New York Rangers Roster: No Stamkos to Rangers Buzz


New York Rangers Re-Imagining Theories

With all of the various theories surrounding the re-imagining of the New York Rangers heading into the 2016-2017 season, from dealing Rick Nash to buying out Dan Girardi and letting Keith Yandle walk, one topic notable for its absence in the discussion is the acquisition of Steven Stamkos through free agency.

The most likely reason for the absence of this discussion is the fact that the New York Rangers, as always, appear to be right up against the cap.

New York Rangers Financial Issues at a Glance

Jan 15, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Nash of the N.Y. Rangers /

Some quick, admittedly imprecise calculations put the Rangers’ upcoming payroll at right around $72 million, just under the projected cap of $74.4 million, with Girardi, Nash and Tanner Glass included in the mix, with raises for several RFA’s included and with some estimates for what a seventh d-man and 13th and 14th forward will cost.

The $72 million number also includes a potentially inflated number of $2.5 million for Pavel Buchnevich should he decide to leave Mother Russia for the challenges of the North American game. Not an exact science, mind you, but for the purposes of this discussion we do not need precision. We are speaking about the concept of Stamkos coming to the Rangers, if you will, and the strange reality that there seems to be no meaningful discussion centering on that possibility.

So, conceptually, does it make sense for the Rangers to pursue Stamkos? Based solely on need, there is no doubt the answer is yes. Stamkos is a generational talent who produces year after year, who can carry a team offensively and who remains, at 26, still quite young. He kills penalties and would also provide the New York Rangers with an asset they haven’t had since, well, ever… a right-handed sniper on the left circle of the power play. The reality is that it would be difficult to find a team anywhere, in any league, that wouldn’t want Stamkos on the roster based on skill-set alone.

New York Rangers at Kreider and Hayes Restrict Acquisitions

Also critical is the fact that the Rangers head into next season with some considerable question marks concerning the forward group. Chris Kreider, who was expected to emerge as a force from Game 1 this past season, decided he would wait until around game 65 to finally demonstrate the unique attributes he can bring. Had he skated, hit and created all year the way he ultimately did over the final weeks of the season it is not outlandish to think he could have potted 35-40 goals. He put up 21 as it was, and even with a less than stellar effort-level for much of the season he could have added 10 or so goals on just the breakaways he missed. Heading into 2016-2017, presuming he is re-signed based on his RFA status, there is no way to bank on the young winger in terms of projected output.

May 22, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (13) works out prior to game four of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hayes, N.Y. Rangers RFA /

Kevin Hayes, sadly, is an even bigger question mark. Also an RFA, the Rangers need to decide if he is definitively in their plans. In his comments after the New York Rangers were decimated by the Penguins in Round One of the playoffs, Hayes was strangely enough the one player that Coach Alain Vigneault seemed committed to in terms of re-signing. Since Vigneault does not control the roster there is no guarantee that his wish will be granted, but of all the players who disappointed this year it was Hayes who was the most underwhelming.

In the end, he is even less bankable than Kreider in the sense that Hayes’ game is not predicated on top-shelf physical assets but rather on skills around the margin. Specifically, he doesn’t shoot particularly well or enough and he doesn’t skate well, two skills that Kreider can bring to the table. Add in the fact that Hayes doesn’t use his considerable frame to any meaningful degree and what we’re left with is a large man-child wandering around the ice looking for something to do. This is not an investment the New York Rangers should make.

Hayes earned (is that the right word?) $900K this past season and even at that price the Rangers should be leery. Considering that he is slotted for a raise of some type should make the decision to let him go easier. This likely wont happen though, as Vigneault’s stubborn belief in Hayes will likely result in at least two more years on Broadway for the enigmatic pivot.

New York Rangers and What Needs to Happen if Stamkos is a Real Target

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So, where does this leave us regarding Stamkos? Realistically, it means that the Rangers will likely have to part with Nash via trade, Girardi via buyout and Yandle and Dom Moore via free agency for there to be any chance of Stamkos coming to the Rangers. That’s a ton of variables that have to be realized, no doubt, but there is logic in doing all of these things if it results in Stamkos coming to New York.

Trading Nash and saying goodbye to Girardi are the the most difficult tasks in the entire equation. It has been been proposed, specifically by Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, that Nash could be traded to St. Louis for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Straight up the move does make sense in terms of payroll and also in terms of filling needs. It would also serve the purpose of filling the slot left open by the buyout of Girardi as well if the team decides on that option.

For the 2016-2017 season, this series of moves would remove roughly $7.3 million in payroll when factoring in the subtraction of Nash’s $7.8 million, Girardi’s after buyout number of $1.75 million (thanks to CapFriendly) and the addition of the $4.25 million owed to Shattenkirk for the upcoming season. Overall, these moves bring the New York Rangers overall payroll to right around the $65 million range. From there it becomes about the choices around the edges for this upcoming season and for seasons to come. Stamkos will require no less than $10 million on the open market, and based on contract expirations in the coming seasons the Rangers can stomach that investment.

Dec 13, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller (10) skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Rogers Arena. The New York Rangers won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
New York Ranger J.T. Miller… big things expected from the developing youngster. /

Again, a lot of moving pieces. In the end, though, all worth the effort if it results in Stamkos in New York playing for the Rangers. The basic reality is that the Rangers need to get better and younger, and Stamkos fits both of those needs to perfection. He would elevate a forward group that includes predictable performers like Derrick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. Throw in J.T. Miller as a player who demonstrated both consistent effort and a high level of play and you have a group that all becomes better with Stamkos drawing the lion’s share attention from opposing coaches and players. If Kreider can be the player his tools tease at, and if Hayes can find his game again, maybe the team is ready for prime time.

Next: New York Rangers Re-Sign Goalie Antti Raanta

Questions would still remain, of course. Even if Buchnevich makes the leap to the NHL and sticks there would be some holes in the lineup, and that is the case whether the team re-signs Viktor Stalberg or not. It is conceivable that the team will have somewhere between 2-4 forward spots to fill even if none of what we’ve discussed here comes to pass. Questions also surround the d-corps, again, regardless of how the Girardi situation is handled. This offseason promises to be the most uncertain and, not coincidentally, most  entertaining Rangers’ offseason in many years.  Rangers fans will be hoping for the big splash that Steven Stamkos represents, or at least they should be if they have any interest in the team becoming a true contender in the next several years. The Rangers’ system is not dry but it is not plentiful either, and so the opportunity to acquire Stamkos must be explored to its fullest.