Well, the Small Market Sabres did no favors for the Metropolis Rangers by signing Dylan Cozens to a seven-year extension worth an AAV of $7.1 million per midway through the 21-year-old center’s third season.
Cozens, the seventh overall selection of the 2019 draft, has scored 17 goals while having a breakout season for a Sabres organization that seems to be coalescing after 11 straight seasons out of the playoffs.
Filip Chytil has scored 18 goals while having a breakout season for the Rangers, having recorded six in the four games that the Kid Line had been reunited entering Wednesday’s match at the Garden against the soap-operatic Canucks.
The 23-year-center is also a pending free agent with arbitration rights. Guess whose contract now becomes part of the presentation for No. 72 as he negotiates with president-general manager Chris Drury?
Why, yes, that would be Cozens, who has a career 94 points (34-60) in 169 games as opposed to Chytil’s 124 points (60-64) in 295 games. The Buffalo center clocks in with .20 goals-per-game and .64 points-per-game as contrasted with the Blueshirt pivot’s .20 GPG and .42 PPG.
And up until a week or so ago, it appeared as if signing K’Andre Miller to a second contract this summer would represent Drury’s heaviest lifting while confronting a 2022-23 cap scenario that is impossible.
Now, the Rangers are directly under this double-edged sword that the NHL enjoys dangling over teams’ heads when draft picks make good and thus are in line to rake it in on second or third contracts. Teams are penalized in the standings when draft picks bust and teams are penalized by the cap when draft picks boom.
The trade deadline is three weeks and one day away, but the parameters with which Drury works in the interim will be informed by next year’s cap. Here is the stark reality:
The Rangers have seven forwards (Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Kaapo Kakko, Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey), five defensemen (Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Braden Schneider and Ben Harpur) and one goaltender (Igor Shesterkin) under contract next season for a cap hit of approximately $66.739 million.
Under next season’s projected $83.5 million cap, that will leave Drury with approximately $16.761 million to add an additional six forwards, two defensemen and a backup goaltender. That includes signing pending restricted free agents Chytil, Miller and Alexis Lafreniere. Depending on the state of negotiations, these three youngsters may eat close to all of it.
Now you tell me how on earth Drury is going to add a player with term on his contract leading into this deadline. The Rangers may have to sacrifice Goodrow or — heaven forbid — Lindgren to be cap compliant next season just as they are.
But they are supposed to have interest in trading for Timo Meier and his $10 million qualifying offer and where are the laughing-crying emojis when you need them?
Similarly, yes, Nino Niederreiter would be a terrific fit for this team heading into the playoffs, but the checking wing has one year at $4 million left on his contract. Jordan Greenway would be an interesting add, but the Minnesota winger has two years at $3 million per remaining on his deal.
I have advocated attempting to pry Tanner Jeannot out of Nashville even though he is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights who is going to merit a substantial bump over current $800,000 entry-level cap hit. That would be tricky enough, but I would project the hard-edged 25-year-old winger to become part of the core for the next five years. So for me, the cap headache would be worth it.
Chytil is the only one of the three marquee pending restricted free agents to hold arbitration rights. He is also only two years away from unrestricted free agency, meaning that the Rangers will not be able to save a little by bridging the Czech. Unless, that is, the idea is to usher Chytil onto the open market. If not, the Blueshirts are going to have to buy out the first three or four years of Chytil’s free agency if it becomes a five- or six-year deal.
Before Cozens, I had been checking comparables for Chytil out of his 2017 draft class, where the 21st-overall selection ranks third in games played (295), seventh in goals (60) and 10th in points (124).
Ottawa’s 121st-overall Drake Batherson (40-57-97 in 145 games) is on a six-year deal worth $4.975 million per that I presume the Rangers would jump at. The Senators’ Josh Norris (54-39-93 in 133 games), 19th overall, is on an eight-year second contract worth $7.95 million per. Montreal’s Nick Suzuki (65-118-183 in 260 games), 13th overall, is on an eight-year second contract for $7.85 million per.
By the way, Chytil leads the Rangers with 13 goals at five-on-five and is ninth in the NHL in five-on-five goals-per-60:00 at 1.5 per among players with at least 500 minutes.
If you think the Rangers are going to get Chytil on the cheap, I would advise you to think again. I would also advise Drury to procure an abacus or two. He’s going to need them.