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Rangers quiet in free-agent market, but cap space is available

Vladislav Namestnikov of the Rangers skates in the

Vladislav Namestnikov of the Rangers skates in the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden on Mar. 6. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

After a first day of seismic activity, things have been relatively quiet on the NHL free- agency landscape. And the Rangers, who have made it clear that they’re serious about this rebuilding thing, have been among the quietest of teams.

To recap, when free agency opened on July 1, John Tavares left the Islanders to join his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs and a couple of other big names signed some big deals around the league. All the Rangers did on that first day was re-sign their own restricted free agent, Vladislav Namestnikov, to a two-year, $8-million contract and sign free-agent defenseman Frederik Claesson of Ottawa to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s been radio silence since.

Meanwhile, restricted free-agent forwards Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Ryan Spooner and defenseman Brady Skjei filed for salary arbitration and Rob O’Gara, John Gilmour and Boo Nieves did not.

Anyway, after the spate of signings on Day 1, attention in the league turned to the Erik Karlsson situation. Karlsson wants out of Ottawa, and with the two-time Norris Trophy winner now in the final year of his contract, the Senators are not likely to allow him to walk away as a free agent after the season the way Tavares did.

The Senators offered the 28-year-old a contract extension and then offered teams interested in acquiring Karlsson the right to talk to him about an extension before making a deal. Then came reports that identified Tampa Bay, Dallas, San Jose, Vegas and Columbus as the teams in the hunt to land him.

On Thursday night, it seemed as if Tampa Bay was leading the chase for Karlsson, but the complication there is that the Lightning doesn’t have much room under the salary cap ($3.4 million available, according to CapFriendly.com) to accommodate Karlsson’s $6.5-million salary this year and the likely $11-million annual salary he’ll be getting next season and beyond.

And that’s where the Rangers could come in.

The Rangers, you see, have plenty of cap space available — enough to accommodate a spare contract or two if Tampa Bay or some other contender for Karlsson’s services needs to offload some salary to make it all happen.

Could former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who has two years left on his contract at a cap hit of $5.8 million per, be rerouted back to Broadway in some massive three-team deal that sends Karlsson to Tampa Bay?

Most likely not, but if it were to happen — say the Rangers got a prospect or draft pick or something to sweeten the pot — getting a guy like Callahan certainly would be an interesting possibility.

At the Rangers Prospect Development Camp, general manager Jeff Gorton told reporters he is looking for some depth-type forwards in free agency, veteran guys who can lead and teach the young roster the Rangers will be carrying in 2018-19.

Callahan, 33, a former Rangers captain, certainly would fit that bill.

New York Sports