June 6, 2023

Regardless of the identity of the Rangers’ next head coach, the cap issues facing GM Chris Drury remain disheartening.

The math didn’t change when Gerard Gallant and the organization cut ties after the Devils’ seven-game first-round defeat in what, in retrospect, turned out to be one of the least surprising results of the tournament.

So working on The Post’s 14-man shadow roster, which includes eight forwards (Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow), five defenders (Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba , Braden Schneider, Ben Harpur) and one goaltender (Igor Shesterkin), the Blueshirts will have just under $11.763 million to fill eight roster spots if the cap does indeed rise just $1 million to $83.5 million, as expected.

The cap will tentatively be raised to between $87.5 million and $88 million for 2024-25 and to about $92 million in 2025-26, but that doesn’t make this summer any less challenging or difficult for Drury, who has both K’ Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere emerge as restricted free agents with no arbitration rights.

The Rangers, of course, would be vulnerable to offer sheets on one of the former first-rounders – Miller 22nd overall in 2018 and Lafreniere first overall two years later.

K'Andre Miller skates in the Rangers' playoff series against the Devils.
K’Andre Miller starts with limited free choice after scoring 43 points in what wasn’t much of a breakaway season.
NHLI via Getty Images

But offer sheets are scarce. Unparalleled and unmatchable offer sheets are rarer still.

Of course, the vast majority of restricted free agents coming out of entry-level contracts don’t ask for quote sheets either. Most offer sheets come from a place of personal enmity between property or revenge.

Make a bridging deal for Miller

Management would probably try to sign Miller and Lafreniere to bridge deals, say two or three years in the $3 million to $4 million range for the defender and the same length in the $2.5 million to $3 million range for the attacker.

If the players leave soon, they probably want two years.

But there is certainly a chance that the 23-year-old Miller – who failed a breakaway season due to inconsistencies in his own side, but was dazzled by pieces with his skill at both ends of the ice – could attract a long-term supply to the market that the Rangers would struggle to match.

A bid with an AAV (annual average value) between $4,290,125 and $6,435,186 would bring back the compensation of a first and third rounder in 2024. third round in 2024.

Noah Dobson celebrates for the islanders.
Noah Dobson, a Miller design classmate with a similar production, received a second contract from the Islanders worth $12 million over three years.
Paul J. Bereswill for the NY Post

It’s hard to imagine how the Rangers could match any hypothetical offer.

It’s also hard to imagine the Rangers without No. 79 and his 21:57 ice time per game (second on the team to Fox) on the 1A/1B matchup pair with Jacob Trouba.

Miller is coming off a 43-point (9-34) season in which he got little power play time.

There are, of course, underlying and advanced numbers that give a more complete story, but the St. Paul native has racked up 75 career points (21-54) in 214 games.

A year ago, the Islanders’ Noah Dobson, the 12th overall selection in Miller’s 2018 draft year, entered limited free duty with 72 points (17-55) in 160 games from a 13-38-51 production in 2021-22. Dobson signed a three-year deal for an AAV of $4 million per.

Would that be enough to sign Miller? What do you think?

(I think Charlie McAvoy’s second contract with the Bruins worth $4.9 million per three years of 14-46-60 production in 117 games will spark the conversation.)

Next steps for Lafreniere

The Rangers' Alexis Lafreniere is checked by the Devils' Kevin Bahl during the first round of the teams' playoff series.
After another inconsistent campaign, Alexis Lafreniere would likely get another shot in the top-six ice age from the Rangers’ next head coach.
Getty Images

Lafreniere, who has either been mishandled by both Gallant and predecessor David Quinn or simply hasn’t shown enough to earn consistent top-six Ice Age (or a combination of the two), isn’t as much of a hot item as Miller.

It would be a leap of faith to present an offer form so lucrative that No. 13 could take the plunge from the organization.

It is imperative that the Rangers get more production from Lafreniere (as well as from Kakko). It would be wonderful if the next coach didn’t start with Lafreniere in the top six, both left and right. Lafreniere’s third coach should provide him with a proving ground.

Kirby Dach, chosen third by Chicago in 2019 after Jack Hughes and Kakko, was traded to Montreal last summer after 59 points (19-40) in 152 games, or .39 per.

Lafreniere finished his third year with 91 points (47-44) in 216 games, or .42 PPG.

Kirby Dach manages the puck for the Montreal Canadiens.
Selected No. 3 overall in 2019, Kirby Dach provides a reasonable benchmark for Lafreniere with the annual average value of his contract at $3.36 million.
NHLI via Getty Images

Dach signed a four-year, $3,362,500 AAV deal with the Canadiens after the trade. That could be an AAV susceptible to Lafreniere, but probably for a two- or three-year term.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the Rangers get away with matching the sum of the deals for Dobson and Dach for Miller and Lafreniere. I’d say they should be so lucky,

That would add $7,362,500 to the ledger. That would leave $4,400,417 to fill six spots…or just under $8,043 million to fill seven spots if Goodrow trades.

Of course, the next coach will need more Goodrow-type players for ultimate success, not less. But that’s for another time.