It was another weekend without a lot of news about the New York Rangers, but there was news that could affect them
There were no New York Rangers headlines this weekend. The team’s focus has to be on the many tough decisions that they will be facing over the next month. We are 23 days away from the NHL Entry Draft and with ten picks over the seven rounds, the team’s scouts and player development folks must be bleary-eyed from watching videos.
There were a couple of transactions that were of note to the Rangers. With the trade market in full swing, teams are working hard to shed salary and it’s notable that teams like Pittsburgh and Toronto have been very active already.
In the first, it was reported by Dave Pagnotta of “The Fourth Period” website that Robin Lehner had agreed to a five year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. Lehner denied that anything was “finalized” in a Zoom press conference, but that is known as a non-denial denial.
What a Lehner signing means is that Marc-Andre Fleury will be entering the trade marketplace and Lehner is leaving the free agent marketplace. How does it affect the Rangers? It adds another trade chip when the Rangers could be shopping Alexandar Georgiev or trading to work out a deal that will satisfy Henrik Lundqvist enough for him to waive his No Movement Clause.
That will be harder considering that Fleury is now on the available goalie list, a list that includes Braden Holtby, Matt Murray, Jakob Markstrom, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Corey Crawford, Mike Smith and Jimmy Howard.
With all of those names on the trade or UFA list, the Rangers will be hard pressed to trade Lundqvist and his $8.5 million cap hit, even if they retain the maximum 50% of his salary and cap hit. The big problem is that means that they can retain $2.25 million in salary and $4.25 million of the cap hit. Other veteran goalies will be cheaper.
The Montreal Canadiens have clearly targeted Joel Edmundson as the free agent defenseman that they want. Just last week Blue Line Station’s Scott Esposito speculated that Edmundson would be a perfect fit for the Blueshirts. Now, he may be out of the Blueshirts’ price range.
Carolina traded his rights to the Canadiens for a fifth round draft pick. That means the Habs can begin negotiating with him now on a contract extension and prevent him from hitting the free agent marketplace in October. Those deals usually result in a signing. Last summer, the Flyers acquired the rights to Kevin Hayes and were able to sign him two weeks before he became a free agent.
The Rangers did the same thing in 2016 when they traded the rights to Keith Yandle to the Florida Panthers for two draft picks. Yandle signed with the Panthers a week before he became a free agent and one of the draft picks acquired in the deal has turned into Rangers goalie prospect Tyler Wall.
Considering the Rangers’ cap situation, Edmundson was probably going to be too expensive anyway. It leave the Blueshirts with a status quo on the blueline, meaning Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith will be contending for the right to be Jacob Trouba’s defense partner.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Islanders and Golden Knights have the backs to the wall, both trailing 3-1 in their series. A Stanley Cup Finals between the offensive powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning and he shutdown defensive Dallas Stars is looming. We’ll have more on that series when the combatants have been officially determined.
For Ranger fans, the fact that the Isles are in trouble has to be encouraging in their ongoing rivalry. The Cup contention window for the Islanders could be closing. They are going into next season with $9 million in cap space and with five Unrestricted Free Agents and three Restricted Free Agents, including Mathew Barzal,on their roster.
Key dates ahead
Here are some key dates looking ahead to the off-season. One question is whether the NHL will move the dates of the Stanley Cup Finals. Both Conference Finals series could be over by September 15 and that would mean four days off between games and without the usual Finals media hoopla, what’s the point of waiting? Then again, it’s really up to NBC to make that decision.
September 20 – Stanley Cup Finals begin
September 25 – Buyout window opens
October 2 – Last possible date of the Stanley Cup Finals
October 6 – Deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to RFA’s
October 6-7 – NHL Entry Draft
October 8 – Buyout window closes (could be earlier since it is set for six days after the end of the Finals)
October 9 – Free Agency window opens (12 noon EST)
October 10 – Deadline for RFA’s to elect arbitration
October 20 – Arbitration hearings begin
November 17 – Training camps open for 2020-21 season
December 1 – 2020-21 season begins