Rangers ready to go full tilt at John Tavares this summer

Jeff Gorton is getting ready for the offseason. He has his hands full with the upcoming draft, finding a new coach, and signing his restricted free agents. All of which fall into the “longterm” plans for success. However, there is another road to be explored once the UFA market opens this summer.

Light Speed Rebuild

Heading into the summer, the Rangers only have 13 players signed to a committed total of around $51,000,0000. If the salary cap rises to the lowest estimate of around $78 million, it will give them $27 million to play with. Sounds like a lot, but don’t get too excited.

The Rangers could get lucky and land one of the top 3 picks in the draft. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, and Filip Zedina all have the potential to play in the NHL next season and would come with an affordable entry level contract. While that would be a best case scenario, even if they got one there’s no guarantee the Rangers would keep them with the big club.

There are also the rumors of adding Ilya Kovalchuk on July 1st. If the numbers are really $6 million per for 2 seasons, it’s a hefty price tag. Regardless, the team is getting ready put this rebuild into warp speed in one fell swoop.

Should John Tavares hit the open market this summer, the Rangers are ready to make him one of the NHL’s richest players. It would not surprise anyone if the Rangers are ready to give him double digits and max years. An opening offer of 10 million or more is not out of the question to land the 27 year old center in his prime.

The Move Has Consequences

The Rangers have 5 big RFA’s they need to sign this summer:

  • Kevin Hayes
  • Vlad Namestnikov
  • Brady Skjei
  • Jimmy Vesey
  • Ryan Spooner

Skjei (NYR)

No matter how you slice it, even with some bridge deals all 5 must be re-signed and will come with a total combined price tag of around 17-20 million dollars. Gorton also needs to retain John Gilmour but he should be relatively cheap. Once you add Alex Georgiev as Lundqvist’s backup and a player like Vinni Lettieri in place of Matt Belesky (he is signed) that’s 21 players under contract with 2 spots to fill and less than 10 million in cap space.

The math doesn’t add up to add a John Tavares alone, nonetheless Kovalchuk also. That means hard decisions will need to be made. One of these 4 roster players will need to be traded in order to make room for a bonafide NHL superstar center.

Mats Zuccarello

At $4.5M and 30 years of age, he makes the most sense in terms of a rebuild to move. A top 6 winger any contender would want.

Marc Staal

At $5.7M and 31 years of age, he also makes sense. But unlike Zuccarello who is a top 6 winger with a great contract, Staal’s better days have passed. Which leaves the buyout option. This would give the Rangers an additional $3.7M to play with this year and will likely be explored unless Staal waives his no trade and a miraculous trade is pulled off.

Staal buyout via cap friendly

Chris Kreider

The 26 year old winger is a perfect fit for what the Rangers want to do going forward. He is one of the few Blueshirts that stands in front and his speed is elite. However, he does make $4.6M and the Gorton may be forced to consider a deal. In my opinion, this is very unlikely.

Mika Zibanejad

He’s 24 and makes $5.3 million and loaded with talent, much of it untapped. Why trade him? Partially it is the untapped potential which he has yet to be able to do on a consistent basis. He is also prone to injury as once again he was hit by the bug. Still, those are not enough reasons to consider moving such a talented young player.

Since last summer, the Rangers via draft and trades have added a ton of centers. Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vladislav Namestinikov, and Ryan Spooner. All can play the position and if you add John Tavares it will cause a major logjam. Look at this way, if you could trade Zibanejad for Tavares, you would do it in a heartbeat.

Ultimately, the Rangers would need to consider trading one of these players and buying out Staal to fit Tavares on the roster.

A Career Defining Summer

Jeff Gorton (Getty)

Jeff Gorton came to the Rangers a highly touted young executive. He is now in full control on one of the grandest stages in the NHL. The opportunity in front of him is career defining, especially if he can execute one of the fastest rebuilds and turnarounds in NHL history.

The Rangers GM is already on the right path, but should John Tavares hit the open market and jump from Brooklyn to Broadway it would be a major coup. Again it is a big IF, but Gorton is going to be all in should Tavares goes to free agency.

