Time to break out the crystal ball and see what we can come up with for the 2022-23 Rangers roster. With just 15 regulars signed for the upcoming season and only $11.9 million to plug some important voids in the lineup, there will be changes to the team that reached the Eastern Conference final.
How far those changes go depends on general manager Chris Drury’s appetite for drama this summer. He’s got more young players to sign after the 2022-23 season, so any big moves now will have to fit not just into next season’s salary cap but also beyond.
Here’s our look at who stays and who goes.
Locks to stay
He has the No. 11 cap hit among goals after one of the best seasons in NHL history, capped by a Vezina Trophy win on Tuesday night. You’d offer up anyone else on the roster before you’d move him.
No. 1 for Shesty.
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) June 21, 2022
In addition to a stellar regular season and a postseason run in which he asserted himself at times as the engine that makes the Rangers offense go, Zibanejad’s new contract, which begins this coming season, has a full no-move until the 2029-30 trade deadline.
Even if he can’t duplicate his remarkable 2021-22, Kreider is firmly in place on Zibanejad’s wing for at least another couple of seasons. His $6.5 million AAV would be a bargain if Kreider gets to 35 goals next season, much less another 50-goal heater. Plus the full no-move until the summer of 2024 means the longest-tenured Ranger will stay that way.
The leader of the young core had a noteworthy postseason, the fourth-most points in any playoff year by a Ranger, defenseman or forward. With his new deal kicking in next season, he’s going nowhere.
No Ranger played more even-strength plus penalty-kill minutes in the playoffs than Miller, who never looked ratted. He’s going to get paid in the summer of 2023, and that could complicate things, but this is not the type of player you move over a few million in negotiations. He potentially could be as important as Fox to the Rangers over the next decade.
cooper saying this to key wow i was knew this abt key but wow pic.twitter.com/8d8uOKr2Hb
— chris kreider respecter (@jonmoxIeys) June 20, 2022
His fractured ankle hampered what could have been an impactful playoff, the main reason the Rangers committed so heavily to Goodrow. With five years left on his deal, he’s far more entrenched and important to the Rangers than he’d be anywhere else.
Even though he wasn’t named captain prior to the season and he had more poor postseason moments than any of the other top four defensemen, Trouba is an easy placement here. He has a full no-move for two more seasons and, even if he’s not wearing the C next season, he’s still the leader of the young defense corps.
He turned a decent regular season into a strong postseason even without any gaudy numbers. Like Miller, Lafrenière is going to get a sizable raise after next season. He still feels like an essential part of the under-25 group.
He’s just getting started. Unless Drury changes his mind and relents on a trade request, Schneider will be on the roster for a long time to come.
Staying, but for how long?
His first 15 playoff games were amazing. If he can harness the mentality he had in those into a full 2022-23 season, Chytil will be an essential piece of the Rangers’ drive for another long playoff run next season. After that, though, things get tricky. Things might even get tricky this summer if Drury tries to make a splash on the trade market for a No. 2 center. The cost would most likely include Chytil, who has somehow played 253 games with the Rangers and is still not 23.
After watching what Lindgren put himself through in the playoffs — taking barely a week off for a high-ankle sprain that’s normally a four- to six-week injury — it’s hard to imagine him being moved. But the salary cap makes GMs do things they don’t want to do. Lindgren has two years at $3 million AAV left on his deal, and he’ll still be an RFA after the 2023-24 season, which would be very attractive to other teams.
The evolution and growing appreciation of Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren: ‘Every team wants a guy like him’ https://t.co/nHOEN6u478
— The Athletic New York (@TheAthleticNYC) December 20, 2021
We’ll see what the Game 6 scratch leads to in negotiations for the RFA forward, but it’s hard to imagine the Rangers would try to move him now, when his value is awfully low. Whether he ends up with a one- or two-year deal, Kakko clearly needs to improve his game for the current Rangers regime to see him in a better light.
This was a tough category to place the team’s leading scorer in. And given Panarin’s full no-move clause for the remaining four years of his contract, it’s darn near impossible to see him going anywhere. However, two league sources said Drury was vocally unhappy about Panarin’s play in the postseason, when he had 16 points in 20 games but not the consistent impact anyone around the Rangers hoped for or needed. If there’s a rift, Panarin could ask out, as near-impossible as it would be to move this mammoth contract.
Reaves understands his role, which may be diminished next season depending on who’s around. He can’t be bought out since this one-year deal he’s on is an over-35 contract. And Gallant is a fan, so he’ll be here for one last go-round.
He’s on a one-way deal next season, but it can be fully buried in the minors if need be. Hunt was a regular in 2021-22, playing 76 games, but a deeper Ranger forward group likely bumps him to the press box.
We’d love you to stay, but …
Of the Rangers’ UFAs, Strome seems to be the leader right now to stick around. That could change before the July 13 start of free agency, but of the in-house (and likely open market) options to fill the No. 2 center slot, the Rangers know Strome best, and he might be most willing to take a more team-friendly salary for some extra years.
Copp is less likely to shave off dollars to help the Rangers out. He had a tremendous run after coming over from the Jets at the deadline, and the 30th pick belongs to Winnipeg now because of it, but if there’s no room, there’s no room. All things being equal, the Rangers would likely prefer Copp to Strome, but that isn’t the case at the moment.
Rangers’ offseason plans for Strome, Copp, Kakko, more: What we’re hearing https://t.co/xmeERlo3qi
— The Athletic New York (@TheAthleticNYC) June 15, 2022
He’s a spark plug and would fit the Rangers’ bottom six perfectly for a few years. The problem is money. This will be Motte’s first bite at the multi-year UFA deal apple, and if he’s insistent on getting over $2 million per, there’s almost no way the Rangers can hang onto him.
Vatrano is another deadline acquisition who blossomed after arriving but may now simply be too expensive. He showed he can score goals in a top-six role; If he’s willing to do it for somewhere around $3 million per, he’ll have plenty of interest around the league from teams that can easily fit him under the cap. The Rangers cannot, barring other moves.
He was an underrated deadline pickup, turning out to be an important piece in the playoffs, as he supplanted Nemeth in the lineup. There’s a chance he could stick around; at 35, he could sign a one-year deal with minimal AAV and bonuses to be the 6/7 on defense.
Take him, please!
Drury’s biggest free-agent swing last summer was a massive whiff. Nemeth had an emotional first year with the Rangers, dealing with personal issues that kept him away from the team for a couple of stretches, and he never filled the defensive stalwart/PK role Drury and Gerard Gallant wanted for him. Nemeth was in street clothes for the final 16 playoff games. If Drury can find a taker, Nemeth will be wearing a different uniform next fall.
Currently an RFA with arbitration rights, Gauthier got as good a look as he could possibly have wanted due to injury and the Rangers’ thin pre-deadline forward group. In 49 games, Gauthier had seven points; once the cavalry came at the deadline, he got into one more game. Two league sources said Drury is trying to get anything he can in a trade for Gauthier, who’s still only 24. Seems unlikely that will work — or that Gauthier is a Ranger next season.
Even more than Gauthier, Drury is trying hard to find a trade partner for the disgruntled Georgiev before the Rangers are forced to let him walk when qualifying offers are due July 11. The Rangers were holding out for a first-round pick for Georgiev early last season; that’s likely down to a mid-round pick at best now.
The Kravtsov saga is ongoing, as he’ll be returning to the New York area to train in a few weeks. Will he be a productive member of Rangers society? Will he and Drury clash again over a roster spot? Will he ask for a trade? Maybe we’ll get some answers by training camp.
(Photo of Artemi Panarin, Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox, Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp: Danny Wild / USA Today)