Restricted Free Agents are due their Qualifying Offers on July 12, the day before free agency. It used to be common practice in the NHL for all RFAs to get qualified unless they were older confirmed AHLers that the team didn’t have a spot for. If a player isn’t qualified, they become a free agent at noon on free agent day, so it’s cutting the RFA loose and losing all signing rights to them. The only exception to this is if the team has elected arbitration in the first window, which closes today.

In recent seasons, because the salary cap failed to rise as expected, teams have made tough decisions on borderline NHL RFAs, particularly those whose QOs put them above what the team wanted to spend on the role the player filled. A new speculative game in the summer grew out of this reality: guessing which viable NHLers won’t get qualified.

Elliotte Friedman has said on at least three occasions I’ve heard on the radio or podcasts that he wonders if the New York Rangers will qualify goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Or even if they can. The thinking here is that the Rangers have a bona fide star goalie, one who could be called the best in the world right now, and they don’t need to be spending $2.65 million (Georgiev’s QO) on a backup. From that point of view, he seems ripe to be traded, not go unqualified, and I expect he will be traded before July 12 and a new team can negotiate a deal with him.

However, it’s an interesting question to ask if the the Rangers can actually fit his QO in and still sign players on July 13 that they want to keep. The reason it’s even an issue is that the Rangers have been willing to trade Georgiev for years, but their ask is reportedly still very high, and no one wants to pay it. If the Rangers get too clever and overplay this hand, teams might just decide to wait them out and go for him with no trade price. So far, the Rangers have asked for a high pick, an NHL-rostered player and a prospect, which is way above the value of an unproven goalie.

It’s not an absolute mystery if the Rangers can qualify him. We can calculate the Rangers’ offseason cap space and see what it looks like instead of guessing about it. We’ve done this before for the Leafs, and discovered that they have a lot of offseason space, and virtually no in-season space next October if they sign all their RFAs. It’s not that difficult to do it for the Rangers.

The offseason cap calculation actually takes effect on July 13, and runs to the day before the season begins in October. There is a 10% cushion that allows teams to go over the salary cap temporarily as they sign players. But in a system that works against young rebuilding teams, the cap hits of players on two-way contracts count in an amount prorated by their days in the NHL the prior year. The Rangers have a lot of those who played part or full seasons. They also have a lot of RFAs, to qualify and some key players on expiring UFA deals they’ll want to keep. Their cap is tight.

New York Rangers Offseason Cap Calculation

NameCap Hit (or Qualifying Offer)Days in NHL If 2-wayProrated Cap HitProjected Roster
One-Way Contracts
Two-Way Contracts
Qulifying Offers
Kakko874,125one way874,125874,125
Georgiev2,650,000one way2,650,0002,650,000
Contracts: 4420
Dead Cap3,427,7783,427,7783,427,778
Salary Cap82,500,00082,500,000
10% overage8,250,000
Cap Space10,992,3154,891,555

What this calculation shows is that if they qualify every RFA on July 12, they will have almost $11 million in cap space in the offseason to make deals. Most of that is the bonus cushion, however, and that sounds like a lot until you sign a couple of hefty UFAs and Kaapo Kakko   and it’s vanished in a puff of smoke. They have Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano and several other lower-level UFAs.

I don’t know the Rangers well enough to guess at their roster for next season, but putting in the obvious choices of players who were fulltime this season, I get a very tiny $4.8 million in space on a 20-man roster with at least Kakko due a raise within that number. That’s Leafs-level tight, and maybe even worse. Even if you imagine a trade now for Georgiev that gives them a $750,000 backup or even a million-dollar good pro like Tampa usually has, they have tough decisions to make. That’s their problem and means to us only that Vatrano might be available, which is a good thing for teams looking for forwards of a certain type that cost less than $4 million.

So, the Rangers absolutely can qualify Georgiev. And they absolutely should consider themselves so sharp they’ve cut themselves if they haven’t traded him by noon on July 13. They need that space, and they should just drop the ask down enough to get it ahead of time. I fully expect that to get done.

This feels like a game of chicken, one where teams that want a sub $3 million goalie might break first and up their offers. Georgiev is arbitration eligible, and he’s not likely to get over his QO in arbitration. Speculating they won’t qualify him misses the mark on this one. Now, Kasperi Kapanen on the other hand...

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