Here’s my column from The Journal News and lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
In pretty much any other year, the Rangers would probably be overpaying, or attempting to overpay Paul Stastny or some other free agent when the market opens Tuesday at noon.
But this isn’t any other year. This is a year when the salary cap went up, but by about $2 million less than anticipated, and a year in which several of the Rangers’ own free agents’ price tags went skyward due to the team’s run to the Stanley Cup final.
Having already bought out Brad Richards and gotten out from under his $6.67 million cap hit, and having traded Derek Dorsett and his $1.67 million salary last week, the Rangers are, right now, a worse team than the one that left the ice while Los Angeles celebrated its Stanley Cup win in the wee hours of June 14.
They have a chance to be much worse today, with the likelihood of at least two, if not all four, of their main unrestricted free agents departing.
Those would be defenseman Anton Stralman, who could get more than $4 million per from another team; Brian Boyle, who would have been a stretch at $3 million per and probably will command more as a free agent; Benoit Pouliot, who has worked on five straight one-year deals and now is in line for a multi-year contract and a big raise; and Dominic Moore, who came out of retirement on a bargain one-year contract last summer. Daniel Carcillo and Raphael Diaz are also unrestricted.
With Dorsett gone, and Boyle and Moore possibly leaving, the Rangers could lose their entire fourth line, which had been so effective from December through the end of the regular season, and even more so in the playoffs. The Rangers are interested in, and will attempt to keep Moore at the right price.
Pouliot played the best hockey of his enigmatic career on the team’s most productive and consistent line with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, and has received a lot of interest since the “talking period” between other teams and free agents opened on June 25. Pittsburgh is reportedly ready to make him an offer Tuesday.
But they also have to find a replacement for Richards, a top-three center at worst, and a power-play point man.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather has made qualifying offers to his important restricted free agents: Zuccarello, Brassard, Chris Kreider and John Moore, meaning they won’t be going anywhere. However, the salary cap crunch increases the likelihood that in each case those negotiations could be drawn out.
The Rangers have 12 players under contract, counting J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast, and less than $23 million left to fill out their roster. The possibility remains that they can trade a big contract – for example, no matter how unlikely, Rick Nash’s $7.8 million
Some of the top free agents, including the 28-year-old Stastny, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley and Mike Cammalleri all figure to be well outside the Rangers’ budget.
Photos by Getty Images.