Rick Nash Trade: Will the Rangers Be Able to Keep Roster Together Long Term?

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The biggest negative posed by writers, fans and critics about a potential Rick Nash trade to the Rangers was cost.

It was assumed that it would either cost the Rangers too much in players to add him, it would eat up salary space enabling the Rangers to resign players or it would become a combination of both.

However, the acquisition of Rick Nash should not have any effect on the Rangers’ plans of keeping the roster together long term. It is a flawed notion that adding his massive cap hit would hinder the Rangers from retaining free agents who are due for new contracts at the end of this season.

In terms of fit for the Rangers, Nash brings a lot to the table. He is an older more developed version of current rookie sensation Chris Kreider. Nash is a solid skater, possesses a great shot, has size and plays in the dirty areas of the ice.

The biggest plus for adding Rick Nash was the fact that this move actually saved the Rangers $25,000.

 

2012-13 Financials—$13,391,666 in cap space, 20 players signed

At first glance, a $7.8 million cap hit seems daunting—one that should put the Rangers in the red. However, most fans forget that in most trades, a team sheds a significant amount of salary before adding one.

The Rangers dealt Brandon Dubinsky who made $4.2 million, Artem Anisimov $1.875 million and Tim Erixon, who had a cap hit of $1.75 million.

Erixon wasn’t on the Rangers roster, but he likely would have been next year; so in exchange for Nash, the Rangers deal $7,825,000 in salary and gained Nash’s $7,800,000. The Rangers theoretically saved cap space in the deal.

If the Rangers didn’t make any additional moves this summer and promoted Erixon, they would have been in the same cap situation as they are currently; so this move shouldn’t effect any re-signings the team makes going forward.

 

Summer of 2013 Financials—$20,058,333 in cap space, 15 players signed

Ryan McDonagh,Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan have expiring entry-level contracts at the end of this season. This is not a problem for the Rangers because only Michael Sauer would be arbitration eligible, and his status is currently up in the air; so you can’t commit salary in this scenario.

They are restricted free agents, and they will be protected. The players in question are home-grown kids who are character individuals. They love New York, and it is hard to think that they would ever consider signing an offer sheet.

The group is full of best friends, so they will want to stick together. Glen Sather has a solid track record retaining RFA’s, so this should be a walk in the park for Sather.

Jeff Halpern is a free agent as well, but he makes minimal money. To sign these three players—Sauer excluded because of injury—the Rangers have over $20 million in cap space.

These players will likely sign shorter deals so that they can hit the jackpot during their third contract because that will include the Rangers buying out some UFA years. Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan can expect to make between $3.0 and $4.0 million each based on their production to this point, and for Carl Hagelin, a little less.

Logically, the Rangers would spend around $10-$12 million to lock those three players up, and the remaining $8 to $10 million would roll over to the following season. If you add Sauer to the mix, it still gives the Rangers flexibility.

Nonetheless, the Rick Nash acquisition will not hinder the Rangers from retaining their free agents.

 

Projected Spending: $10-$12 million on three players; $12-$14 on four players.

 

Summer of 2014 Financials—Approximately $35 million in cap space based on projected 2013 signings

The summer of 2014 looks a bit dicey and presents the most problems. Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Chris Kreider and Marian Gaborik are the big names, and there shouldn’t be a problem retaining them.

Players like Mike Rupp, Brian Boyle, Aaron Asham, Taylor Pyatt and assorted others are free agents, but they aren’t vital players; and they could be replaced by players like Andrew Yogan, Michael St.Croix, Christian Thomas and others in the farm system.

Kreider will be signing his second contract, so it will not be an outrageous amount. Callahan could receive a slight bump based on his performance, but it would differ much from the contract he signed last summer.

Lundqvist is a player who could be flexible. He is probably due for a significant raise, but he would take a smaller bump in salary to give the team flexibility. This would be similar to Eli Manning restructuring his contract to give the Giants flexibility.

Dan Girardi is in a unique spot because there is no telling if he will repeat his all-star success.

Nonetheless, depending on how the defensive depth develops, he could become expendable at one point; and the Rangers wouldn’t have to worry about his salary. Odds are, though, the Rangers could give him a slight bump, and everything thing would stay relatively status quo.

The big question mark becomes Marian Gaborik. He is a very talented goal scorer who has had success in New York, but his health will come into play. If he isn’t the player he is now come 2014, do the Rangers let him go or do they sign him to a shorter low-salary deal?

These are questions to consider, but there is nothing major that would not allow the Rangers to take care of their free agents. This is because they would be in the same situation cap-wise had they decided to not trade for Rick Nash.

At this point, the Rangers would have locked up the players who were due for significant raises back in 2013, so they will have a more realistic situation to deal with their key UFAs.

 

In the End, Nash Saved Rangers Future Cap Space

It is hard to predict how players will perform and how that could impact their contracts, but there is one simple thing that has to be remembered.

