Headache intensifies as Rangers make East final. But it’s a happy headache

Brian Costello
New York Rangers Introduce Alain Vigneault

The further the New York Rangers go in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the bigger headache GM Glen Sather is going to have in June and July. But rest assured, that’s one headache Sather won’t mind having.

By making it to the Eastern Conference final, the Rangers lost their first-round pick in the June 27 draft. That selection goes to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the Martin St-Louis for Ryan Callahan trade in March. Had the Rangers lost to Pittsburgh in Game 7 Tuesday, the 2014 pick going to Tampa Bay would have been a second-rounder. (The Rangers also owe their 2015 first-round pick to Tampa Bay in the deal.) Again, Sather doesn’t mind losing the 2014 first-rounder because it means his team is enjoying success.

As New York’s surge continues, so too will Sather’s tightrope walk with the salary cap. The Rangers have about $55 million committed to 14 players next season. With an anticipated salary cap of about $71 million, that leaves just $16 million for the remaining nine players.

Now, consider who their pending free agents are and you can be sure they’ll command a price well north of $20 million. And if the Rangers win more games in May and June, you’ll see those players – assuming they continue to be strong contributors – think they deserve higher stipends.

The 11 Rangers who are restricted or unrestricted free agents (with their 2013-14 salaries) include:

Derick Brasard, RFA, $3.2 million.

Anton Stralman, UFA, $1.7 million.

Brian Boyle, UFA, $1.7 million.

Benoit Pouliot, UFA, $1.3 million.

Rapheal Diaz, UFA, $1.225 million.

Mats Zuccarello, RFA, $1.15 million.

Dominic Moore, UFA, $1 million.

Justin Falk, RFA, $975,000.

John Moore, RFA, $840,000.

Daniel Carcillo, UFA, $825,000.

Chris Kreider, RFA, $800,000.

These 11 players make a combined $14.7 million. The thing is, virtually everyone on the list deserves a raise – some significantly more than others.

Brassard and Zuccarello will get in the $3.5 million range, Boyle, Dominic Moore, Pouliot and Stralman somewhere between $2 and $3 million apiece, Diaz, Carcillo and John Moore slightly over $1 million and Falk about $1 million.

That adds up to about $22 million.

Sure, Sather can ease his impending headache by letting some of his six UFAs walk, but if the Rangers make it to the Cup final or even win, there’s a natural temptation to keep most of a winning crew together.

There’s speculation the Rangers will buy out the remaining six years of Brad Richards’ contract this summer. Richards, 34, is on the books for $6.67 million annually, so that would create more space for Sather to re-sign as many of his free agents as he wants. But what are the optics on a final four, or final two, team buying out and releasing their leading playoff scorer?

Business is business and Sather will tackle that headache in the off-season. For now, though, it’s all joy in the Big Apple.

 

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN