Monday July 29th was the scheduled date for Pavel Buchnevich and the Rangers to meet in front of an arbiter and make their respective cases for the value of a 2019-20 contract. As it turns out, the arbiter will no longer be needed, as the parties agreed late yesterday to a two year, $6.5M contract.
The signing means that the team will once again avoid any contentious hearings, but it also triggers a 48 hour window - beginning Monday - that will give the Rangers one final opportunity to buy out one or more contracts.
Currently $4,156,466 over the $81.5M cap number per CapFirendly.com, the team will get a small amount of relief by sending Brendan Smith and Matt Beleskey to the minors. Each player will save the team $1.075M, to reduce the number to $2,006,466 of overages. There's also a good chance that Greg McKegg, Cristoval Nieves and quite possibly Lias Andersson go to the minors, and perhaps Vitali Kravtsov will indeed win a starting spot resulting in a net change of $1,419,166. That would put the team just $587,000 over the cap.
Then there's the outstanding negotiations with Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Neither has much leverage, but $1M for Lemieux and $1.75M for DeAngelo aren't out of the realm of possibility, which means the team is back up to around $3.4M over again.
Buying out just Brendan Smith wouldn't be enough. The team would get an additional $2.3M this year - over just reassigning him to the minors - but would also see a substantial $3.145M dead space added next season, followed by two more years at a more manageable $1.145M.
By contrast buying Kevin Shattenkirk's final two years would give them a sizeable $5.166M this season, enough to get them across the line, but again would further penalize them with just over $6M of dead space next year, followed by $1.483M in each of the remainig two years.
Alternatively a tradfe would make more sense. Moving Chris Kreider - who has an 11 team no trade list - would free up $4.625M this year, without burdening the team with dead space over the next four seasons. As it stands, Kreider is in the last year of his contract and is probably looking at a 6-7 year deal at around $7-8M which may have questionable value to the team.
In the short term, the team would suddenly look a lot thinner without Kreider in the line-up this year, but paying those sorts of numbers with the bulk of the time after he turns 30 is a risk that the Rangers nay not be willing to take.
Of course the salary situation, and Kreiders impending UFA status are going to work against his value in a trade, and likely this would be a lower than expended return for a regular 25+ goal scorer who still potentially has some upside.
Moving utility forward Vladimir Namestnikov would also likely be a lower risk option for the team, but finding a team who wants to take on $4M for even just the one year remaining might still be tough. It could well cost the team a pick or a prospect to help make the move more appealing.
Outside of that, then trading one of Shattenkirk - who has a 10 team no-trade list - would be ideal, but despite the team's efforts there has been little interest to date. That doesn't mean it's impossible, but with two years left and the limited no trace clause in his contract, does make the likelihood relatively low.
Finally Marc Staal would be an unlikely option too. With a full No Movement Clause, the player would have to agree to any proposed trade, but the two years remaining on his contract at $5.7M would free up enough space. While tradining Staal would be less impactful in the short term than moving Kreider, it's important to remember that he plays a good number of minutes and is expected to provide support to what is likely to be a relatively young defensive corps.
Whatever Gorton chooses to do, we should have much more clarity by Wednesday. If indeed a buy-out is not chosen, then surely a trade will soon follow, and with it more clarity over the contract numbers for DeAngelo and Lemieux.