Rumor Roundup: Rangers wrestle with salary cap

Lyle Richardson
Marc Staal

The New York Rangers’ contract negotiations this season with Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan often overshadowed the club’s performance, particularly as the trade deadline approached. Girardi was ultimately re-signed to a six-year, $33-million deal, while Callahan was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning on deadline day for Martin St-Louis.

GM Glen Sather will try to avoid the same problem with restricted free agents Mats Zuccaraello, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. His cap space for next season could determine how long it takes to get the trio under contract.

The Rangers currently have more than $54 million invested in 13 players. The original salary cap projection of $71.1 million gives Sather a little more than $16 million of room to re-sign or replace his key free agents. Re-signing Zuccarello, Brassard and Kreider (with only the latter lacking arbitration rights) could cost a combined $10 million. Another $5 million could be necessary to retain notable unrestricted free agents Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle.

Sather won’t have much room to pursue additional talent via trade or free agency. If the salary cap ceiling is less than projected, things will get even tighter for the Rangers. It could resurrect speculation of Sather using his remaining compliance buyout to shed Brad Richards’ hefty $6.66 million per season cap hit.

Defenseman Marc Staal has a season remaining on his contract, but his future remains uncertain. The Rangers can open contract extension talks with Staal this summer. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks called upon Sather to avoid dragging Staal’s negotiations through next season.

Brooks noted the pull for Staal to sign next summer with the Carolina Hurricanes, which would unite him with brothers Eric and Jordan. If Marc won’t commit this summer to a long-term extension, Brooks believes the 27-year-old defenseman should be shipped to the Hurricanes “for a price as equitable as possible.”

The Hurricanes would have interest in Staal beyond the novelty of having three (and possibl four with Jared) brothers on the same roster. They never found a suitable replacement this season for Joni Pitkanen, who remains sidelined by a career-threatening heel injury. Youngsters Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy would benefit from having Staal around to share the blueline burden. Faulk or Murphy, however, could be part of Sather’s asking price.

Staal is currently keeping his focus on helping the Rangers secure a playoff berth. He told Brooks his preference is to not have to deal with contract talks throughout next season.

Sather’s more immediate blueline issue is re-signing Stralman. The 27-year-old is completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.7 million.

Brooks reported Stralman rejected an offer of three years worth around $9 million. That prompted a swift denial from Stralman’s agent, Marc Levine, who told the New York Daily News the report was “false,” but declined to elaborate.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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