After the Rangers re-signed Mats Zuccarello yesterday to a one-year, $1.15 million deal, it left them with just $2.18 million of cap space to re-sign Derek Stepan.
While sending Arron Asham and Darroll Powe to Hartford would open up an additional $1.9 million of space, it will leave the Rangers with virtually no room to make another move and might keep young players who deserve to be on the roster down in Hartford.
Larry Brooks at the New York Post says that because Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will miss at least the first month of the season, the Rangers will have to carry cap charges of 14 or 15 forwards making it that much more difficult to get Stepan under the cap. The Rangers medical staff has told Brooks that Callahan and Hagelin will not be placed on LTIR which would have allowed the Rangers to go over the cap ceiling while they continued to recover from offseason shoulder surgeries.
Andrew Gross at the Bergen Record expects the Rangers to offer Stepan a two-year "bridge" deal which is their M.O. with RFA's without arbitration rights (see Del Zotto).
…if the Rangers want to re-sign Stepan, there's no way they can keep a 15th forward when Callahan and Hagelin are out. And if Asham and Powe are sent down, they'll likely only be able to have one of Pouliot ($1.3M), Miller ($1.244M) and Kristo ($1.3M) on the roster as their cap hits are too big. Rangers might have no choice but to have guys like Hrivik and Jean on their opening night roster.
…i also want to warn everyone, these Stepan negotiations will likely drag on till camp, so don't get crazy as August passes by without a deal being done. While it'll be a tight squeeze, Sather will find a way to get it done, even if it means making an unexpected trade.