Exploiting Cap Hell: New York Rangers Edition

For the second year in a row, it appears that NHL teams living close to the salary cap are in for a difficult season. We don’t have a final salary cap number yet and won’t until the NHLPA decides what it wants to do with is escalator option, but it’s reasonable to expect something between the current level of $71.4 million and a possible high of $74 million.

For a lot of teams, that means trouble. For clubs like the Edmonton Oilers, it might mean opportunity. Today’s potential target: the New York Rangers.

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Previously in this series:

Depth Chart

With the Rangers now eliminated from the playoffs, it’s worth taking a look at their roster. New York has enough unrestricted free agents that it’s impossible to put a complete team forward from the list of signed players and RFA’s. That’s why the team makes this list; it does have some money but it also has a bunch of players it needs to get under contract.

Salary cap information, via NHL Numbers:

Left Wing Centre Right Wing L. Defence/Goal R. Defence/Goal
Rick Nash Derick Brassard Mats Zuccarello Ryan McDonagh Dan Girardi
$7,800,000 $5,000,000 $4,500,000 $4,700,000 $5,500,000
Chris Kreider Derek Stepan Jesper Fast Marc Staal Kevin Klein
RFA $6,500,000 $950,000 $5,700,000 $2,900,000
J.T. Miller Oscar Lindberg Kevin Hayes Brady Skjei Dylan McIlrath
RFA $650,000 RFA $925,000 RFA
Tanner Glass
Henrik Lundvist Magnus Hellberg
$8,500,000 $625,000

Total cap hit: $55.7 million

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Total cap space: $15.7 to $18.3 million

Cap hell? How is $15 million-plus in cap space cap hell? Let’s count the ways.

  • RFAs. The list includes Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller, all excellent, highly-touted young forwards who are due big raises. Kreider is coming off a bridge deal and has a salary of $2.6 million; he’s going to be the most expensive of the lot. Hayes had a bit of a down year (14 goals, 36 points) while Miller (22 goals, 43 points) broke out; both are probable bridge-deal candidates though Miller was on a dirt-cheap one-year deal and bridging him might bring the player to close to free agency for New York’s taste. There’s also Dylan McIlrath to consider, though he’ll be cheaper. Without doing any legwork, I’d guess these four deals eat up something like $10 million of New York’s available budget.
  • Low-end replacements. Dan Boyle, Viktor Stalberg, Dominic Moore and Antti Raanta are all bound for unrestricted free agency. It shouldn’t be hard for New York to add a couple of depth forwards, a backup goalie and an end-of-roster defenceman, but it will cost some money. Even at $750,000 a pop for each of them, we’re adding more than $2.0 million to the roster above (I have Magnus Hellberg as a placeholder in net but I’d be surprised if New York was comfortable with him as its No. 2).
  • High-end replacements. Keith Yandle and Eric Staal are both bound for free agency. Staal was a rental player and a bit of an extravagance, but there’s probably a need for a top-nine forward on the roster above. Yandle isn’t an extravagance and the top-four sketched out above simply isn’t good enough; there’s a need for another quality defenceman. At a minimum if New York wants to win next year a legitimate top-four right-side guy would help and a top-pair option would be ideal.

Put it all together and New York is in a precarious position, particularly if a division rival got creative with its offer sheets (Carolina and New Jersey both have a need for forwards, a surplus of picks and plenty of cap space). Compensation this year should be similar to last year, and it’s fun to imagine the consequences of a $5.25 million offer-sheet to Kreider in conjunction with a $3.5 million offer-sheet to Hayes. I doubt we’ll see an offer sheet, but at least the threat of one or more should come up behind the scenes.

Targets for Edmonton

A year ago in this series I mentioned Cam Talbot and Carl Hagelin as obvious targets for Edmonton. Talbot ended up with the Oilers, while the team decided to go get Lauri Korpikoski out of Arizona rather than grab Hagelin (who ended up in Anaheim and has since landed in Pittsburgh). This year, the options aren’t so obvious.

Defence is an obvious Oilers need, but Ryan McDonagh isn’t going anywhere while Marc Staal plays the wrong side and had an absolutely miserable season. Kevin Klein’s useful but not an obvious fit on Edmonton’s roster. That leaves Dan Girardi. I had reservations about Girardi in last year’s write-up and this season was a complete train-wreck; there isn’t a team in the league that should be willing to take on that contract. McIlrath is a plausible depth addition if New York isn’t sold on him.

