With the Rangers season ending last night, here are a few initial questions about the Rangers offseason:
What happens with Derek Stepan?
Adam Rotter: Stepan is signed for the next four seasons at $6.5 million but he has a no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1. Similar to what Montreal did with PK Subban last year, the time before July 1 would be the only time the Rangers have free reign to trade Stepan without asking him to waive something.
I still view Stepan as an important player and leader on the Rangers but moving on from him would likely create cap space, either to acquire a defenseman, or free up enough to sign Kevin Shattenkirk. The Rangers have Zibanejad and Hayes to build around down the middle if they decide to go down the path of moving Stepan.
There were rumors about Stepan last summer that never came to pass but I'd expect them to kick up again as the Rangers consider changes to the core and freeing up cap space.
Will the Rangers buy out the contracts of Marc Staal and/or Dan Girardi?
Staal has four-years left at $5.7 million, a no-move clause and a buyout would ultimately cost the Rangers cap space of $2.1 million in 17-18 & 18-19, $3.1 million in 19-20, $3.9 million in 20-21 and $1.4 million from 2021 to 2025. (Cap Friendly)
Girardi has three-years left on his deal at $5.5 million, a modified no-trade clause and a no-move clause and a buyout would ultimately cost the Rangers cap space of $2.6 million next year, $3.6 million in 18-19 and 19-20 and then $1.1 million from 2020 to 2023. (Cap Friendly)
Adam Rotter: While it may make sense to buyout one or both of these players, the Rangers have not shown a willingness to have dead cap space since they bought out Chris Drury's contract in 2011. Drury's buyout only counted on the cap four two-years while Girardi would be six and Staal would be eight. The Rangers need to judge the cap space they would save, the dead cap space they would still have, the roles of either of those players and who would replace them. I find it hard to see both of them coming back but I'm not sure how the Rangers will go about making that happen.
What will the Rangers do on defense?
Adam Rotter: With the exception of Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei and possibly Steven Kampfer, since he signed an extension, there are questions about every other spot on the Rangers defense. Kevin Klein (1 year and $2.9 million) likely won't be back, either via trade or expansion draft. There was a significant drop in Nick Holden's play (1 year and $1.65 million) and while he had a pretty nice season, I'm not sure he is back either. Girardi and Staal bring their own issues and then there is Brendan Smith. I think that the Rangers should try and find a way to keep Smith. He was a good fit, played with an edge and seemed to enjoy being a Ranger. I'm not sure if Smith left his potential contract in Detroit (3 years at around $3.5 million) because he thought he could get more as a free agent or because he wanted out of a rebuilding Detroit team. If the money can work, I think Smith would be a good player to bring back.
Then there is Kevin Shattenkirk.The Rangers tried for him at the deadline, didn't get him but the belief from many in the hockey world is that he wants to sign with the Rangers. The salary cap plays into everything with Shattenkirk, and Brendan Smith, but he's the youngish, mobile, right shot, PP QB defenseman the Rangers need. He won't help as much on defense as he will with the offense but this seems like something that is going to happen.