So, the New York Rangers are going to rebuild, this is nothing new. But what is the format for the rebuild? The Rangers are not going to bottom out, even if the fan base wanted them to. As currently constructed, the Rangers are a mid-tier team that might hover around the 8th seed, but most likely miss out and be towards the back end of the lottery. The Rangers have a generous number of draft picks in 2018, including 7 in the first 3 rounds, but they are not in an advantageous position if the ping pong balls don’t bounce their way. Yes, the Rangers will still do well in this draft granted the quantity of picks they have acquired (even if none of them become generational players), but in any good rebuild you want to beef up your pipeline as much as possible, and there is one strength the Rangers have and should exploit, their wallet.
The New York Rangers have been notorious for handing out bad contracts. From the days of Wade Redden, Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Dan Boyle, and Brad Richards, the franchise is no stranger to throwing money around at players like it’s free candy on Halloween. But, today Jeff Gorton, who is much more fiscally responsible, is at the helm and has done a much better job than days of the Cigar. Even though the Rangers are not tossing around bad contracts anymore, other teams still are. Milan Lucic ($5M/6Y), Brent Seabrook ($6.9M/6Y), and Bobby Ryan ($7.25M/4Y) are all contracts that have handcuffed their respective franchises from constructing their roster as they see fit, and even the aforementioned New York Rangers have Marc Staal ($5.7M/3Y) to deal with. Unlike the Blackhawks and Oilers, who down the road will be in cap space hell, and the Senators who are in financial trouble as is, the Rangers are the most valuable franchise in the NHL at $1.5B and have league’s highest revenue.
This is where the Rangers can really flex their muscle. The ability to absorb bad contracts, or to trade off players and retain salary is something many franchises simply do not have, and this is a juicy asset that teams will foam at the mouth for. The Rangers have an estimated $30M in cap space next season (using an $80M Salary Cap ceiling average), and $38.5M in 2019, and $49.4M in 2020 and the Rangers have no problem spending as they have in prior years, but this time they might be in a position of strength to use those dollars and parlay that cap space into draft picks, prospects, or young viable assets. Basically, the New York Rangers are the big bank to bail out other franchises from their erroneous decisions. In a hard cap structured NHL, where some teams are not the financial powerhouse that the Rangers are, or have already exhausted most of their cap and still need to make transactions, the Rangers can be the knight in shining armor to save the day by taking on a bad contract in lieu of not wanting to give up any key assets to keep the rebuild moving forward and fortify the pipeline.