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Hayes is the most obvious fit for Edmonton, particularly since he seems to have fallen out of favour somewhat with Alain Vigneault. That said, he shoots left and the Oilers really could use some right shots up front. Miller is another potential fit in the event that Edmonton deals a centre in the offseason, but one imagines the Rangers see him as a long-term fit for New York.

There’s opportunity here, but unless someone in the Oilers front office really likes Hayes or McIlrath that opportunity is probably a better fit for another NHL team.


  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i got a lot of thumbs down when i suggested we should completely take advantage of the Blue Jackets cap situation, but i’m going to say the same thing with the Rangers and Hawks and anyone else in cap hell. why shouldn’t the Oilers take advantage of another team’s cap hell? anyone that can help us from these 3 teams and any other should be taken advantage of in order to make our team better, the only team that matters….the Edmonton Oilers!

    • camdog

      Well because the Oilers aren’t in a good cap position themselves. If you add up what’s it’s going to cost to keep who we have in 2-3 years, it’s going to be mind altering. The reality is that PC is not just looking to move a 6 million dollar man to make a move to improve the team, but to free up salary.

  • madjam

    Not a fan of Oilers going after other teams garbage . So lets make a multi player deal that involves a stud defenseman . McDonaugh , Hayes (play both wings if necessary and 6 feet 5 in.), and N.Y. second round pick for 2017 (as we will not have one next season ) for our first pick this year and Yakupov . That would give us a stud defenseman and we would have plenty of L defenseman to go after a very good R, defenseman as well elsewhere . I would also like to add a big bodied physical defenseman like Gudbranson to our team , whom is also Halls age and improving .

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    A lot of talk about the Oilers going after Lucic in the summer, I might be the minority on this but, I would consider targeting Kreider way before Lucic.

    Lucic was so ineffective in the playoffs it was scary, Kreider is exactly what the Oilers need.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      I agree Lucic isn’t the right guy. Teams that pay really good players to be really good players for longer than the player is able to be really good can’t win.

      NYR with Nash and Girardi; LAK with Brown and Gaborik; Min with Vanek and most of their veterans.

      Lucic is a monster. A helpful one when he’s on and a hurtful one when he’s frustrated. The only way I’d want the Oilers to sign him is to trade him at the deadline. I think he’d fetch a kings ransom if he’s having a good year.

      I’m not sold on Kreider though.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I almost spit out my coffee at the notion of the Oilers turning their nose up at Marc Staal, a 20 minute on-again-off-again top-pairing defenceman from a contending team who is under 30 and signed for $5.7m… because he’s a leftie and coming off a poor season. .

    This is a team that had ADAM PARDY average over 20 mins/night after claiming him off waivers. As a leftie.

    Even in an awful season and on his off-hand, Staal would be top-pairing in Edmonton.

    • CBK

      I understand where you’re coming from as pretty much any legit top 4 D man have proven to be better than what the Oilers have at this point.

      However with that being said the Oilers are pretty set on the left side with a healthy Klefbom and Sekera. If I’m Chiarelli I’d be going hard after Hamonic. He’s been lights out for the Islanders as a top 4 right handed shot and with a very fair contract.

      Staal being left handed with a $5.7m cap hit vs Hamonic being right handed with a $3.8m cap hit makes a LOT more sense for the Oilers.

    • camdog

      He turns 30 next season so is he coming off a bad season or beginning to show his age?

      Marc Stall isn’t even a top pairing d-man on the Oilers – he doesn’t match up against Klefbom, not anymore. The Oilers are already paying Sekera 5 million to be the second pairing. In a salary cap world you can’t afford to pay 10 million dollars for Sekera and Stall and expect to win.

    • GK1980

      Got to agree with you here, just because the Oilers have an abundant of lefties shouldn’t hamper being creative to upgrade both sides.

      I don’t think it so cut-and-dry and people are making the D out to be. Yes there is an abundance of lefties but the whole D needs to be fixed. Righties are high on the list but I think we all need to look at this as a whole.

      Stall would absolutely help the D, of course he would regardless of handedness.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      The Oilers could definitely use Marc Staal, warts and all, but the price New York would want for him would make my eyes water.

      We’d be stupid to turn up our nose at him, but I think we’d be shortsighted to send someone like Nurse+ or Klefbom+ the other way.

  • ThinkingOutLoud

    I’ll probably get trashed off the site but I don’t care. I have a feeling we sign Stamkos, keep the draft pick and two of (Eberle Hall Nuge) are gone to make up the difference in salary. Please not Nuge.

  • RJ

    Lowetide has been on the record advocating they sign Demers, since all they’d have to give up is $$$.

