Rangers: Lafreniere’s new 2-year deal creates more chaos for salary cap nightmare

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period in game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden
Apr 29, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period in game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is that the New York Rangers have signed Alexis Lafreniere to a two-year contract, as expected; but the club’s salary cap status is a mathematical nightmare with just a month until training camp begins.

Alexis Lafreniere and the New York Rangers have reportedly agreed to a two-year contract (though not yet officially announced by the team) that will keep the former RFA on Broadway.

After the signing, the team’s current roster has them at the ceiling of $83,546,583 salary cap, per CapFriendly. CapFriendly shows the Blueshirts’ roster consists of 13 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies. The club appears to be over the salary cap limit. As of Thursday morning, the Rangers are approximately $46,583 over the salary cap allowance.

However, Puckpedia indicates that the club has a 22-man roster consisting of 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies. Under this alignment, the team has $728,418 in available cap space which would give the organization some more wiggle room to add a 23 player to their roster two weeks into the season.

The difference in the two sites’ reporting is defenseman Connor Mackey. Capfriendly has him on the club’s 23-man roster as Puck Pedia has him listed as a non-roster player. For the record, the roster that appears on the team’s official website has Mackey on the roster.

The most likely scenario would be the one that Puck Pedia offered. It is highly unlikely the Rangers would go with eight defensemen, leaving the team with the ability to call up a player without using an “emergency” recall.

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Salary Cap Implications Could Impact This Season

General Manager Chris Drury battled the salary cap for most of last season. It was never more evident than when he decided to pursue UFA Patrick Kane close to the trade deadline in February. The team was unable to call up a player to replace an injured Ryan Lindgren, and Drury decided that the team would play with a shorter roster so that they could acquire enough cap space to maneuver a trade for Kane.

Regardless of where Mackey appears within the organization, the team will once again have their hands tied for the early part of the 2023-2024 season. A trade could help relieve the cap tension, but that would cause other issues within the lineup.

Currently, the Rangers have nine players with either a modified no-trade clause or a non-move clause. Barclay Goodrow is one of a few roster players who does not have either within his contract, but rumors of the team looking to trade him quiet down with the signing of Blake Wheeler on July 1.

Less Likely To See Any Roster Surprises

The salary cap issues will have another effect on the Rangers. Players such as Brennan Othmann will have an even harder time making the squad for opening night as the team may not be able to make enough room to have him on the roster by then, should he have a very successful training camp.

Drury has been a magician when it comes to manipulating the salary cap, so the possibility of Othmann being with the team at the start of the season may not be so far-fetched.

For now, the business side of hockey has concluded. Training camp is finally on the horizon with the Peter Laviolette era set to begin.

A fast start can put all of the salary cap talk on the back burner. A slow start could magnify how bad the salary cap problem is on a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations.

Follow Frank on Twitter at @RangerProud