Derek Stepan—as general manager Glen Sather would put it— "wised up" Thursday afternoon by finally coming to terms on a contract extension with the New York Rangers according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
The Rangers' No. 1 pivot received fair compensation, but his signing puts the Rangers over the salary cap. The franchise will need to get creative to become salary cap compliant, and there are a number of players that will need to be waived or demoted.
Courtesy of Cap Geek, here is the situation in which the Rangers currently find themselves.
There are a number of things the Blueshirts can do, but here is what they should do to get out of the red zone.
1. Assign Taylor Pyatt to Hartford Wolf Pack if he clears waivers.
Veteran forward Taylor Pyatt makes $1.55 million a year, and he no longer fills a role on the current roster. Although he played under Alain Vigneault with the Canucks, it makes more sense to demote Pyatt than to keep him on the roster.
Rookie winger Marek Hrivik has had an amazing camp, and he has a great chance to make the roster instead of Pyatt. Hrivik also makes a paltry $685,000, which is a bargain rate for a bottom-six player.
Demoting Pyatt to the minors would reduce his cap hit to only $625,000, which would save the Rangers some sorely needed cap space.
There is a good chance that another team would be willing to pick up a veteran two-way forward like Pyatt and, in that instance, his full salary would be purged from the Rangers' payroll.
2. Assign Darroll Powe to Hartford Wolf Pack if he clears waivers.
Like Pyatt, Powe no longer has a place on the roster. He is a bottom-six center, but the Rangers have five players on the roster who can play center. Powe's demotion would have him cost only $142,000, and that would help because the Rangers need all the cap space that they can get. He is a penalty-kill specialist, but the Blueshirts have a number of players who can do that as well.
3. Assign Arron Asham to Hartford Wolf Pack if he clears waivers.
The New York Rangers will need to have an enforcer on their roster, but it won't be Asham. Derek Dorsett was acquired at last year's trade deadline, and he is a 26-year-old enforcer that is also a decent bottom-six forward.
The Rangers also have Brandon Mashinter, a 25-year-old physical forward that has had a very impressive training camp. Mashinter only makes $605,000 a year, and he could play on the third or fourth line. Asham does bring toughness to the lineup, but having two players instead of one makes more sense for the Blueshirts.
If the Rangers assigned these three players to the AHL, here is what their roster would look like:
Rick Nash ($7.800m) / Derek Stepan ($3.075m) / Chris Kreider ($1.325m)
Benoit Pouliot ($1.300m) / Derick Brassard ($3.200m) / Mats Zuccarello ($1.150m)
Marek Hrivik ($0.685m) / Brad Richards ($6.667m) / Derek Dorsett ($1.633m)
Brian Boyle ($1.700m) / Dominic Moore ($1.000m) / Brandon Mashinter ($0.605m)
Ryan Callahan ($4.275m) / Carl Hagelin ($2.250m)
Ryan McDonagh ($4.700m) / Marc Staal ($3.975m)
Dan Girardi ($3.325m) / Michael Del Zotto ($2.550m)
Anton Stralman ($1.700m) / John Moore ($0.965m)
Justin Falk ($0.965m)
Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m)
Martin Biron ($1.300m)
Buried: Taylor Pyatt ($0.625m)
Buried: Darroll Powe ($0.142m)
Buried: Arron Asham ($0.075m)
Capgeek.com totals (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(These totals are compiled with the bonus cushion)
Salary Cap: $64,300,000; Cap Payroll: $63,871,667; Bonuses: $782,500
Cap Space (23-man roster): $1,210,833
You may notice that this chart still includes Carl Hagelin's $2.25 million cap hit and Ryan Callahan's $4.275 million cap charge. The reason they are included is because Hagelin and Callahan will eventually be on the main roster, and the Rangers need to budget space for these players.
If Callahan and Hagelin remain out until November as planned, the Rangers can place them on LTIR, and they will gain cap space in which they can round out the roster with two replacements.
Once they are healthy they will join the main roster, and the Rangers will go back to having a projected cap space of $1,210,833.
Overall, the Rangers have some work to do. They have all their main players under contract for this season, and now Alain Vigneault will have to make decisions on fringe players in the bottom six.
The Rangers can become cap compliant by demoting veterans and keeping rookies, and it will be intriguing to see what the Rangers' opening-night roster will look like next week.