Rumor Roundup: Is Rangers' Kreider set to become cap casualty?

The New York Rangers have to make a cap-related move or two before the campaign begins, as do the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres' blueline logjam sees Rasmus Ristolainen land in the rumor mill.
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The New York Rangers last week avoided salary arbitration with Jacob Trouba, re-signing the 25-year-old defenseman to a seven-year, $56-million contract. However, CapFriendly indicates Trouba's deal pushed the Blueshirts above the $81.5-million cap by over $900,000.

As Ryan Kennedy observed, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has some work to do. Not only must his club be cap compliant when the season opens in October, Gorton still has to sign restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo. Kennedy suggested Gorton could move out a veteran blueliner such as Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal or Brendan Smith but acknowledged their various forms of no-trade protection could complicate things. The New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis proposed a buyout of Shattenkirk ($6.65-million annual average value through 2020-21) or Smith (two years, $4.35-million AAV). 

Cyrgalis also believes a trade of winger Chris Kreider ($4.625 million for 2019-20) or center Vladislav Namestnikov ($4 million) could be an option. NBC Sports' Adam Gretz feels the Rangers should move the 28-year-old Kreider as soon as possible while his trade value is high. He's slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and could prove too expensive to retain, especially if he seeks a long-term deal. Kreider also has an 11-team no-trade clause but would require less effort to move than Shattenkirk, Staal or Smith.

While the Rangers have more than $62 million currently invested in 14 players for 2020-21, Gorton could prefer leaving sufficient space next summer to perhaps make another significant free-agent addition similar to his recent signing of winger Artemi Panarin.

COULD THE SABRES SHOP RISTOLAINEN?

As this summer progresses, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains the subject of frequent trade conjecture. The off-season moves by Sabres GM Jason Botterill suggests he's laying the foundation to ship out the 24-year-old Finn.

Since February, Botterill acquired three right-shot defensemen in Brandon Montour, Colin Miller and Henri Jokijharju. Despite the recent additions of wingers Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey, Botterill could still be in the market for a scoring forward. That has some observers believing trading Ristolainen would address that need.

NBC Sports' James O'Brien recently proposed Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers or Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as possible trade targets. Appearing last Wednesday on Buffalo's WGR 550, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press suggested Ristolainen would be a good replacement on the Jets blueline for departed rearguard Jacob Trouba. Hamilton doesn't think Ehlers is a good fit with the Sabres as they're deep enough on the left side. He instead proposed a package from the Jets consisting of promising Jack Roslovic and veteran Mathieu Perreault.

Botterill isn't in any hurry to move Ristolainen, who's signed through 2021-22 with a reasonable $5.4-million cap hit. If he is in the market for a scorer, Botterill will likely want someone more established than Roslovic. Nugent-Hopkins would fit the bill and Ristolainen would certainly bolster Edmonton's blueline. However, it's doubtful Oilers GM Ken Holland will deplete his already-thin secondary scoring for a top-four defenseman.

FLAMES COULD BE SHEDDING SALARY

The Calgary Flames recent swap of James Neal to the Edmonton Oilers for Milan Lucic didn't provide them much cap savings. The Oilers retained just $750,000 of the 31-year-old winger's $6-million AAV through 2022-23.

With over $9.97 million in cap space, the Flames have limited room to re-sign restricted free agents Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and David Rittich. Tkachuk's next contract will eat up most of the available dollars. Bennett and Rittich have salary arbitration hearings slated for July 27 and 29, respectively.

If Flames GM Brad Treliving re-signs all three, he'll have to make a cost-cutting move or two. NBC Sports' James O'Brien explored some potential options. One could be a buyout of defenseman Michael Stone ($3.5 million). Another is trading Bennett's rights, though Treliving has proven reluctant to move the versatile young forward. O’Brien also suggested T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million AAV), Michael Frolik ($4.3 million) or Travis Hamonic ($3.85 million) as possibilities. All have surfaced in the rumor mill this year.

Frolik was part of a failed deal to acquire Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker at February's trade deadline. Brodie was reportedly part of an attempt to acquire center Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs, though Kadri declined to waive his no-trade clause to go to Calgary.

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