It is tough to watch a team that you know needs to improve sit by and watch big free agents sign with other teams. But with the NHL cap going down this year, that is exactly what the New York Rangers will have to do this offseason.
The NHL cap floor is dropping to $64.3 million. This is putting teams into a bind as they scramble to re-sign restricted free agents and go after coveted unrestricted free agents.
The Rangers have no wiggle room at all. General manager Glen Sather has already made some noise in saying that the team does not plan on buying out Brad Richards. They have to sign some big restricted free agents with only $14 million to spend. Ryan McDonagh is the main person that the Rangers are worried about signing; he is the future for the Rangers defense. Next up is Derek Stepan, who blossomed into the Rangers No. 1 center last season. He is another one of the young players who is considered the core of the organization. Carl Hagelin is also a restricted free agent who is one of the teams top six forwards in the league. Mats Zuccarello, who was a spark for the team last season, is the final restricted free agent that is a necessity for the team to sign. Newly acquired defenseman Justin Falk is also a restricted free agent. All of these players have already received qualifying offers from the Rangers.
The Rangers have already let it known that they are going to try to trade unrestricted free agent Ryan Clowe. The team has no intention — or money — to resign Clowe, who was really just a rental last season. The Rangers will have no cap room left if they re-sign all of their restricted free agents. Everyone knows the Rangers have flaws, but if they want to fix them, they will have to do it from within their organization.
The post-2005 lockout Rangers have been all about developing the young kids. They will have to rely on this again as their hands are tied in free agency this year.