As the New York Rangers play down the stretch to close out the regular season and prepare for the playoffs, Chris Drury will already be preparing for the off season. In doing so, the President and General Manager will be keeping a keen eye on the second line center role. The last ten games of this season and the playoffs, however far the New York Rangers advance, can be seen as an audition for the future number two pivot.
Currently, the New York Rangers have two players who could fill this role for next season and beyond. First, the team has Ryan Strome, who has effectively held the position for the last three seasons and formed a solid chemistry with Artemi Panarin. Second, the team acquired Andrew Copp at the trade deadline, who has been exceptional since joining the Rangers. Both however are unrestricted free agents (UFA) at seasons end.
New York Rangers are cap strapped
This fact alone provides Chris Drury and the Rangers with a serious dilemma. With just under $11.8 million in projected cap space for next season, the team cannot realistically afford to keep both players. It is further unlikely that they can acquire and retain a player of equal production value and experience. One such player that many had hoped to obtain was Tomas Hertl who received an extension from the San Jose Sharks worth more than $8.1 million in cap space. Another is Mark Scheifele who is currently affordable with a $6.1 million cap hit for the next two seasons, but may cost too much in assets to acquire in trade from the Winnipeg Jets.
Thus, more than likely, the Rangers will be left to choose between the two players they already have. The team has four seasons of data to understand what Strome brings to the table. Though, minus the three game beat down the Rangers took at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in August of 2020, the team has not seen Strome’s play in the playoffs. Conversely, the Rangers have had very little time with Copp, though he has impressed in his nine games thus far.