The Rangers have cap space and holes. Here’s how to fill them

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The Rangers have traded Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan to Arizona, as well as Oscar Lindberg being selected by Vegas, Jeff Gorton now has a lot of cap space to complete his roster for next season. But with these moves, the Rangers have lost two centermen and a backup goalie that need replacing. Add in Dan Girardi’s buyout, and Gorton will have to find all the right pieces to fill in those gaps.

So who do the Rangers go after to replace their former teammates?

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Matt Duchene

There have been numerous reports that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was looking to trade his star centerman.

Duchene is a highly skilled player that will put up points and is able to play on the wing as well. He plays with a ton of speed, which will certainly be good for Alain Vigneault’s system. If the Rangers are able to trade for him, he could become the true number one center the Blueshirts have been looking for. One downside to Duchene is his cap hit. He has two years left on his contract, making $6 million per year. It is better than Stepan’s contract, which had four years left at $6.5 million per year. If the Rangers are planning on keeping Duchene long term, he will command a very large payday.

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Evander Kane

This is an interesting one. Kane has had a lot of issues off the ice, but when he is playing, he can be a difference maker. Kane put up 43 points in 70 games least season with the Sabres and plays a speed game as well. He plays with a bit of an edge that can be both a positive and a negative. His contract though makes him very enticing to most teams. He will be in the final year of his contract next season and makes just over $5 million. If the Blueshirts can acquire him, they would add another point-producing winger to their arsenal.

Editor’s Note: Rangers are likely dangling their second 1st round pick (21 overall) for a top six forward. Buffalo might bite. – Anthony

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Joe Thornton

If the Rangers don’t wish to go the trade route, they can go after longtime Sharks center Joe Thornton. The grizzled veteran put up 50 points this past season and had been a mainstay on the Sharks top line for the last few years. Thornton turns 38 this summer and is coming off of a contract that paid him close to $7 million per year. He won’t get that kind of money from the Rangers, but if he would be a nice signing for the Blueshirts as a second or third line center.

Should he find chemistry with Rick Nash like they have in international play, 1st line center isn’t out of the question.

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Martin Hanzal

One name that hasn’t been mentioned at all is Martin Hanzal. He put up 20 goals last season in a year split between Minnesota and Arizona. Hanzal is good in the faceoff circle and is also a good penalty killer. He would come cheaper than any of the other players mentioned above and would be serviceable as a bottom six center.

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Brendan Smith

A player that doesn’t have a lot of hoopla around him is Brendan Smith. The defenseman from Mimico, Ontario was acquired at the trade deadline by Jeff Gorton and was a good player in his stint on Broadway. Smith is coming off of a two-year $2.75 million contract, and will likely command a bump in his salary. Smith returning to the Rangers would be good for the Rangers. He is very good in his own zone and really clicked with Brady Skjei toward the end of the season and playoffs. If Kevin Klein retires, they could use some of his $3 million on re-signing Smith.

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Kevin Shattenkirk

When it comes to the Rangers defense, the biggest and the most talked about name has been Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is the player that would help the Rangers out the most. He is a right-handed defenseman who can play in his own zone. He has good skating ability and can bring some offense from the point.

But for all the hoopla that surrounded the New Rochelle, NY native, it almost seems as if the fire has died down. Shattenkirk has a similar skill set to former Ranger Keith Yandle. But when it came time for the Blueshirts to offer Yandle a new contract, terms could not be reached. If Shattenkirk is willing to make some concessions for his childhood team, then he could become a huge piece in solidifying the Rangers blue line.

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Cody Franson

If the Rangers want to look for a cheaper right-handed defenseman, they should give Cody Franson a look. Franson is a puck moving defenseman with a heavy shot. He can look a little slow at times, but is a big body on defense at 6’5″. If the Rangers can sign him, they could save some room on the cap to sign other players as well.

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Keith Kinkaid

With the Rangers now needing a backup goaltender, Keith Kinkaid is a solid and cap-friendly option. Kinkaid has served as the backup to Devils netminder Corey Schneider, and average a .911 SV% during that time. Kinkaid has shown that he can play 25-30 games a year He made under $1 million last season, and would be a good and reliable backup for King Henrik.

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Darcy Kuemper

The second option at backup could be Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper put up two solid seasons backing up Devan Dubnyk, posting a .908 SV%. Kuemper made just $1.5 million last year, and won’t be getting much more than that to become Henrik Lundqvist’s backup.

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Jhonas Enroth

The third candidate to replace Antti Raanta is journeyman backup Jhonas Enroth. Enroth has played on five teams over his nine-year NHL career and has put up a .905 SV%. He has represented Sweden before and played much better with his entire nation watching him.


  • Love how everyone claims Duchene is a number#1 center. Since 2010. Step’s rookie season, Matt Duchene and Step are virtually tied in points. Duchene has a whopping 3 more points than Step. Duchene finished with 41 points last year and at time was the Avalanche’s 3rd line center. How is that #1 center material? For ex Ranger it clearly wasn’t, so how it’s it for Duchene who has the same amount of points?

    Joe Thornton is coming off major knee surgery, why would the Rangers give any money to a 38 year with bad knees?

