Heading into mid-July, the New York Rangers have yet to make a significant move to shed cap space or shake up their roster. Signing veteran left winger Michael Grabner to a two-year deal ($1.65 million annually) and acquiring defenseman Nick Holden from the Colorado Avalanche were their biggest deals thus far.
The Rangers carry $12.4 million in salary-cap room. With restricted free agents Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath to re-sign, there's not enough space to retain those players and bolster the lineup via trades or free agency.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports Blueshirts GM Jeff Gorton hasn't been idle in the trade market, but he's been unable to find suitable deals. Brooks claims Gorton is reluctant to move center Derek Stepan, won't trade defenseman Ryan McDonagh, can't find equal value for left winger Rick Nash and isn't shopping Kreider.
If Gorton isn't able to bolster the roster, Brooks believes the onus falls upon coach Alain Vigneault to improve the club's system, especially their defensive play.
While there's undoubtedly interest in Stepan and McDonagh, the Rangers probably won't get equal value in return. Most likely, they're being offered draft picks, prospects or young NHL players who have yet to scratch the surface of their potential. That won't provide the immediate help the Rangers need.
Kreider, meanwhile, is the most crucial re-signing. He has the skills to become one of the Rangers' leaders in the near future.
Brooks suggests the new deal inked by New Jersey Devils right winger Kyle Palmieri (five years at $4.65 million annually) could affect Kreider's contract negotiations. Like his fellow Rangers RFAs, Kreider filed for salary arbitration.
If the two sides fail to hammer out a long-term deal, Brooks speculates they could agree to a one-year deal and reassess things after 2016-17. Another possibility is a trade.
With Nash now in his early-30s and hampered by injuries in two of the last three seasons, rival GMs will be reluctant to take on his $7.8-million cap hit through 2017-18. His modified no-trade clause, listing 12 preferred destinations, doesn't help matters.
Gorton still has the remainder of the off-season to improve his roster. Once his RFAs are re-signed, however, his options aren't likely to improve.
BLUE JACKETS LOOKING FOR NO. 1 CENTER
In a recent Q&A with his readers, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch said the Columbus Blue Jackets search for a first-line center is becoming more difficult.
The Jackets dealt away Ryan Johanson midway through 2015-16 for defenseman Seth Jones. While the move bolstered their blueline, it left them without a highly skilled offensive center. The best time to land one was in late-June, when teams had more salary-cap room and a willingness to spend. With that time now passed, the Jackets' search could stretch into next season.
Left winger Scott Hartnell was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate since midseason. So far, however, the buzz surrounding the 34-year-old has died down.
It was believed the Jackets wanted to move him out in a cost-cutting deal. However, their recent buyouts of Fedor Tyutin and Jared Boll freed up valuable cap room, so there's less pressure to trade Hartnell now.
Portzline also believes there was some trade talk regarding Jackets starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky leading up to the recent NHL draft. However, he claims at no time was Bobrovsky approached about waiving his no-movement clause.
If there was interest in Bobrovsky, it might've come from the Calgary Flames. However, their acquisition of Brian Elliott effectively addressed their short-term goaltending needs.
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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