The New York Rangers will start their 2020-2021 season tomorrow night against the Islanders. Yesterday, the team finalized their roster and their “taxi squad.” Twenty-eight players were named, including 25 skaters and 3 goaltenders.
By the time the regular roster was announced, there were no surprises (see later on in this article for the list), with Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Igor Sherterkin the only rookies on the squad. Morgan Barron, Anthony Bitetto, Colin Blackwell, Libor Hajek, Keith Kinkaid, and Matthew Robertson were all “loaned” to the taxi squad.
The Taxi Squad
There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the taxi squad regulations, so let’s briefly go over it. Those players loaned to the taxi squad can practice and travel with the team. In order to be activated for a game, a skater must be activated by 5 pm ET, but a goaltender can be activated after 5. Players on two-way contracts will be paid their minor league salaries while on the squad (1/116th for each day). The money paid to the players on loan to the taxi squad will be included in the Rangers’ average club salary, as if they were on loan elsewhere. But, there is no cap hit for the players on the taxi squad, as long as they do not play. Finally, just for you hockey biz fanatics (like me), there are no NHL pension credits for those on the squad.
For This Season Only–Technical Stuff in This Section
A few other quirks exist for this season.
(a) All player contracts that are scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021 are extended until July 27, 2021.
(b) As respects the 18 and 19 year old rookies (in the Rangers’ case, just Lafreniere), the 10 games played in the NHL threshold (for salary arbitration purposes) will be pro-rated by a factor of 56/82 (which comes to a little under 7 games–fractional amounts over .5 are rounded up). The same 56/82 calculation will be used for eligibility for waivers and Group 2 (but remember that there is an 11 NHL game threshold for the purposes of waivers). For the 20+ year old players, the 10-game professional game threshold calculation is 56/82 (for both waivers and Group 2).
c) For waiver claims, if the claim is made prior to February 1, 2021, the order of claim is the final 2019-2020 regular season standings. On or after February 1, the order of claims will be determined by current NHL league standings.
(d) For those trying to figure out the Rangers’ cap situation on a daily basis, know that this year, the denominator for the cap calculation is 116 (the number of days in the season).
(e) Finally, the December 1, 2020 deadline for signing a Group 2 FA has been moved to February 11, 2021.
You Can Start Reading Again, Non-Cap and Hockey Biz Enthusiasts
The Rangers will have another practice today, but Head Coach David Quinn let us know on Monday that what we saw on the ice was pretty much the starting group tomorrow night. The projected lines/pairings (subject to Mika Zibanejad’s health, which is day to day) are
The two roster players that will fill in are Rooney, a natural center, but can play on the wing, and Brendan Smith, who has been both a forward and a blueliner for the Rangers in the past.
The Rangers have definitely made improvements in all areas on the ice. There is lots of talent up front and the team will be exciting, but there is still a critical need for a face off winning center and a little more grit to protect the very high skill players. Its not clear yet whether Barron will eventually be able to use his size to his advantage, as he was, to use Quinn’s word, “nervous” in camp. He is definitely a player to watch in the taxi group (and perhaps in the AHL, when that season starts).
On the back end, there has been a loss of excellent veteran blueliners over the last few years, which takes time to replace. Miller looks to be a budding star back there; we shall have to see whether he can develop into a number one pairing along with Trouba. Lindgren and Fox are solid second pairing defensemen (while the coaches may start them as the first pairing, I see them more as number three and four). It remains to be seen what DeAngelo and Johnson can do in that third pairing slot, but frankly longer term, when Braden Schneider arrives on the right side, look out. The thought of Miller and Schneider playing together in years to come should give every Rangers fan goosebumps.
In goal, the Rangers are solid. New York has time to see how things pan out, with Shesterkin on an ELC and Georgiev with another year (through 2021-22) before his current contract expires.
Frankly, we used to say this with the Mets on opening day though most of the 1960s, but “wait til next year.” It would be great for the Rangers to make the playoffs, but given the revised division, this team will be hard-pressed to get to the post-season. It’s not impossible, but it is improbable. So many more pieces are now in place but, in my opinion, just not enough to be a real contender for the Cup. Like the Mets in the few years prior to 1969, this team is almost there. And they will be lots of fun to watch.