The Rangers added $25,000 in cap space in this trade—assuming Erixon would join the team in 2012-13—so Nash’s acquisition cannot be used as a reason against the Rangers locking up this bunch long term. 

Keeping Anisimov, Dubinsky and Erixon on the roster would have cost more against the cap than Rick Nash’s salary.

Therefore, the Rangers have known about their future financial situation for a while now, so it is safe to assume that they are well prepared to address it. Logically, the current team should be able to stay together for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and potentially the 2014-15 season. 

There is no way to predict what the future will bring, but this trade actually helped the Rangers cap situation. In terms of actual dollars, James Dolan has never been afraid to cut a huge check; so don’t worry about the Rangers financial future.

If this trade enables the Rangers to win a Stanley Cup, it would have been worth it; and it would give the Rangers the flexibility to make necessary changes.

Are the New York Rangers For Real This Year?

After starting the season with an abysmal first four games, the Rangers have found a way to make the team click.

Each player in the lineup appears to be pulling their equal weight. Some are exceeding expectation, and others have been a bit disappointing, but if they weren’t meeting the mark, they wouldn’t be in Tortorella’s lineup. However, there are players that Tortorella has put together that have really clicked.

If someone had told you that Derek Stepan would be successfully centering the top line in August, you would probably have broken out in laughter. After all, wasn’t marquee free agent signee Brad Richards brought in to make sweet music with Marián Gáborík?

The two star forwards have found early success, despite being separated. Gáborík has benefited from playing with the youthful duo of Stepan and Anisimov.

The line chemistry cannot be explained in words, but watching the trio on the ice is something spectacular. All three know their role and seem to be a threat whenever they are on the ice. The best part about the separation of Gáborík and Richards is that by having a balanced offense, the opposition can’t shut the team down by shutting down the top line.

The Rangers in actuality have two first lines, a third line and a fourth line. The 1a line is obviously made up of Anisimov-Stepan-Gáborík, and the 1b line consists of Brandon Dubinsky-Richards-Ryan Callahan.

For today’s matchup against the Islanders, Tortorella has decided to give Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko a shot, but for all intents and purposes, these are the lines the Rangers have rolled with during their streak.

Further down the lineup, players like Brandon Prust, Andre Deveaux and Sean Avery have performed in the role that is assigned to them. Prust and Deveaux are the resident tough guys, and Sean Avery is Sean Avery.

When Richards was signed, it was a move that benefited the Rangers on many fronts. One front was Richards as a mentor. So far this year, Richards has been a mentor to Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stepan.

He advised them to stop over-thinking their games and to play loose. So far this has worked, as Del Zotto is starting to look like the defenseman fans grew to love during his inaugural year on Broadway. This has since carried over to power-play success.

The Rangers’ top power play unit consists of Callahan on the off wing, Gáborík down by the hash marks, Stepan at center and Del Zotto and Richards on the points.

Richards has brought some movement to the power play. The Rangers still make too many passes for most fans’ liking, but then again, Rome was not built in a day.However, the team is displaying some characteristics that suggest they might move beyond the first round of the playoffs this year.

One of the reasons the Rangers appear to be for real this year is their goaltending and stellar young defense.

Statistically, the Rangers have the best defense and goaltending in the league. They lead the league in average goals allowed per game, at only two per game.

This is a striking and surprising stat, considering that the Rangers are without top defenseman Marc Staal. The Rangers have been led by Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Michael Sauer. The bottom pairing has been a melting pot of different defensemen that has included Brendan Bell, Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger.

Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron have also done a great job between the pipes. Lundqvist continues to display why he is one of the league’s top goalies with his athleticism, poise and work ethic.

Biron continues to exceed expectations. Biron does this because he is an above average backup. His even-keeled attitude helps the team and fans relax. How many fans clench their fists during tight games because the backup goalie is in net?

Biron is a valuable part to the team because he has been a starter before. He has won 30 games in a season before, so he is accustomed to the pressure and expectations put on a starting goalie. In his backup role he can be just as good with less pressure and responsibility.

When you look at the whole body of work, the Rangers are a good team. They have some areas they could improve upon, but they are still a small fish compared to the whales of the Eastern Conference. Teams like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Tampa Bay still would pose a huge threat to the Rangers as they are.

 

It is too early to say how far the Rangers will go this year, because there are a lot of variables. If the Rangers get Marc Staal back, have balanced offensive production and make some moves that give them solid depth, the sky is really the limit for them.

What is your opinion on the Rangers’ current streak? Is it a fluke? Are they finally for real? What seed do you think the Rangers will be come playoff time?

Leave a comment in the section below to get the conversation started.

Tom Urtz Jr. is an NHL Featured Columnist. For more NHL free-agent news, updates and alerts about players:

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