With Pavel Buchnevich signed, we all now wait until the buyout period begins to see what the next steps are. Speculation is rampant, with certain players prominently mentioned as possible buyout or trades option. Larry Brooks weighs in with his view in his column today.
The Rangers have made two trades this offseason and both were for right-hand defensemen who play the power play. So what does that tell you about Kevin Shattenkirk’s future on Broadway?
That, plus the cap fix into which management willingly leaped by signing Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba for a combined $19.654 million-plus, tells me Shattenkirk’s tenure as Blueshirt will be over by the close of the team’s second buyout window Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Friday’s signing of Pavel Buchnevich to a two-year deal for $3.25 million per season, which represents an equitable agreement for both parties, triggered the clock under which buyouts can be conducted for 48 hours beginning late Monday afternoon.
And because the Rangers are a projected $4.155 million over the cap with a 23-man shadow roster — which assumes Brendan Smith and Matt Beleskey will be in AHL Hartford; entry-level freshmen Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Adam Fox and Libor Hajek will start in New York; and yet unsigned restricted free agents Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux will play for their respective one-year, $874,125 qualifiers because they won’t have any other choice if they want to skate in the NHL this season — buying out Shattenkirk’s $6.65 million hit should be an open-and-shut case.
The move would clear $5.17 million of space for this season — which would give the Rangers a little over $1.1 million with which to maneuver, pending further transactions. Yes, the buyout of the 30-year-old defenseman, whose 2017 training camp injury has all but fatally compromised his game, would burden the club with $1.43 million in dead space for 2021-22 and 2022-23. And yes, adding dead space down the road is generally bad business for a rebuilding operation, but you know what is much, much worse business?
The Blueshirts, of course, could also buy out Smith and thus clear another $2.3 million (against his AHL cap hit) for this year, but that would add another $1.45 million in dead space for ’21-22 and ’22-23. Plus, the way the Rangers are set up, the edgy winger/defenseman has more value to the team than Shattenkirk.
Trading one of your best players in order to comply with the cap while keeping a guy who probably wouldn’t dress every night and whose role would be limited when he did. That’s what.
Burying Brendan Smith and Matt Beleskey in the AHL won’t clear enough cap space. Trading Vlad Namestnikov the same, and as seen below, New York is not having the easiest time moving him or he likely would have been gone already. In order to get New York compliant, one of the three overpriced blueliners - Shattenkirk, Smith or Marc Staal - will in all probably have to be bought out unless Gorton can miraculously deal one with little brought back in terms of cap space and material assets not moved.
I think Shattenkirk hasn’t been as bad as most believe he has. Granted, the numbers aren’t pretty and the injuries haven’t helped, but I still think he does have some value. Much of that value bas been eroded the last year, though the chipping away began the latter part of his term in St. Louis and especially his brief tenure in Washington. Shattenkirk has been a liability in his own zone while the expected boost on the PP hasn’t yet to really occur.
With Jacob Trouba and Fox now in the organization, as Brooks said, Shattenkirk’s days may be numbered. Add in the presence of ADA, another defenseman who can man the point on the man-advantage, and it’s hard not to think the writing may be on the wall. The issue though is the cap hit next year. Granted, it’s less than if ‘Kirk was on the roster. But then you have to have a replacement. If that replacement is Fox or Regev or Lindgren or Hajek, then the gross salary between the buyout and that blueliner on an ELC is only slightly more - about 400k - more than what Shattenkirk would be making. In addition, the dead cap space after this season season consists of Dan Girardi's $1,111,111 in 2020-21 to 2022-23 and Ryan Spooner's $300,000 in 2020-21, so the net impact is down $2.5 million from G's $3.6 million this year, which helps a bit as well if one of the blueliners is bought out.
