The New York Rangers enter training camp having retained center Derek Stepan. Doing so, however, came at the cost of shedding salary by trading winger Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks for an inexperienced, but also affordable, Emerson Etem.
While the Rangers' Metropolitan Division rivals in Pittsburgh, Washington and Columbus improved their rosters during the off-season, NorthJersey.com's Arthur Staple notes the Rangers salary-cap issues prevented them from doing the same The Blueshirts' cap issues will continue for 2016-17, with over $54 million invested in just 12 players.
Staple suggests defenseman Keith Yandle could become a salary-cap casualty by the Feb. 29th trade deadline, as the Rangers can't afford to re-sign him beyond this season. Yandle, 29, becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency next July. His current annual cap hit is $5.25 million split between the Rangers and his former club, the Arizona Coyotes and he'll likely seek a substantial raise.
The Rangers can afford to carry Yandle this season, so there's no immediate need to shed his contract. The Blueshirts possess a deep defense corps and could draw upon it for trade bait to address other roster needs.
Whether Yandle becomes a trade candidate later this season remains to be seen. The Rangers could retain his puck-moving skills for another run at the Stanley Cup Final this season, even at the risk of losing him to free agency in July. Much will also depend upon his performance through 2015-16.
WILD COULD LOOK TO MOVE BACKSTROM
For the second straight year, an in-season injury suffered by goaltender Niklas Backstrom prevented the Minnesota Wild from buying out his contract. The 37-year-old netminder has one year remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $3.75 million, while his actual salary is $4 million.
And just like last season, the Wild could carry three goalies. In addition to Backstrom, they also have last season's saviour (and Masterton Trophy winner) Devan Dubnyk and young Darcy Kuemper. With Dubnyk and Kuemper seen as the likely tandem, Backstrom will once again be a third wheel.
The StarTribune.com's Michael Russo reports the Wild have limited options to address this. By carrying Backstrom for the season, he'll take up a roster spot which could go to a younger, cheaper forward or defenseman. They could attempt to assign him to a European team, though that will only free up $100K in cap space.
Backstrom's no-movement clause prevents the Wild from demoting him to the minors. Their other option is a trade. Because Backstrom didn't start 25 games, playing only a total of 19 last season and finish in the top-15 in three statistical categories, Russo claimss the Wild can shop him to 15 teams of the goalie's choosing. However, there's unlikely to be much of a market for an aging goalie with a lengthy injury history.
Maybe a rival club will find itself in dire need of goaltending depth before the regular season opens next month. However, it will take some creativity from Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to find a trade partner.
Perhaps he can follow the example set this summer by the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. Both clubs packaged the rights of two all-but-retired stars (Chris Pronger and Marc Savard) with a player to rival clubs for more affordable returns. Shopping Backstrom in a package deal could be what it takes to entice some interest.
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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