Rangers unlikely to make significant move at trade deadline

The Rangers have approximately $5.3 million of space available that will equate to the neighborhood of $7.25 million at the deadline, barring moves in the interim. This includes the $700,000 allotted to Mats Zuccarello but does not factor in Jesper Fast’s $900,000 hit that will begin to toll when the Swedish winger joins the roster.

The cap crunch will come next year, when the ceiling comes down on the Rangers’ heads. The Blueshirts have approximately $11.3 million of space with which to fill six roster spots, including three currently held by restricted free agents Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin, who will likely account for up to a combined $10 million hit.

Next year’s number, of course, accounts for neither a possible amnesty buyout of Richards ($6.67 million through 2019-20) nor trade of Gaborik ($7.5 million through next year). Dealing Gaborik would allow the Rangers to defer a decision on Richards for another year, one that would begin with a training camp.

Trading Gaborik now might not improve the immediate situation. Despite a down year, the winger remains a threat. The problem is his contract makes him a marginal buy from a team very much on the margins itself.