34 comments

  • I can’t help but get worried when I see these articles about which veteran player we’re bringing in next. It was just weeks ago we were talking about what picks we would make and how good our prospects were. Now we’re talking about signing big contracts possibly and having the fastest rebuild ever. I think if we’re thinking fastest rebuild we’re not thinking a true rebuild or a good rebuild. Tavaras would be great to have leading our top line of course and that’s at least a move that goes toward the future too since he would be signed for several years. But Kovalchuk for 2 years at 6 mill a year seems like a waist of time to me.

  • Travaras will not sign here even if he does hit the open market. Period.

  • Kovalchuk more money less term is a very smart move by Gorton if he signs in no way does this hurt the rebuild at all and Tavares signing with the Rangers is not as far fetched as people think. He’s lived in NY his whole career and it’s a city like no other plus once a player hits the open market a players thought process can change as many factors come into play.The only thing that worries me is the term it should be 6 years max or forget the ideas.

  • I don’t think Tavaves will sign with Rangers but if he does $ 11 million over 5 years is what it will take
    then
    buying out Staal would be a must
    Offer Zucc an extension $ 5.5 million per 3 years if he balks trade him if he accepts trade Hayes, career year, will never get any faster
    depending on what the cap goes to will leave $ 18 – $ 22 million to sign Skjei, Spooner, Vlad, Vesey, and Gilmour

    You will still need one of the young left defensemen to step up Hajek, or Lindgren.

  • So you’ve gone from embrace the rebuild to go hog wild with free agency? Make up your mind. Signing Tavares and Kovalchuk does what exactly to this team’s biggest need?

    When your team defense is one of the worst in the worst in the league your first priority shouldn’t be loading up on forwards who will once again destroy your cap!!

    Fans need to make a decision and stick to it. Get behind the rebuild or ask why your GM gutted your roster for prospects to only throw money around again during free agency on players that aren’t helping your biggest need. JT is a game breaker and will be the most sought out player in years. However how is he going to help this team not give up 40+ shots a night? And honestly ask yourself why would the biggest free agent in years want to sign with a team rebuilding when he is already playing on a team that’s floundering. It was only less than 6 weeks ago most of the fans were on board with starting anew and building something that this franchise sorely needed. Now it’s back to the old ways of not developing players and throwing money around. If you are looking to sign more veteran players why would you fire a coach that has shown he can be highly successful with a veteran lineup? I thought the reasoning behind the firing of AV was so the younger players can get more ice time to develop? Signing Tavares makes sure that Andersson and Chytil are bottom six centers for years to come. Signing Kovalchuk makes sure that Buch sees less ice time on the top line which fans were screaming about during the season.

    Hopefully someone in this front office has a sense yet these were the same clowns who threw money around like they were at a strip club in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Jeff Gorton did a helluva job as director of player personnel and scouting during that time since they had zero prospects worth a damn and pissed away picks like Hugh Jessiman. Maybe that’s the reason why they seem hell bent on spending money once again.

    Hank better rest up because he will continue to see an avalanche of pucks until the Rangers decide to fix their defense. I guess this off season isn’t the right time, as old Brooklyn Dodger fans use to say, wait till next year.

    • I am in on the rebuild, rumors are rumors, “IF” is the operative word here, when

      you do need some “veterans” on the roster, other than Henrik and Staal

      • You’ll be surprised with how many players the Rangers have who are entering their 6th or 7th season in the NHL. On defense you have guys like Shattenkirk entering his 9th season. Brendan Smith if he comes back will be entering his 7th season. Despite turning only 25 in a week or so Zibs will be entering his 7th season next year. Zucc if he’s back will be playing in his 9th season next year. Kreider will be playing in his 7th season next year. Namestnikov and Spooner are entering their 6th NHL. This team isn’t that green behind the ears. That doesn’t include Staal or Lundqvist.

        The reasoning for Kovalchuk makes little sense. They have plenty of players who have experience at different roles for their younger players to pick their brains. Leadership is an issue which isn’t in Kovalchuk’s wheel house either. Especially since he was stripped of his captaincy during the KHL playoffs only 2 springs ago. The Rangers need to fully embrace the rebuild and change the environment inside the franchise. Stop with throwing money at every free agent. Build a system where kids can develop and intergrate into the Rangers lineup.

        • another idiotic response
          where does Hajek play?

          • Regina. Must be nice living a perfect life and never making a mistake.

            Equating a Kovalchuk signing for veteran leadership is plain wrong since he’s one of the most selfish players in hockey.