    I understand the logic of such a move, but with the greater awareness re: the need for L-R balance throughout the line-up, you have to wonder what the acquisition cost for Demers will be. The Oilers are not the only team looking for L-R balance, so it’s reasonable to assume that you probably with pay a premium for any RHD you acquire.

    Just wondering aloud about the cap space, and whether there is enough flexibility to take advantage of teams like the Rangers.

  • @Hallsy4

    Never been so excited about an offseason. I think something huge will happen. I suspect a blockbuster that is impossible to predict. I think yak/ebs/pou and probably Nuge will all be gone. Looking forward to seeing what the team looks like at the start of next season, and probably setting myself up for unfathomable dissapointment. #TradeSomeOfThem. Willis, thanks for being the stick that stirs the pot in the trade talk Horse man.

  • ScottyPrime

    Jonathan H. Willis, shame on you (I’m rolling a shot in the dark with the “H”).

    You left out the most intriguing option for a potential NYR – EDM swap: Rick Nash.

    Sounds crazy, even stupid on the surface but if the domino’s are going a certain way this summer I think it becomes a very real possibility.

    How? Well, let’s say for a moment that Chiarelli does trade Taylor Hall for a defenseman in a big swap. Plausible? I think we all agree it is (though not necessarily preferable, we’ll see I suppose). This leaves a giant hole at LW though. It can be plugged in lots of ways via UFA’s but nothing really on the Hall/Nash level.

    Now, the Rangers are obviously moving into transition. They can maybe get back to being a decent/contending team before Lundqvist is right up the creek but they are gonna need to re-tool a bit for a year or two and as you’ve noted, they aren’t in great salary cap shape. Nash is a big contract, probably pretty fair for his value but certainly no bargain (and he had a down year).

    Would they move him out to make the space to sign some of those important RFA chips, plus net a decent return in futures? NY is still gonna be playing to win for the rest of Henrik’s good years and they will be looking to make a quick turnaround, EDM needs veteran bodies to try and get this ship going north asap and Nash is very much a Chia-type player. He’s huge, plays north-south, is actually a better defensive player than he gets credit for and puts pucks in the net. Would he do as a LW for Leon or Connor? You bet. Would he be a great mentor and a veteran conscious? Yep. Can he play a Mclellan/”Sharks” style power game? Definitely. Where’s the issue then?

    It’s not salary. He has a big contract but we’d be moving at least some of it back to NY in the trade and they might even hold a bit as well (can’t see it being more than the 1.8 mil it takes to make him an even 6) and we have some space. His deal is up in 2 years, just in time for McDavid to come up RFA, so no issue there either.

    It’s not style, like I said, he fits the Chia/Mclellan mold pretty much perfectly.

    It’s not unwillingness by NY, there have been rumours about him for years and they are really facing the crunch and a changing of the guard now.

    So really the only thing stopping this would be the asking price, which I think is a hard thing to pin down. He wouldn’t be a freebie cash dump, they’d want some real assets, and game ready ones. But at the same time they are being done a favour so you gotta think it’s not gonna cost what a 7.8 mil man might normally. And I think the Oilers would be willing to pay something tangible. Honestly if the team had better RW depth I think they would consider an Eberle-Nash swap straight up, no joke. Nash fits there design for the team better and whilst he doesn’t provide quite the same offense he brings a much better defensive conscious to his line. Plus any decently talented player is going to tear it up with Connor and Nash is a triggerman, he’s scored more goals than Eb’s ever has in a season, and did it recently too. Now they aren’t going to do that trade because our entire right side is a wasteland but I think that’s the level the Oilers might go to to get a guy like Nash.

    Really though this is all predicated on if the team trades Hall, which is no guarantee, but I think Nash becomes a notable target if they do move Hall in the fabled “core for defense” trade this summer.

  • ubermiguel

    Chiarelli has shown he can get teams to keep contract dollars in trade, would that make Girardi more acceptable? He’s not physical but he can chew up minutes and is a solid NHL right-shot defenceman; we have a severe lack of those.

    EDIT: Just looked up the length of Girardi’s contract. Ends in 2020? Yikes, that’s a lot of cap to have tied up in a defenceman heading for the end of his career.

  • Unclemomma.com

    What baffles me is, a team this bad, for so long, being in cap trouble now, and going forward.

    Peter Chiarelli doesn’t have a positive track record dealing with cap situations. He left Boston in a huge mess, and I believe he got fired, not for missing the playoffs, but for the lack of ability to work within the cap.

    Has he learned? We shall soon find out.

  • RE: Staal

    The Oilers have a finite number of assets and a finite amount of cap space and a lot of problems.