    • I want Hanzal – great face-off guy and toughness, resign Puempel and Smith, sign Boyle as 4th line center to add grit and sizeand Michael Condon to back up the King. This only works if Hayes, Miller, Zibanejad and Buchnevich continue to improve

    • Yeah I’m not into Joe Thorton signing either. I’m a little concerned with what we did here today to tell you the truth. I kept hearing how Gorton wasn’t gonna trade Stepan for anything but a top line D man. What happened to that. I know we got the 7th pick which is nice but this years draft isn’t supposed to be too terrific. The cap,space is great but unless we use it on something really,good what good was it trading Stepan. Fans are worried Stepan was gonna leave us stuck like Girardi n Staal but those guys are older and they’re D men that either had bad injuries or blocked a million shots. Stepan is still only 26. I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.

    • Mike,

      I think Stepan is a number 1 just not an elite number 1. I think Duchene is an upgrade over Stepan. Still not elite but better than Stepan. I dont think Stepan has the speed to fit AV system, I think Duchene does. If points tell the whole story then we should sell high on JT, since by JTs age Stepan almost had as many assists as JT has points. Blaming the entire AVs mess on him isnt a good assessment of a player.

  • There must be a plan in place that we just don’t know about yet. I’m trying to stay calm over here and not freak out. lol Let’s try to have faith in Gorton here and hopefully we’ll be talking about the great move he made in FA or another trade.

    • Well that draft pick solidifies the end of a shitty day…… what in the world are they thinking….. what is the mindset to trade for the 7th pick TO DRAFT A GUY THAT WOULD BE THERE AT 21!?!?!?!?

  • All I keep thinking is they know they’re getting something good in FA. I’m expecting Shattenkirk now that they have all this cash, not that I’m thrilled about that either. But if they are then they can’t be thinking rebuild. Again I’m just baffled after this day and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve felt this way when it comes to the Rangers.

    • I truly hope so but the list of free agents center wise is pretty sad. Defensemen wise there are solid bodies out there even with Russel resigning in Edmonton. This team will really be in bad shape if Brendan Smith decides to go elsewhere.

  • When Stepan was traded, I thought that was move one of atleasr 2, boy was I disappointed. Then when I read sounds like Rangers are going off the board with thie 7th overall I was baffled. I am no scout but hearing those words, with their history of lack of first round success, I am not confident in those picks. This is why I am never against trading the first for proven talent.

    So now, I assume Shattenkirk will be next to Mac and I think this a huge risk. The 7 year deal he gets is going to be horrible to deal with if he ends up showing hes a second pair dman and not a first.

    For back up goalie, Id be interested in trying to get a veteran Cam Ward or Eddie Lack, can probably get one for nothing since Carolina has 3 goalies. There is cap room for it, so why not.

    As for the center spot nows time for the “untouchables” Mika/Miller/Hayes to show their worth. They have one season of Nash left to take the heat for them as for everything wrong with the team before their names go in that spot.

    • I agree Kris, Nash as been a whipping boy, some deserved, and has taken the heat away from players who have not performed at all during the playoffs. I understand Nash’s salary paints the target a bit brighter and bigger. When he’s not on the team, regardless of trade or just attrition, a lot of the spotlight will fall on Hayes and Miller. The Rangers will also have a pretty big decision to make next off season with Kevin Hayes and JT Miller contract wise. Hayes current has a 2.6 aav while Miller has a 2.75 aav. Each has had some success during the season but each play has fallen off drastically during the 2nd half of the season. The question is do the Rangers play these 2 somewhere around 3.5-4.25 for 2 players that have a combined 3 goals in the playoffs. This is a very big year in regards to that decision. They have had plenty of time to show us more in the playoffs but have been major disappointments.

  • Dominick Mazzella

    Should have traded Lundqvist. With the money saved, sign a back up goalie,big D man, and a strong forward. Make Raanta number 1 goalie. Lundqvist is done. Great regular season goalie, average playoff goalie.


  • So true. I could never understand when I see fans call them “our untouchables”. We’re talking about one guy that’s scored 17 goals a few times and another that did hit the 20 goal mark, I think 22 but when it came playoff time neither did much at all. I really hope they’re careful when it comes to contract time with them. Let’s see if this year can be a big one for them. I just keep waiting for that guy that has that refuse to lose attitude in the playoffs

  • NO on Thornton. Bad knees and 38 years old we dont need him even if its fro free! Theres a trade out there with Colorado but its not Duchenne. Need to put a deal together with maybe JT Miller and Ryan Graves for Mackinnon. His salary is on the high side, 6.3M/ 5 years but his size, speed, and tenacity is what a #1 center is supposed to be. They can sign a boyle or hanzell too. Alzner is a LH shot and we have plenty of those. They failed to make the splash with the 7 or 21 pick rather to go the safe route and after some digging about the 2 players they are safe bets. Would have liked to see them take a Rassmussen or Vilardi but such as life. Lets get Mackinnon here. That will be bold!

  • I’m still wondering why they didn’t resign Smith. When they first started talking about trading Stepan they kept mentioning Trouba and Dumba so I thought maybe they’re going for someone better yet. Then we seen what that trade turned into so I don’t know what to expect anymore.

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