NY Rangers must manage around salary cap to finalize roster — NY Daily News

NY Rangers must manage around salary cap to finalize roster - NY Daily News

NY Rangers must manage around salary cap to finalize roster

The numbers that mattered after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Devils were the ones Alain Vigneault, GM Glen Sather and assistant GM Jeff Gorton planned to crunch on Sunday to determine how a salary-cap-strapped organization can assemble its roster while abiding by the NHL’s $69 million ceiling.

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Elsa/Getty Images Nineteen-year-old Anthony Duclair has emerged as a star in training camp, but will he make the roster?

The final numbers on the Rangers’ 3-0 loss to the Devils at the Rock on Saturday night were meaningless as their preseason fizzled to a finish.

“You know what it was like? It was the last game of exhibition. That’s what it was like,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said with a smirk.

The numbers that mattered were the ones Vigneault, GM Glen Sather and assistant GM Jeff Gorton planned to crunch on Sunday to determine how a salary-cap-strapped organization can assemble its roster while abiding by the NHL’s $69 million ceiling.

Vigneault said all of the decisions on a roster he will announce Monday hinge on whether injured center Derek Stepan (broken left leg) goes on the league’s long-term injury list to free up some cash.

If the Rangers let it be, Stepan’s original 4-to-6-week timeline for recovery could have him back in the lineup as early as their seventh regular season game, Oct. 25 in Montreal, but financially they will be limited to keeping 12 healthy forwards.

However, if they use the long-term injury exception, they will gain flexibility in their finances to keep 14 forwards. It simply would cost Stepan sitting out 10 games, rather than seven.

Vigneault clearly hasn’t identified a comfortable solution at center, so he is leaning towards putting Stepan on long-term injury to gain more personnel options in the short term.

“We’ve got issues in the middle right now,” the coach said Saturday night. “I’m leaning right now towards putting Step on long-term and keeping 14 guys, but I’ve got to talk to Jeff and Glen and the rest of the coaches to sort this out.”

An evaluation of Stepan’s most recent X-ray will also factor into the coach’s call.

NY Rangers must manage around salary cap to finalize roster - NY Daily News

At center, Vigneault seems to be considering a foursome of Derick Brassard, Martin St. Louis, J.T. Miller and Dominic Moore for Thursday’s season opener at the Blues, but the coach prefers St. Louis at his natural position on the right wing.

With 14 forwards, Vigneault could keep two extra centers in Kevin Hayes and Chris Mueller, or one of the two if he retains winger Anthony Duclair, 19, the young star of training camp.

There was thought to be a dilemma with naming Duclair to the roster. Doing so would start Duclair’s contract, giving the Rangers 51 total contracts in their organization, or one over the NHL limit of 50. The team would have to trade a player – or waive a player and have him claimed – in order to get back to 50.

But Vigneault said that would not stop him, Sather and Gorton from keeping the kid if they want him in a blue shirt.

“I don’t think that comes into the equation,” Vigneault said. “I think if we want him to stay, we’re gonna find a way to make it happen.”

Mike Kostka’s shot-blocking on Friday and Saturday night seems to have made him the favorite over Matt Hunwick to win the seventh defenseman’s spot, but nothing will be known until Monday, when this season’s Rangers take form for the first time, for real.

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