            I guess you squarely determine veteran just by age. I guess coming up on 400+ NHL games still classifies you as a someone with little experience. Why don’t you read what Sergei Zubov thinks of Kovalchuk’s leadership qualities.

          • “Gorton noted that he doesn’t expect a team of twenty 18-19-20 year-old players and that could might look to add some “character and leadership type players that might help us develop these young guys.””

            I would prefer not to sign Kovalchuk as I have already stated, or Tavares but rumors are out there.

          • yes it is nice, thank you!

            Having wrong opinions, which happens, is entirely different than being factually wrong. to be so wrong on were a vital prospect plays is idiotic to say the least.

        • Anthony Rimoli

          Yeah, leadership is a problem but didn’t we USED TO HAVE a CAPTAIN who we traded to the TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING? And another excellent young player in the prime of his career — JT MILLER — who we traded for a couple of “prospects” and a 1st round draft pick? And of course, the “INVISIBLE MAN” as well — NAMESTNIKOV!! Didn’t see him on the ice much at all during the last 15 games of the season. As far as I’m concerned, he ABSOLUTELY was INVISIBLE. Not much from him at all. And he’s VERY SOFT too as well, little toughness in his game at all — while we traded 2 VERY TOUGH PLAYERS in McDonagh and Miller which may end up winning a STANLEY CUP in Tampa after all those frustrating years here in NY.

  • They have 2 RFAs they must keep and that’s Hayes and Skjei, the others can be expendable especially if they do sign Tavares (long shot)

  • JT already made it clear he doesn’t want to play for the Rangers! The Rangers wouldn’t pay John more than 10 or 11 Million when other teams like the Canadians would pay him at least 12M and JT listed Montreal as one of the teams he wanted to play for NOT the Rangers! Why not get off this dead horse and let reality come into play? Rangers need to resign these young talented kids they got and do well at the draft. If we don’t get Dahlin from the lottery we have 3 first round picks in order to do so. That is what we should be going after. Forget about JT and Karlsson! As for Kovy not worth 6M for 2 years, if he wants to be a Ranger its 5M or nothing! His addition would help the other young players especially the young Russian players! I think a line of Kovy Vlad and Buch.

  • I’m with Joe on this. We were asked to buy into this total rebuild philosophy, and some did. Not to worry, it’s going to take time, several seasons perhaps, to accomplish this. Now no biggie sign Tavaras and Kovalchuk, hang on to Vesey and Hayes, dump Mika and Zucc and rebuild over. This is why we got rid of the talent that we did ? Some veteran some younger but proven NHL players. I said it before, watch this management team screw this up. Look at how tight the races were right up to the final game on the final night. This team as it was in February, was not that far out . It needed a tweek, not a fire sale. Now these conversations are actually taking place. The wrong group of players were placated. So leading NHL coach, gone, on ice talent gone . Does anybody have Espositos number, this team needs his coaching and GM magic! OK LMHI

    • This is one of those “I have to write a story” articles. Ignore it. JT and the NYR is a bad fit. They can’t trade guys like Staal and the others deals are opposite of the strategy. They didn’t cut bait this year to turn around and get really old, really fast. This is a multi year plan.

  • Id love to see JT in Broadway Blue but signing Kovi I think would be a mistake for only one reason..hes fragile and with no real tough guys on the team theres no protection for him!! Id put Spooner and Vlad on wing and have Zib center 2nd line..Id also trade Hayes for a right handed shooting Dman!! Vesey deserves no more than 2-2.5mill over 2yrs. Brady should get a 3.75 to 4.25 over 5yrs!! Spooner and Vlad id give 3-3.5/2yrs and Either buyout Staal or throw some feelers out there now since his NTC goes to a LTC if nothing than buy the bum out!! If Washington dont sign Carlson hed be my first Dman id go after!!

  • I heard Tavaras said he was gonna sign with the Rangers but isn’t gonna do it anymore cause AV is gone. He said he’s always wanted to play for AV and says he’s the best coach in hockey. Tavaras also said he changed his mind cause he’s not into fans crying about and complaining about AV. He said once he heard Talbots getting Kovalchuk he wanted no part of t and thinks it would be crazy if the Rangers got him. That’s some pretty hairy news I heard there

    • It all makes sense Joe, there are those of us here who know what was lost when AV was axed . The same writers know what an absolute bombastic mistake Kovalchuk would be. Kudos to Tavaras. OK. LMHI

  • Forward SKA Ilya Kovalchuk commented on the information that he had agreed on a contract with the Rangers.

