Since the Trade Deadline there have been rumors that the NHL might bring back compliance buyouts for the 2020-2021 season. The reason is because the salary cap might not increase next season due to the coronavirus. Prior to the suspension of all games it had been reported that the salary cap was expected to rise to somewhere between $84 million and $88.2 million according to Dan Rosen. If you're not familiar with compliance buyouts, they're basically regular buyouts but with no penalty against the cap. For example, the Rangers used both of their compliance buyouts following the lockout in 2012-13, first on Wade Redden (thankfully) via the accelerated compliance buyout, and then on Brad Richards in the summer of 2014. In the case of Richards, the Rangers completely voided his $6.6M cap hit and this was beneficial because it allowed them to use that money to sign Kevin Hayes out of college. If the league does decide to employ compliance buyouts again it could be of great use to the Rangers. According to CapFriendly, the Rangers are protected to have $16 million in cap space to resign Ryan Strome, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo, and Alexandar Georgiev. All of these players will most likely be looking for raises, especially DeAngelo, so the team might not have enough space to keep them all. There are a few players that could be considered candidates for a buyout, but this is just opinion.
Jacob Trouba, Brendan Smith, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist are all names that come to mind when I think about the biggest cap hits on the team. Trouba is the only one with term on his contract, everyone else has one year left. The only players I wouldn't have a problem with being bought out are Smith and Staal. But Trouba is a fairly new acquisition and he's younger than the other two defensemen. We already discussed what would happen if the Rangers bought out Lundqvist and why they shouldn't in last week's article. But buying out a player like Smith carries low risk, even though he's been a serviceable player for the past four seasons, with the exception of 2017-18 and some parts of 2018-19. I'm not saying they should buy him out but if the Rangers want to keep all of their free agents and also want to go after a top name on the market, like Taylor Hall, then they'd have to buyout someone.
Although he hasn't nearly had the season he had in 2017-18 where he won the Hart Memorial Trophy, Hall was the top player on the market prior to the deadline. He was ultimately dealt to the Arizona Coyotes for what seemed like a laughable return for the Devils at first but may turn out to be great because it looks like the 'Yotes will miss the playoffs and have to give up a top ten pick in the draft, which means the Devils will have two top 10 picks. The former first overall pick in 2010 had 16 goals, 36 assists, and 52 points in 65 games this year. When healthy, he is a very consistent player. Over the course of his 10 year career, he has had at least 50 points seven times and over 60 points three times. Even in seasons where he got hurt he still manages to put up points. In 2018-19, Hall had 37 points in only 33 games played. If he doesn't resign in Arizona he will definitely get a large contract elsewhere once free agency opens.
In order for Hall to join the Rangers, one of Staal, Smith, or Lundqvist would need to be bought out. Also, let's assume the Rangers are going to resign all of their players. A lot of this hinges on what our guys want. The easiest way to make this happen is to buyout Hank's contract. That would free up $8.5M in cap space giving them about $24.5M to resign all of their free agents and Taylor Hall. DeAngelo would need to be given no more than $5.75M, Strome would need $3.75M or less, Fast no more than $2.5M, Lemieux needs $1.25M, and Georgiev gets $2.25M. That uses up $15.5M in cap space giving us exactly $9M to sign Taylor Hall, which essentially replaces Lundqvist's contract.
Now I highly doubt this will actually happen but just imagine a first line of Panarin, Zibanejad, and Hall. Then a second line of Kreider, Chytil, and Kakko. And a third line that features Buchnevich and Vitali Kravtsov. Signing Hall would obviously throw everything the Rangers have set up with their younger guys like Kakko out the window; we've always viewed Kakko as the future first line winger and Kravtsov as the future second line winger. The lines wouldn't even need to be like that though, they could switch Kakko and Hall and it'd still be a fantastic lineup. We've been talking about the need for a second line winger for awhile now and this would be perfect. We haven't even talked about what this would do to the power play. And although this will probably not happen it's still fun to think about, just like we did last summer with Panarin and look what happened. At this point it's just a pipe dream but one can hope.