New York Rangers must buyout Brendan Smith in second window

Brendan Smith, New York Rangers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Brendan Smith, New York Rangers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers will get a second shot to buy out a contract and gain some cap space. When the window opens, Brendan Smith has to go.

The NHL’s complicated arbitration and buyout rules are going to give the New York Rangers a second chance to clear some payroll. After signing Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba to huge contracts, the Blueshirts are up against the cap.

Built into the fine print of the collective bargaining agreement, is a clause which gives teams an additional contract buyout period. To paraphrase, if a team has players who filed for arbitration, which the Rangers do, there is a 72-hour window after all cases are concluded (contract agreement or arbitrator award) to buy out a contract.

Both Trouba and Pavel Buchnevich filed for arbitration. As we know Trouba signed a mega seven-year, $56M contract extension last week. Buchnevich hasn’t yet come to a satisfactory agreement with the team yet, his hearing date is July 29. At that point, the arbiter has 48 hours to render his decision. So at the latest, the New York Rangers have until August 3 to give themselves some much-needed cap relief.

Why Smith has to go

Much to the surprise of Rangers fans, the team opted not to buyout any contracts during the June window. Defensemen Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brendan Smith are still part of the organization. Between the trio of underperformers, they eat up $16.7M of the Blueshirts $81.5M cap space in 2019-20 or 20.5 percent. That’s unacceptable as it handcuffs the team from making any significant moves.

While Shattenkirk ($6.65M cap hit), Staal ($5.7M), and Smith ($4.35M) all have two years left on their contracts, Smith is the one New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton needs to send packing. Here’s why without making accounting seem too dry.

Whomever of the three goes, the Blueshirts are on the hook for four more years of money against the cap. Over the last two years, 2020-21 and 2021-22, the difference in cap hit between the three is within $295K, so that isn’t a consideration. It’s this season and next, where any cap savings will be felt.

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Buying out Shattenkirk saves NYR $5.167M this year, but only $567K in 2020-21 (total $5.834M). He would count $6.08M against the cap in year two. It doesn’t work, which makes the decision to get rid of a player between Staal and Smith.

Additionally, Gorton has a decent chance of trading Shattenkirk to Seattle at the expansion draft (with incentives of course). Staal doesn’t get paid as much as Shattenkirk, so the savings in the first two seasons are a little less, $2.8M, and $2M respectively for a total of $4.8M.

That leaves Smith. Buying him out brings a $3.379M savings this season, and $1.204 the next, saving the New York Rangers $4.583M total. First of all, Smith is by far the least productive of the three. Secondly, Staal is worth the difference of less the half-a-million-dollars to keep around over two seasons. Finally, Smith has the least trade value.

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