The New York Rangers are in good financial condition, regardless of the changes imposed whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
Michael Del Zotto is the only current holdout. He decided to take his chances once the new CBA is in place rather than accept the Rangers' offer, which he felt was low.
The possibility still exists that Del Zotto will play the 2012-13 season for another club, but odds are that he and the Rangers will get a deal done.
If Del Zotto gets a new contract, it's highly unlikely he will be traded. Players on newly signed multi-year deals almost never get dealt so early in a contract.
So, what players could be dangled as trade bait once the NHL season starts?
Two factors typically lead to players getting traded:
1) An underachieving regular season with a playoff spot seeming out of reach.
2) Expiring contracts.
The Rangers are coming off of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and a first place finish in the regular season. They also have added one of the best forwards in the league and are brimming with young and confident talent. A disappointing regular season is possible, but most fans would consider it unthinkable for the Rangers to miss the playoffs next season, and as the L.A. Kings demonstrated, all a team needs is an invitation to the tournament.
The Rangers' expiring contracts after the 2012-13 season include some important players, but all of them are restricted free agents, so the club will at least have the opportunity to match any offers.
Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin will all be restricted free agents in the summer of 2013. Of those three, Hagelin is arguably the most dispensable, but what are the odds of Glen Sather offloading the fastest skater in the NHL (who's only 24) unless the return package is mouth-watering.
Ryan McDonagh is a budding star and the Rangers have been adamant that he will not be traded. It can also be assumed that the Rangers will match any offer for McDonagh, except possibly Ryan Suter-type money, but a contract that big will most likely be impossible under the new CBA.
Stepan is equally untouchable.
The other names that come off the books after next season are unproven or of minimal value to other teams. Jeff Halpern, Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer aren't exactly headline generating names, but each can and should fill a need for the 2012 Rangers. Halpern was brought in to win faceoffs, Eminger and Sauer will provide needed defensive depth.
But the main reason that the Rangers are unlikely to make any bold trades during the 2012-13 season is that this team has been carefully crafted to achieve glory, and the blueprint for the blueshirts will not be abandoned mid-season.
However, looking ahead, the Rangers have 12 players that will become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2014.
It remains unclear how the resolution of the lockout will affect contract lengths, player wages and the salary cap. What is clear is the Rangers are extremely happy with the personnel they have now, and everyone within and supporting the organization believes these players can win a Stanley Cup.
Now they just need to get on the ice and prove it.
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