Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba and forward Pavel Buchnevich, who are restricted free agents, filed for salary arbitration Friday, beating the league’s 5 p.m. deadline, according to the NHL Players Association.
The NHL will set a date for each player’s case to be heard by an arbitrator. The player and team can continue to negotiate a new contract while waiting for the case to be heard by the arbitrator and can settle on a contract at any point before then.
The arbitration filings don’t affect the players’ contract negotiations with the Rangers. Both are believed to be close to agreements on multiyear deals.
The filings, however, will open a second buyout window for the Rangers, allowing the club to buy out a player (or players) if they need to open space under the salary cap to sign the pair to new contracts.
The Rangers did not buy out anyone during the NHL’s first buyout window, which closed on June 30. Defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, who has two years remaining on a deal that pays him $6.65 million per year, and Brendan Smith, who has two years remaining at $4.35 million per year, are the two likeliest candidates to be bought out.
After signing free-agent forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million deal on Monday, the Rangers have about $8 million in salary-cap space, according to Cap Friendly.
Most, if not all, of that would figure to be required to sign Trouba, who played last season under a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Jets.
In order to create space under the $81.5 million salary cap to sign Buchnevich, the Rangers will have the option of the second buyout window.
Should the Rangers opt to buy out Shattenkirk or Smith, the player would be paid two-thirds of the remaining value of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. The team would spread the cost of the buyout over twice the number of years remaining on the contract, with the biggest savings being in the first year after the buyout.
If the Rangers bought out Shattenkirk, the savings would be $5.16 million in 2019-20, according to Cap Friendly. The cap savings on Smith would be $3.38 million, according to Cap Friendly. Should the Rangers buy out both players, they would create enough cap space, presumably, to sign all of their restricted free agents.
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, forward Brendan Lemieux and center Vinni Lettieri are the Rangers’ other RFAs.
Trouba, 25, was acquired by the Rangers in a June 17 trade. Buchnevich, 24, scored a career-best 21 goals in 2018-19, his third season with the Rangers.