It’s no secret that the New York Rangers are in somewhat of a salary cap bind, with limited space available to re-sign restricted free agents Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Carl Hagelin. A likely trade of backup goaltender Cam Talbot would provide a small amount of space, assuming the return consists of draft picks and/or prospects.
A bigger form of relief, however, would be to deal defenseman Kevin Klein.
Potential Cap Relief
Klein’s contract is for an average of $2.9 million annually for the next three seasons. It’s the perfect medium of being big enough to give the Rangers some much-needed wiggle room, but small enough and with enough value in the form of a solid veteran defenseman that other teams would likely be open to absorbing.
Klein had an excellent season with nine goals, 17 assists, and a +24 rating in 65 games. He did struggle somewhat to regain his form in the postseason after he returned in the second round from a broken arm, but clearly he needed to adjust and shake off the rust.
The 30-year-old could be a solid addition for a number of teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, which is why he could be part of a potential Talbot trade if he is not dealt separately. While the Rangers would be losing a valuable player if they were to deal Klein, he would be easier to replace than other players. Perhaps top defense prospect Brady Skjei could make the team next season, or maybe former first-round pick Dylan McIlrath will finally be ready to take the next step. Even if either of those two options do not pan out, New York could bring back free agent Matt Hunwick, who played well this past season when called upon, at a low price.
The Logical Choice to Trade
Looking at the Rangers’ roster, there are not too many other options of players to trade besides Talbot and Klein, either because they are too valuable and difficult to replace, or because their contracts make them less movable.
Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are both locked up long-term with high annual cap hits of $5.7 million and $5.5 million . Ryan McDonagh is a non-starter in trade talks (except if your name is Bob Gainey). Keith Yandle is signed for another year at an absolute bargain, since the Rangers are only responsible for half of his salary. Yandle will likely really start to show his value with a full season in New York.
Regarding the forwards, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello are extremely valuable players who are both signed for the next four years at friendly contract terms. Dominic Moore is a steal at $1.5 million, serving as one of the best fourth-liners in the NHL. It would be lovely if the Rangers were able to get rid of Tanner Glass and his $1.45 million cap hit, but it’s hard to imagine any team wanting him at those terms.
There has been some speculation about Rick Nash and his $7.8 million price tag being traded, but that would be an unwise move for the Rangers unless the return was unfathomably good. Then there’s goalie Henrik Lundqvist – no need to even think about that.
That essentially leaves Klein as the Rangers’ most tradeable asset other than Talbot. With the draft right around the corner, we will likely soon find out if the New York front office sees things this way as well.