ahead, as the Rangers will need to re-sign an abundance of potentially expensive players.
Kaapo Kakko’s two-year bridge deal will come to an end after the 2023-24 season concludes, meaning the Rangers must re-sign him in the near future. He’s in line to have a major breakout campaign this year, thus potentially raising the cost of his next contract. Alexis Lafreniere also recently signed a similar deal which will expire the following season at the end of the 2024-25 season.
Kakko and Lafreniere are just two players the Blueshirts must keep in mind when adjusting their cap usage. There are a handful of other prospects and players who will require new contracts as well, and the Rangers might be in serious trouble if they are not prepared to re-sign them.