The last of the New York Rangers arbitration cases has finally settled as Pavel Buchnevich agreed to a two-year, $6.5 million bridge deal. The Rangers will be paying the 24-year-old right winger $3.25 million per year, putting them well over the $81.5 million cap hit.
Buchnevich is coming off a strong third season in the NHL. After a 43-point sophomore campaign, he logged 38 points this past season but missed 18 games due to a thumb injury. Despite the missed time, the Russian winger was still able to score 21 goals, marking a career high. However, his shooting percentage of 17.6% was well over the league average and will likely take a dip in this upcoming season.
Since coming into the league in 2016-17, Buchnevich has emerged as one of the Rangers’ more promising young talents. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad are the only two current Rangers who have outscored Buchnevich since his arrival.
He’s had flashes of brilliance, especially when playing on the top line with Kreider and Zibanejad. However, that often came at the heels of long stretches where he was given limited ice-time on the fourth line. That being said, he still managed to average 15:10 of ice time this past season, marking a career high.
Buchnevich’s contract follows Jacob Trouba’s $56 million long-term extension. With the signing, the Rangers now have Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemiuex to still re-sign. Neither were eligible for arbitration.
The Rangers remain over the salary cap, but have a 10-percent summer allowance. They’ll need to shed some of their cap before the beginning of the season. That will likely come in the form of a buyout or trade. Kreider and his $4.625 million cap hit have been attached to trade rumors all season long. With the arrival of fellow left-winger, Artemi Panarin, the Rangers find themselves in a position where Kreider is expendable.
Buchnevich could very well be the top right-winger for the Rangers in this upcoming season. He’ll need to compete with 2019 second-overall pick, Kaapo Kakko, and with rookie phenom, Vitali Kravstov for the top spot.
Second Buyout Window
Buchnevich’s new contract opens up the Rangers’ second buyout period, which will commence on Monday and last until Wednesday. Barring a trade, the Rangers will need to buy out at least one of their current contracts in order to free up space to even afford to pay Buchnevich when the season begins on Oct. 3. Brendan Smith and Kevin Shattenkirk are the most likely candidates. Both have two more years on their contracts and would carry dead cap for four years if bought out.
Smith will be paid $4.35 million for the next two years while Shattenkirk will carry a $6.65 million cap hit for his remaining seasons. There have also been rumors of Shattenkirk being dangled in trade talks with a 50% retention of salary, however, the trade market doesn’t seem to meet the Rangers’ asking price. Marc Staal and his $5.7 million cap hit is another option for a buyout. Like Smith and Shattenkirk, he has two years remaining on his six-year contract he signed in 2015.
Buchnevich was a must-needed signing, however, the Rangers now find themselves in a tumultuous salary cap situation. His return will be celebrated but it also spells the departure of a few familiar faces on the roster.