    Does it really make sense to blow both assets and cap space to acquire Marc Staal to fill a position where the team already has Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson? I don’t think it does.

    Then I look at Staal being signed at almost $6MM/year forever, and I look at the decline in his play the last few years. He turns 30 next season. Maybe this is all circumstance or maybe I’m already seeing the start of a decline and a year or two down the road we’ll be talking about him the same we talk about Dan Girardi now.

    For me the equation looks like this: Asset cost + salary cost + risk of an albatross deal + not a position of particular weakness for EDM = makes little sense as a trade target.

    • camdog

      Eric Stall`s game began to decline at the age of 29, he looks like he has lost some foot speed. Don`t know if the same thing is happening to Mark, but if it does, that`s going to be an awfully expensive contract to carry around for the next 5 years.

  • 15w40

    Whatever PC does, he needs to limit the no trade/no move clauses he hands out. They can completely sewer a roster and handcuff a GM.

    Right now there are only 2 on the roster and one should be gone after this year (Ference).

    When trying to improve the defence, they should probably forgo the whale hunting and should focus on adding guys that can competently play defence in the league. The only way to get a #1 d-man is to draft and develop him. Adding a 9M salary of Subban would really throw a wrench in the salary structure when all these other RFA’s on the roster are going to come due.

    Sami Vatanen,
    Tyler Myers,
    Travis Hamonic,
    Alex Petrovic,
    Ryan Ellis,
    Justin Faulk

    could all be targets for a right shot D.

  • madjam

    NHL Top 75 RWingers Stats ; First is how they fair defensively , second how they fair offensively , and lastly how they fair in Transition game . We need defense to add to our weak transition game that we have now as well as offensively . Order basically worse to best on overall score of all 3 .
    Demers: 24/45 ,20/35, but lowest at transition of only 8/20 .
    Larsson: 23/45 ,18/35 ,12/20 .
    Wideman: 19/45(worst) ,20/35,9/20 .
    Savard : 25/45,20/35, 9/20 .
    Hamonic: 27/45 ,18/35 ,12/20 .
    Vatanen: 22/45,27/45 , 12/20 .
    Goligoski : 27/45 ,28/35, 10/20.
    Faulk : 20/45 , 26/35, 12/20 .
    Shattenkirk : 27/45, 29/35, 9/20 .Weak transition.

  • HockeyYoda

    Why don’t you just skip right to teams that have assets they might need or be willing to make available that the Oilers need. Maybe focus on what kind of fit that player might be. So how about a team like the Wild who are close to the cap and have to sign RFA Mat Dumba and still find room to add a scorer because they can’t score.

    Or how about looking at teams as if there’s an expansion draft. (Because there probably will be one) I believe teams like the Ducks and Jets would have to expose some very good D men (unless they trade them to the Oilers 1st) For example the Jets have 4 quality D men in Buff, Myers, Trouba and Entstrom and I believe they would only be able to protect 3.

    Or how about teams rich in D prospects ready to play next year. The Flyers have top rated Provorov plus Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim who were 1st Rd picks 2 or 3 years ago that played for Canada at the WJ’s. With the emergence of Gotisbehere, does that open a door of opportunity?

  • Am I right?

    Went to NHL Numbers to check your stats, you seem to be bang on for the Rangers. Then I ran the Oilers numbers, this is what I found.

    Total Cap Hit for 2016-17 $65.5

    Total Cap Space $5.9-8.2

    Oilers over the cap this year by 1 mil, which is added to 2016-17.

    RFA’s we may want to sign:
    Kassian = 2 mil
    Pakarinen = 1 mil

    UFA’s we may want to sign:
    Gryba = 1.5
    Pardy = 1.2

    Now who were we saying was in cap hell again, I forget.

    • Bondo11

      I checked out Generalfanager and this is what they have for projected cap for 2016/2017:

      Total Cap hit for 2016/17 = $58.7 MM
      Ference buyout = + 2 MM

      Total cap room for 2016/2017 = 58.7 – 2 = ~ 56.7 MM

      RFA’s to sign: Kassian @ 2MM and Pakarinen @ 1MM. (14 forwards signed)

      UFA’s we should sign: Gryba @ 2MM for 3 years. (6 D-men signed)

      If you add Kassian, Pakarinen, & Gryba salaries, you get a total cap hit of 61.7MM for 2016/17.

      Assuming a projected cap of 72MM for 2016/17, that leaves us with cap space of ~ 10.3MM.

      I’d say that having ~ 10MM in cap space going into July 1st is a very good position to be in. That being said, Chiarelli will need to manage his cap room wisely over the next couple of years, with bonuses due and a new contract for McDavid…..