With two days until the start of free agency, the Rangers expectedly made qualifying offers to the team’s key restricted free agents in goalie Igor Shesterkin and center Filip Chytil.
Defenseman Libor Hajek, as well as prospects Tim Gettinger, Ty Ronning and Adam Huska, were also qualified Monday. New general manager Chris Drury opted not to qualify Yegor Rykov, Brandon Crawley, Gabriel Fontaine and Patrick Newell.
The Rangers currently have more than $21.8 million in cap space after signing Barclay Goodrow to a six-year contract and adding Sammy Blais’ $1.5 million cap hit from the Pavel Buchnevich trade, according to CapFriendly. But there is still work to be done on the lineup – which could possibly be addressed on the free agent market – in addition to next year’s paydays for Norris Trophy-winner Adam Fox and top-line center Mika Zibanejad.
That’s what Drury will have to keep in mind as he negotiates the upcoming RFA deals for Shesterkin and Chytil.
Tt makes sense for the Rangers to sign the 25-year-old netminder to a five-year contract, at the least, considering Shesterkin is just two years away from unrestricted free agency. Shesterkin, who began to find his footing at the end of last season after a rocky start, is expected to come in around $5 to $6 million per year.
For comparison, Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko signed a five-year, $25 million extension in March. Demko is the same age as Shesterkin and the two put up similar numbers last season. Shesterkin was 16-14-3 with a 2.62 goals against average and .916 save percentage while Demko was 16-18-1 with a 2.85 goals against average .915 save percentage.
Shesterkin, who started 31 of the Rangers’ 56 games in 2020-21, has been groomed to be the team’s starting goalie since before former face of the franchise Henrik Lundkvist was bought out last September. It’s why the Russian goaltender will likely get closer to a $6 million average annual value.
While re-signing Shesterkin appears to be straight-forward, there is more to consider when it comes to Chytil, who doesn’t have arbitration rights. Had a hand injury not derailed the 21-year-old’s season and limited him to eight goals in 42 games, the Rangers may view Chytil a bit differently.
The truth is, Chytil hasn’t been able to establish himself as a top-six contributor, but that’s also because he hasn’t been given an opportunity to do so. It’s a possibility that Chytil may find himself as part of a trade package, but the Czech center has a lot of tools that new head coach Gerard Gallant could work with.
Chytil, who has been a 20-plus-point player the past three seasons, is certainly due for a bump from his $894,166 cap hit. The Rangers will likely look to give Chytil a two-year deal that carries a cap hit of roughly $2 million.