How far will the Rangers get this season?

How Kovalchuk Could Be A Ranger
As polarizing as signing Kovalchuk would be, there is a way it could work

Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk

Another chapter has been added to the Ilya Kovalchuk saga now that the LA Kings are back in the mix for his services.  Since the Islanders have dropped out of the Kovy sweepstakes, the known remaining options are the Kings, Devils, and the KHL.  

What about the Rangers?  Fans (and likely management) are extremely polarized about whether signing Ilya would be a move that makes the Rangers a contender, or destroys the franchise.  Kovalchuk signing with the Rangers is a long shot, but we’d be remiss in not discussing it considering how long this has gone on.  And considering Glen Sather’s history with big-name free agents, a run at Kovalchuk can never be ruled out.  So if the Rangers signed Ilya, what would happen financially, with the roster, and in the future?


Financially:  Believe it or not, the Rangers can afford to sign Kovalchuk.  Most estimates are that the Rangers have about $7.8 million in available cap space (though I believe this to be a little low because most cap estimates show Mats Zuccarello-Aasen’s cap hit as $1.75 million per year whereas he actually signed a two-year, $1.75 million deal) .  They still must sign Dan Girardi and Marc Staal who should command about $7 million in total.  That leaves only $800k.  But if the Rangers demoted Wade Redden to Hartford, instead deploying Ryan McDonagh, they’d free up $6.5 million.  The total available space of $7.3 million is not enough to match the offers Kovalchuk likely has already received from the Devils and Kings, but its close.  Some believe that Kovalchuk really wants to play for the Rangers, so a slightly smaller salary may be acceptable.  Of course signing Kovalchuk would push the Rangers against the cap with absolutely no wiggle room, but it’s not impossible.


Roster:  Getting rid of Redden is the only way to make a Kovalchuk signing possible.  So considering that, here’s how this year’s lineup could look.


Prospal            Christensen     Gaborik

Kovalchuk       Anisimov         Callahan

Dubinsky         Drury               Zuccarello-Aasen

Avery              Boyle               Prust


Staal                Del Zotto

Girardi             Rozsival

McDonagh      Gilroy






Derek Boogaard

Dale Weise

Ethan Werek

7th d to be named



The future:  Undoubtedly signing Kovalchuk changes things now and down the road.  Locking up Kovalchuk would mean there’s very little room for the Rangers homegrown talent to make the team anytime in the near future.  Next summer the Rangers RFAs will be Callahan, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Boyle, and Gilroy.  Their UFAs will be Prospal, Donald Brashear, and Aaron Voros (though the latter two may be gone long before next summer). 

You’d think Dubinsky, Callahan, and Anisimov would all be no brainer re-signings. 

Brashear and Voros obviously won’t be back regardless.  If the Rangers signed Kovalchuk, it’s safe to assume that Prospal would also leave.  Gilroy and Boyle are wildcards, but if Gilroy doesn’t improve this season he probably won’t be asked back.  Boyle may or may not return, but his roll would be filled by a minimum wage fourth line center anyway.  So the Rangers roster going into next summer would look something like this:

-                      Christensen     Gaborik

Kovalchuk       Anisimov         Callahan

Dubinsky         Drury               Zuccarello-Aasen

Avery              -                       Prust


Staal                Del Zotto

Girardi             Rozsival

McDonagh      -






Derek Boogaard


That means there’s only one spot open for a youngster next season, with Evgeny Grachev, Derek Stepan, and Ethan Werek all likely to be just about NHL ready and Chris Kreider just a year behind.  Grachev and Werek could be ready for the Blueshirts this year, but by next year they will be almost certainly.  Prospal’s spot opens room for one of them, but the other two would be out of luck.  However, Christensen will have only one year left on his deal at a very affordable price, so if Stepan and Werek were indeed ready, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a taker for his contract via waivers or trade.  Even dealing Christensen makes it likely that one of the three would have to wait for his ticket to the NHL, ready or not, unless of course the Rangers entertained offers for Dubinsky or one of their other expiring contracts (Avery, Prust, and Zuccarello-Aasen would also be in the final years of their contracts). 

Of course in two years, Michal Rozsival and Chris Drury come off the books, and there’d be room for all the kids.

All of this is very hypothetical and can change dramatically as time goes on.  But the truth is the Rangers actually can accommodate Kovalchuk’s salary, while fielding a decent team and also allowing their top prospects to reach the NHL basically on schedule.  This future roster building is composed of contingency plans, but there’s nothing impossible about it.

Signing Kovalchuk may create many problems, but it would force the Rangers to be rid of Redden and it could actually cause them to reserve spots for the youngsters in the next couple years just because they won’t be able to afford free agents. 


Again, like many of you I am staunchly against signing Kovalchuk.  But there is a way that all of this can work.


Have at it!


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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