On Smith, Shattenkirk and Staal:
I ran this a few times before, but again, here’s what it could cost to buyout one of the veteran defensemen and how much cap space it would save each year, according to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator:
2019-20 — Cap hit: $1,483,833; Savings: $5,166,667
2020-21 — Cap hit: $6,083,333; Savings: $566,667
2021-22 — Cap hit: $1,433,333; Savings: -$1,433,333
2022-23 — Cap hit: $1,433,333; Savings: -$1,433,333
2019-20 — Cap hit: $2.9 million; Savings: $2.8 million
2020-21 — Cap hit: $3.7 million; Savings: $2 million
2021-22 — Cap hit: $1.2 million; Savings: -$1.2 million
2022-23 — Cap hit $1.2 million; Savings: -$1.2 million
2019-20 — Cap hit: $970,833; Savings: $3,379,167
2020-21 — Cap hit: $3,145,833; Savings: $1,204,167
2021-22 — Cap hit: $1,145,833; Savings: -$1,145,833
2022-23 — Cap hit: $1,145,833; Savings: -$1,145,833
The major downside with buying out Shattenkirk or Smith is that the 2020/21 cap hit would be large. The cap charge in that season would be $6,083,333 on Shattenkirk, and $3,145,833 on Smith. As noted previously, those amounts would be a major portion of their four-year respective totals of $10,433,332, and $6,408,332. Staal would provide a 50% savings on his 2019-20 cap hit this year, with a larger cap hit next season and trailing off, like 'Kirk and Smith the last two years of his deal. The likely candidate for a buyout is Smith, due to the savings and the net cap hit down the road. Shattenkirk helps the most this year but next season's hit is huge. Staal is a midway point and buying him out make the team more dependent on the next room to clean up enough space.
One other possibility, besides the Kreider discussion below by Brooks, is as Forever Blueshirts postulated, dealing ADA along with someone like Nam to create space. Though that too may not be enough, forcing another deal, possibly Ryan Strome, or maybe a buyout, which could include Smith in addition to Shattenkirk, to create the needed space.
There is, I should tell you, no evidence (admissible, anecdotal or otherwise via hearsay) to indicate the Rangers have been shopping Chris Kreider after halfheartedly dangling the winger at the draft. With the club under cap stress and therefore dealing from a place of weakness rather than strength, moving Kreider within the next few days seems an entirely unrealistic proposition.
You should also know there still has yet to be a conversation between general manager Jeff Gorton and Kreider’s representative, Matt Keator, about what it would take to get the 28-year-old under a long-term contract. Not a number has been exchanged.
I can’t quite make heads or tails of that, except that both parties at this point seem content to enter the season with Kreider a pending unrestricted free agent playing under the final year of his contract. I’m not sure I’d have taken this approach. I’d have engaged in talks well before now to get an idea of the required number to sign No. 20 to an extension, but this is the route president John Davidson and Gorton have chosen to travel.
If a buyout of one of the three blue liners doesn’t occur by Wednesday, then as suggested by others, Kreider might be the one to go in a trade. But I feel like many, this would be a last resort. Though by not gauging his value, that seems shortsighted. But you have to figure Gorton has an idea of what C20 will want in free agency, but knowing precisely would be the wisest course of action. You all know my view on Kreider. New York could go through the summer 10% over the cap, but a buyout has to occur by 5pm Wednesday. If one doesn't, then it's either the trade route or somehow placing one of the higher priced d-man on LTIR, which right now, is not an option.
Buchnevich, who played just eight games on Mika Zibanejad’s line through the first 71 games before hooking up with the center for nine of the final 11 matches last season, should get first crack at playing the right to fill out the first line with No. 93 and Panarin. Sometimes these summer musings don’t translate.
(Remember how well Alexander Frolov worked out on the first line, or was that Wojtek Wolski? I forget.)
But after a year of wandering through the lineup and sometimes through his assignments, Buchnevich finished with a somewhat of a flourish, recording nine goals and 13 points over the final 17 games to finish with 21 goals, 17 assists and 38 points in 64 contests. A shooter with a career 13.9 shooting percentage, Buchnevich should thrive with world-class playmaker Panarin.
How about this as the top nine to start: Panarin-Zibanejad-Buchnevich; Kreider-Lias Andersson-Kakko; Filip Chytil-Ryan Strome-Vitali Kravtsov? That would leave a fourth line with Lemieux, Brett Howden and Jesper Fast. You could flip Chytil and Andersson, but that still begs the question: what about Vlad Namestnikov, apparently untradable at the moment even if the Rangers pick up half of his $4M obligation.
The Rangers and David Quinn will have a lot to sort out once they’re on the ice. Kravtsov might not be ready. Strome might wind up on the right if the decision is made to give both Andersson and Chytil shots at their natural center position. Hajek, coming off a shoulder injury, might need some time in Hartford even as he’s stenciled in the opening top six.
Quinn should have fun mixing-and-matching, especially in training camp. I would expect the first part of the season will be spent finding the right combination. This is a note to myself since I am sure I will write and complain about it along with those who comment on the blog. The lineup above is without Namestnikov and also presumes that Kakko and Kravtsov break camp with the team, which is likely but not a given. In addition, I would like to see Boo Nieves get another shot at manning the fourth line center but Quinn, as seen above, has several options, which wasn't necessarily always the case last season.