Silence is Rangers’ Best Option as Free Agent Frenzy Begins

With the 2015 NHL Entry Draft a thing of the past, Free Agency is the next big event as the market will open tomorrow, Wednesday, July 1st.

Given the Rangers’ needs as a whole coupled with their current salary cap situation in which they have approximately $13.3 million to re-sign four pending restricted free agents, the best option for general manager Glen Sather is to remain silent while other teams flock to the biggest names on the market, at least to start.

Needs Not Dire

With the offseason officially in full swing, the Rangers find themselves in a funny position, one where they don’t really have any dire needs.

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

It may sound wrong and feel weird, but with the current state the team finds itself in, while small acquisitions might benefit the roster here and there, the team is ultimately in a place where sweeping changes and signings just aren’t necessary.

Now if I had my say, the Rangers could still benefit from the acquisition of a true first line center. I, however, digress on that one, and given their current cap situation that just isn’t realistic.

Then consider the apparent commitment that the team has made to re-signing Derek Stepan – which will likely cost them somewhere in the area of $5 million per year with a deal similar to that of Derick Brassard’s – and you have your centermen set with Brassard, Stepan, Hayes, and Moore, the latter two who are under contract through next season.

The depth chart is again all but filled out at right-wing, with Mats Zuccarello, already under contract through 2019, and Jesper Fast, JT Miller, and recently acquired Emerson Etem, – all RFA’s – expected to sign and re-sign over the summer. Once all of that happens, you’ve got a complete chart down the left side, and for less money than if St. Louis were to return (which he will not) and if Hagelin had not been dealt to the Ducks.

The natural depth chart progression would send us across the way to the left-wing, but for the sake of this article we’ll put that on hold and talk defense first.

Long story short at the back end? Four of the Rangers’ six defenseman from last season are under contract through at least 2018. Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle are the two outliers here, though they’re both under contract through the conclusion of next season as well.

The seventh defenseman, Matt Hunwick, is a pending UFA this summer. If Sather plays his hand right, he could probably bring back the 30-year-old for a relatively affordable cap hit. If not, he may need to reach down to Hartford to give one of the youngsters a shot to be the big club’s extra blue liner come next fall. That, or he’ll need to search the open market. Either way though, this is not a dire need.

Goaltending? We’ll just skip this as we know it’ll be a Lundqvist-Raanta duo next season. No need to shop goaltenders this summer.

Now let’s circle back to the left-wing.

With Hagelin having been dealt on draft day to Anaheim with the immediate replacement being Etem, the Rangers experienced a net loss of one at left-wing, as Hagelin played the left side while Etem plays the right.

As the current situation stands, at left-wing the Rangers have Rick Nash (under contract through 2018), Chris Kreider (under contract through 2016), and Tanner Glass (under contract through 2017). The missing fourth winger of course being Hagelin.

While the Rangers will eventually need to fill that slot, it is not something that needs to be done on the first day of free agency. And let’s not forget that a call-up from Hartford still remains an option as Chris Bourque is fresh off of a terrific year with the Wolf Pack in which he scored 29 goals, and had 37 assists for 66 points in 73 games.

With that door still open, the possibility exists that the Rangers may not need to take to the open market to fill the open wing slot on the left side.

No News is Good News

There’s a saying in the world of outdoor expeditions (and probably in other circles as well) that states that “no news is good news.”

In the case of the Rangers come the Free Agent Frenzy of July 1st, that saying will reign true.

If Sather and his posse are happy with the team that’s been assembled over the past couple of seasons, and they believe that this team is as close to a championship as it’s been in recent memory, then there is no reason to make a splash in the early going of free agency. And that’s ignoring the fact that a big signing wouldn’t be financially feasible at the moment anyway.

The defense is set. Goaltending is set. Many of the wingers are in place, and those who are not will be before long once deals for the RFA’s are agreed upon. The 2015-16 Rangers should look pretty similar to what the depth chart shows right now.

For the Rangers, silence is the best option come the opening of the Free Agent market on Wednesday.