With free agency now just hours away, teams are preparing for a frenzy of action. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. The Rangers don’t have many UFAs of note but their RFA class is going to be one to keep an eye on.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Ryan Strome – While they were undecided about tendering him a qualifying offer until about two hours before Wednesday’s deadline, it wasn’t because they were unhappy with Strome’s performance but rather a concern about an arbitration award. Those concerns may be well-founded as the 41 assists and 59 points were both new career benchmarks and have him well-positioned to earn a sizable raise on the $3.2MM salary he earned last season. The fact they qualified him suggests there is some optimism they can avoid going to a hearing and the hope is that they’ll be able to sign him before it gets that far.
D Anthony DeAngelo – Last year, New York held the hammer and used it, basically leveraging DeAngelo into a cheap one-year deal with him not having any real leverage to work with. The power has swung over to the other side now, however. The 24-year-old had 52 career points heading into last season but managed to produce 53 points in 2019-20 despite not seeing an increase in playing time. That performance has him well-positioned to land a substantial raise via an arbitrator and after the Rangers played things out to their advantage last season, expect DeAngelo to at least file for a hearing to give himself the leverage this time around.
G Alexandar Georgiev – Georgiev enters this offseason in the same spot he was a year ago, albeit behind a different starter this time around. He has shown flashes of being a capable starter at times over his brief NHL career but inconsistency has been a challenge as well. Just 24, it’s possible that New York pushes for a one-year or two-year deal to give them more time to evaluate his long-term upside and fit for his role while also giving themselves a bit more short-term cap flexibility with the Upper Limit flattened out.
Other RFAs: D Brandon Crawley, F Phillip Di Giuseppe, F Gabriel Fontaine, F Ryan Gropp, F Brendan Lemieux, D Darren Raddysh
10.2(c): F Dawson Leedahl (ineligible for an offer sheet)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Jesper Fast – The 28-year-old has been a steady middle-six winger for the past five years and while he doesn’t put up a ton of points (he has ranged between 20 and 33 points in that span), he plays with an edge physically and is a capable penalty killer. Even in a lowered cap environment, there should be a fair bit of interest but it appears it’ll be coming from elsewhere as Fast and the Rangers were well apart on contract terms leading up to the trade deadline. Fast earned the 28th spot in our Top-50 UFA Rankings.
G Henrik Lundqvist – It was a move that had been anticipated for a while but the Rangers officially bought out the franchise legend back in September with Igor Shesterkin and Georgiev set to be their tandem of the present and future. The 38-year-old has made it known that he wants to continue playing but he’ll be facing a significant drop in pay from the $8.5MM AAV he had before the buyout. Washington has been widely speculated as a landing spot although other teams will certainly show interest in him in either a mentoring role or even a platoon situation.
Other UFAs: F Matt Beleskey, G Jean-Francois Berube, F Steven Fogarty, F Greg McKegg, F Micheal Haley, F Vinni Lettieri, F Boo Nieves, F Danny O’Regan
Projected Cap Space
On the surface, the Rangers have plenty of space to work with following the buyout of Lundqvist and the Marc Staal trade as they have roughly $58.8MM committed to 14 players, per CapFriendly. But it won’t take long for that to be whittled away as they get their three primary RFAs re-signed and then fill out the rest of their roster. There will be a bit of room to work with in the free agent or trade market but there shouldn’t be a splash like there was last year with the Artemi Panarin signing.
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