Much like the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers are up against the cap, but in a slightly better position overall. The Rangers have $11.7 million in cap space, but need to sign K’Andre Miller, Alexis Lafreniere, Tyler Motte, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Niko Mikkola, and Jaroslav Halak or another backup goaltender for Igor Shesterkin. It is not entirely out of the question that the Rangers sign all of these players, but that would hinge on the contractual demands of Miller, as well as Tarasenko. Kane will be out for several months following hip surgery, and Lafreniere remains unproven. If the Rangers commit a large amount of money to any of these players, they’ll be back to square one next summer when Kaapo Kakko, Braden Schneider, and Ryan Lindgren will be in need of new contracts as well.
While Lafreniere might come at a relatively cheap cost to teams seeking to take a flier on him, the same cannot be said for Miller, who can and likely will demand to be paid a figure close to that of a number one defender. Of course, as is the purpose of this article, a “bargain” is relative to what you’re getting and what you pay for it. The Flyers do not have a true number one defender on their roster at this moment in time. I recently said that Cam York could very well be that for the Flyers, but he (York) also talked extensively about his experience playing off-handed at exit interviews. That could be mighty handy for a situation like this. Starting to connect the dots?
For the Philadelphia Flyers, the fastest way to start to build a team is to make at least one area of the team a strength and build from there. For example, the New Jersey Devils added Nico Hischier, then they added Jack Hughes. Now they have two of the best centers in the NHL. They had Damon Severson, and then they added Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, Ryan Graves, and John Marino. Then they had the biggest season-to-season turnaround in NHL history. This is not to say that drastic turnarounds are the new norm, and that every bad team has to become the 2022-23 New Jersey Devils at some point, because that just isn’t realistic. But great GMs continue to add, even when it isn’t particularly necessary.
This isn’t just about K’Andre Miller, either. The Flyers have very few players with upside like Alexis Lafreniere has. Lafreniere barely played in New York, and barely got power-play time, but he has a dominant skill set that can truly take form in the right environment. Lafreniere’s salary demands are unclear, but anything north of $2 million probably spells trouble for the Rangers. Even with his lack of production and factoring in age, $2 million is completely reasonable. Provided the Flyers don’t part ways with their seventh overall pick in any of these hypotheticals, Lafreniere could find himself playing on the Flyers’ top line regularly rather than endlessly bouncing around the Rangers’ top-nine.
One or both of these players will cost a pretty penny to bring down to Philadelphia, but risks are a necessary part of this game. It’s highly unlikely the Flyers strike a deal for Miller, or any of the previously mentioned players, but these are all avenues worth exploring. And if you’re a team with very limited cap space, exploiting.