    – I got a lot of friends called. Ask, congratulate. I answer: that’s how the press in Russia works great, that I have already signed the contract, and the number of years, and the team found … In fact, I have not had any talks with anyone else.

  • Why resign all the RFAs? Namestnikov was with the Rangers and does not deserve a new contract. He can be traded for a 4th round pick. It would be great to trade Staal or Brandon Smith if he is wallowing in Hartford to open up cap space but Staal has a full no trade clause and Smith has a modified one.

    • Anthony Rimoli

      TOTALLY AGREE with you Barry!!! Namestnikov didn’t show much after the 3rd-4th game he played with the Rangers. As I call him — ‘THE INVISIBLE MAN” — because I barely noticed him on the ice for maybe the last 15 games of the season. So not sure if the Rangers should resign him at all. BRING BACK JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh — our Captain!!! They TORE THIS TEAM APART — when it DIDN’T NEED TO BE TOTALLY TORN APART. Just needed to add a few key pieces and maybe some of our young skilled draft picks and players at Hartford can make the FULL-TIME transition to the NHL like Chytil, Andersson, Lettieri and the young D-Men like D’Angelo, Gilmour, Pionk, and possibly someone else can continue to develop at the NHL level with the Rangers next season and beyond.

      And possibly sign a couple of veteran FA’s like possibly bringing back Rick Nash who now that his contract is expiring, they can offer him a MORE REASONABLE contract deal of maybe 2-years and $8M — instead of paying him $8M for 1 season. He is still a good player and for $4M a year, he would be more worth it to possibly resigning — if Boston doesn’t want to keep him. He’s 34 in June, so he will not be getting any long-term offers for Big money, so if he doesn’t stay in Boston, make him an offer as he still can create scoring chances, score 20-25 goals and help kill penalties and also HELP PROVIDE VETERAN LEADERSHIP which is CRITICAL with this many under 25 year old players that will probably be on the roster next season. Plus he has played here before and is well known to the fans and the Management — at least the GM and the Pseudo-GM — Cigar smoker Sather. And maybe make an offer to resign Grabner as well as he had 2 EXCELLENT seasons here and he’s only turning 31 at the beginning of next season and can still skate like the wind. And he was only paid $1.8M this season, so they can probably resign him for $2- $2.5M or so for 2 years which is a very reasonable contract for a player who scored 27 and 25 goals for the Rangers over his 2 seasons, considering that he only played 59 games for the Rangers this year.

  • Also, It is a generational player and 27, you have to at least give him an offer. If you think you are one sniper away IK makes sense, but I don’t want him at 6k per.

  • Why do the rfas need to be signed? If Tavares and Kovalchuk are signed there are only so many top 9 spots (obviously 9). With spooner, namestikov and hayes all being centers and with taveres and zibanjad at 1 and 2 as well as chytil anderssen nieves and howden waiting in the wings, Gorton would absolutely not sign all 3 let alone even two of them. I believe if the Rangers pull off the impossible and get both free agents they will atempt to trade the rights of namestikov and hayes. Spooner hs shown he can be very productive in a top 6 role and this allows chytil and anderssen to have roles in the top 9

  • Why does everyone think it’s so necessary to sign another Russian player to help Buch? He will be fine without Kovalchuk believe me

  • The team has no difference, It would be foolish. Build from the blue line out.

  • I said it when this nonsensical talk began. Krieder understands and speaks fluent Russian. We don’t need a washed up translator, with an attitude problem. Kovi lovers OK LMHI

  • He’s not signing with the Rangers. He hates playing in Brooklyn why would he enjoy Manhattan? Also, the Rangers just signalled a major rebuild. Why ship out a guy like Grabner that gives you 30 goals a year for a million bucks and then get a franchise cornerstone like Tavares? Not to mention Tavares is done with rebuilding. He’s been doing it on Long Island for a decade now it’s getting old. I’m an Islander fan but I’m being objective here. You don’t signal a rebuild and then go out and spend $100 million.

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