You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Rangers.
What do you think it would take for the Rangers to pry an unhappy Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres? — Bud
The cost would be prohibitive and would likely include Mika Zibanejad in two years when No. 93 is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
It does not seem possible that the Rangers could build a sustainable contender with three forwards accounting for at least $31.5 million in cap space, presuming that it would probably take at least $10 million per year to keep Zibanejad. Eichel, of course, is entering the third year of an eight-year deal worth $10 million per (with a no-move clause for the final four seasons) and Artemi Panarin is in at $11,642,857 through 2025-26. Add Chris Kreider’s $6.5 million per to the lot and that’s around $38 million for four forwards. In other words, presenting the New York Maple Leafs.
But if the Blueshirts were willing to take that leap, you’d have to presume Buffalo would want the No. 1 overall pick included in the return. Barring that, let’s say Kaapo Kakko, K’Andre Miller or Adam Fox, plus.
Would it be more advantageous to move down and draft (Quinton) Byfield second overall and fill the second line center role? I am not sure (on the Rangers’) feelings toward (Ryan) Strome’s future with the club. Also what’s up with a new third jersey?! — John Gagliano
Do you mean instead of sticking with the first-overall and grabbing Lafreniere? I don’t see it. I believe it’s pretty well established that when there is a prospect such as Lafreniere who has separated himself from the field, it is a mistake to draft for position rather than for talent. I don’t believe the Rangers see Strome as the long-term answer in the middle of the second line, but they’re not going to rush him out the door absent an established replacement.
The Rangers intended to unveil a third jersey for next season but we’re told that everything has been put on hold in light of the uncertainty surrounding 2020-21.
Any chance the Rangers pursue (Evgeni) Malkin? — Daniel Schmidt
I think the Rangers would be interested in Malkin, who has two years remaining on his contract at $9.5 million per season. But the Penguins’ recent trade in which they surrendered their No. 1 and a well-regarded prospect in order to acquire winger Kasperi Kapanen from Toronto indicates that Pittsburgh is going all in on attempting to win one more Cup. Trading Malkin would be contrary to that aim.
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Toronto has made it clear that they would consider trading their No. 15 pick this year. There seem to be a number of highly rated centers in this year’s draft. Should/could the Rangers make an offer of a young player (Libor Hajek, Vitali Kravtsov, etc…) and the No. 20-something pick to move up and grab one of those centers? — Bob
Something to consider, for sure, but I doubt the Leafs would be overly enthusiastic about Hajek or Kravtsov. I think, though, that the Rangers are going to attempt to bundle that 20-something pick in order to acquire a youngish roster player.
How do you feel about a situation in which Henrik Lundqvist retires, plays the season in Frolunda, and then returns as a backup for a few Cup runs? — Mike S
If the Rangers want Lundqvist to back-up a playoff run, they’d have him as backup for the season. Additionally, a “retirement” wiping the $8.5 million cap hit off the books followed by a late-season return would initiate an immediate circumvention charge from the NHL. I think Lundqvist has played his last game as a Ranger.
Hey Larry. Wondering if you had any thoughts about how the Rangers might approach the Canes pick in the upcoming draft. Likely to move it for immediate help, possible interest in trading up for the right prospect, trade down to gain a second? — Michael T Rodriguez
I think the Rangers would rather use that pick as part of a package to acquire an NHL player on either an entry-level deal or early in his second contract who would claim a spot in the lineup next season. But I sure wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the team attempting to move up in the draft if unable to pull off that type of trade.