As of this writing, NHL Free Agency has been open for six days and Vladimir Tarasenko is still unsigned and has no team going into next season. There were reports that he was going to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, but a few days later, he fired his agent and started the free-agent process all over again.
With it currently unknown where he might be heading next, Ranger fans are trying to create scenarios in which he returns to the Rangers next season. Many believe that he hasn’t signed yet because he is waiting for the Rangers to offer him the deal he wants and if that were the case, the Rangers would need to create cap space to do so.
The Rangers currently have $6,175,417 in available cap space. The Rangers are going to need a majority of that space to sign their current restricted free agents, Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller. This is a hypothetical scenario, but if Miller signs the same deal as Ryan Lindgren which was $3 million for three years, and if Lafreniere signed the same deal as Kaapo Kakko which was $2.1 million for two years, the Rangers would be left with $1,075,417 in cap space.
Now, if Tarasenko wanted to stay for cheap, the Rangers would have signed him by now. It seems likely that if the Rangers want to keep him, they need to sign him on a one or two-year deal in the range of $3-4 million per season. If both players sign those deals and the Rangers have just about $1.1 million in cap space, a trade needs to be made.
The one player that everyone wants to be traded is Barclay Goodrow. He makes the most sense to trade as he is the most expensive player on this team that doesn’t have full trade protection in his contract. He makes $3,641,667 million for the next four seasons and if he is still playing a fourth-line role going into next season, he is simply a luxury the Rangers can’t afford if they want to bring Tarasenko back or if they want to bring in another impact player.
The Rangers brought in depth pieces like Nick Bonino and Tyler Pitlick who play the same style of game as Goodrow and they came cheap. The Rangers could afford to trade Goodrow since they have other players who can fill his spot. Let’s say the Rangers find a trade partner and to get the deal done, they have to add a sweetener, which would be a pick or prospect.
With him gone, the Rangers would have $4,717,084 in cap space. That would be enough to get Tarasenko back on the team and they could still have some cap space left over.
Now, if the Rangers were to bring Tarasenko back, he would slot into the top six on the right wing. The top two right-wings would be him and Kakko, with Wheeler on the third line. That would be the great depth that the Rangers haven’t had in years. One problem that could arise from his return is that Lafreniere won’t get the top-six minutes that he might get if Tarasenko didn’t come back.
The only way he would get those minutes if he was here is if they moved Kreider down to the third line and created a matchup line. Lafreniere is entering a big year and his Rangers career could depend on what he does this season. If he really wants to prove that he was the first overall pick for a reason, he needs to come into camp and blow the doors off. If he does that and Tarasenko is still here, he could push himself into the top six and Kreider down to the third line.
Tarasenko played very well for the Rangers and out of all the players the Rangers let go to unrestricted free agency, his departure hurt the most. He did what he was asked and it seems that his first choice is that he wants to return to the Rangers. Can the Rangers make it possible for him to return? We will find out over the next few days.