Prior to the 2016-17 season, there was a considerable amount of hype surrounding one New York Rangers prospect. Following a 37-point season in the KHL, Pavel Buchnevich quickly emerged as one of the top forwards in the Rangers’ thin prospect pool of 2015. After three seasons as a full-time roster player, now is the time to decide on his position in the Rangers’ plans going forward.
He’s been the primary victim of questionable roster decisions by former head-coach Alain Vigneault, and current coach David Quinn that left him on the fourth line with players like Cody McLeod. However, there’s been streaks of brilliance, including his success on a line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, but it’s always been a short-lived stint.
Despite fourth-line minutes, the 24-year-old still managed to hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career during a contract year. He’s evolved considerably since his rookie season as he’s become far more physical and has filled out his frame quite a bit, gaining 20 lbs since his draft year.
He’s coming off of a 21-goal, 17-assist season, but failed to eclipse his career high of 43 points from 2017-18. His entry-level contract will expire June 30, making him one of the Rangers’ five restricted free agents this offseason. Brendan Lemiuex, Anthony DeAngelo, Neil Pionk, and Frederick Claesson will all need contracts this offseason as well. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few other recent RFA signings to gauge what Buchnevich’s contract could look like.
In the final year of his entry-level contract, Mantha had himself a career year. His 24 goals and 24 assists were enough to be the third-highest point total on the Detroit Red Wings and their leading goalscorer. Similar to Buchnevich, he was coming off a career high in goals and in average ice time.
On July 11, 2018, the Red Wings awarded Mantha with a bridge deal, worth $6.6 million over two years with a signing bonus of $250K. It was a lower cap hit than what was originally reported, which pinned it closer to the range of $4 – 4.5 million.
Mantha’s contract provides a solid base when projecting what Buchnevich’s contract will look like. However, the Red Wings consider Mantha one of their top offensive talents while the Rangers continue to underutilize Buchnevich. A deal lower than Mantha’s $3.3 million AAV seems reasonable if the Rangers vote for a bridge deal.
The Anaheim Ducks scouts found themselves a winner when they drafted Kase in the seventh round of the 2014 Entry Draft. After making the team in the 2016-17 season, Kase quickly developed into an excellent young asset. In his sophomore campaign, he posted career highs in goals with 20 and in assists with 18 in 66 games.
Unfortunately, he’s failed to stay healthy and missed a majority of the 2018-19 season with a concussion and then a shoulder injury.Buchnevich missed 18 games this past season after suffering a thumb injury.
Following his career year, the Ducks awarded Kase with a three-year deal and $2.6 million AAV that kicked in this past season. In Kase’s contract year, he posted .58 points-per-game, while Buchnevich posted a .59 points-per-game rate this past season.
If the Rangers decide to sign Buchnevich long-term instead of a bridge deal, Victor Rask’s contract would make for a solid reference, despite the difference in positions.
Following two strong seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, Rask was signed to a long-term six-year deal worth $4 million annually. Like Buchnevich, Rask floated around the 30-40 point mark before he was signed. In his rookie season, he logged 33 points in 80 games then followed that with 48 points in 2015-16. Just like Buchnevich, Rask scored 21 goals in his contract year.
Since the long-term signing, Rask’s production slowly regressed before falling off a cliff in 2018-19. He scored just six points in 26 games with the Hurricanes before being dealt to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline. The change in scenery didn’t do much as he logged three points in 23 games with the Wild. If the Rangers do decide to go long-term with Buchnevich, they have to be wary of a possible drop off in production.
After comparing Buchnevich to these three signings, it seems fair to say that the Rangers will likely award him with a bridge deal worth somewhere in the range of $3 million AAV over a two-year span.