No truth is more self-evident than that the Rangers need salary cap space. (Even if there actually are 10 NHL teams in worse shape.) We are especially clogged on defense, and it is about to get worse with Staal and Girardi being restricted free agents after this season. Prospal is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end too. So here are some ideas to gain a little room for next season. (Some of them also will give us space this year.)
(1) Do not resign Higgins ($2.25M) unless at a significant discount. He usually scores 20+ per, but as an institutional philosophy we need to stop giving big contracts as rewards for past behavior. I reserve the right to change my mind if he rebounds the rest of the season.
(2) Waive Voros ($1M). Chump change by NHL standards, but there are tons of guys in Hartford or around the league that could fill his 5 minutes per game in the $500-$700K range. Every bit helps.
(3) Trade Kotalik ($3M per for the next 2 years after this one). Either for picks/prospect. He should have value with his bomb and shootout excellence. And he’s not as bad as Torts makes him out to be, just not worth his contract. Plus, we have Drury (unless he gets moved somehow) to play the point.
Now here’s where it gets dicey….Defense.
(4) Assuming we can’t trade him, buy out Rozsival ($5M per for each of two years after this one). Basically, the way a buyout works for a player older than 26 is the team owes 2/3 of the remaining contract over twice the length remaining on that contract — for Rozsival, approximately $1.25M for each of the next 4 years. [He can't be waived because of CBA rules.] However it gets done, Rozsival has to be gone. This is imperative for many reasons. Including that he is not good, we have cheaper options in Hartford, and, most importantly, we can not afford to lose Staal and, to a lesser extent, Girardi.
All these moves are plausible, and with some stones can be done. Without accounting for the players we’d sign to replace them or the bumps in salary Staal, Girardi, and Prospal will be getting, this would save the team $8.5M-$10.25M in cap space. That should be enough to pay these 3 players their raises and still have a few million to spend on a free agent.
Now here are my dream moves (meaning unrealistic, but you never know — Sather did move Gomez afterall):
(5) Trade Drury. Always tough to trade your captain, especially when he is a nice guy and lifelong Ranger fan. His best years are behind him. No way this happens though cause of cap numbers ($7.05M for 2 more years).
(6) Trade Redden ($6M for FOUR more years). He actually has been playing fine this year…assuming he was making $2 million. And we do need a veteran presence to help along the young guys. That said, his cap space is much more valuable to us. One very important reason not to do this, however, is that it might chill the free agent market for future signings. What player would want to sign with the Rangers knowing the team will move him if he does not perform as expected? [Unlike Rozsival, I do not think the Rangers should buy out Redden. In addition to the chilling effect, this would be an 8 year cap hit, albeit at a reduced cap hit per year. It would affect the franchise for too long a time period. Not worth it, especially with him being serviceable. And not unimportantly, his contract becomes much more trade friendly as it nears its end.]
The bottom line is that something needs to be done. It will hurt to do it, but that’s why Sather gets paid millions — precisely to make such difficult and painful decisions. So make them and let’s move on. Either that or pull a New Jersey Nets and tank the season for the top pick. With our luck, however, we’d draft the NHL equivalent of Sam Bowie while the Islanders get Jordan.