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Quiet draft day ahead for Rangers?

6/30/2013

Without a pick in either of the first two rounds of Sunday's 2013 NHL draft, the Rangers may be in store for a pretty quiet day.

Even with some marquee names bandied about as trade talk intensifies -- Tyler Seguin, Kris Letang, Jeff Skinner -- the Rangers lack the salary cap space to make a major splash on the draft day floor.

With the announcement that the team will not exercise its one existing compliance buyout this summer (granting struggling center Brad Richards a one-year reprieve, at least), the Rangers have very little room to maneuver.

Team president and general manager Glen Sather could try and package some of his three third-round picks (the Rangers gave up a first-rounder in the trade for Rick Nash, a second-rounder in the acquisition of Ryane Clowe) to move up in the order, but a significant trade seems highly unlikely.

Richards' cap charge of $6.67 million, and the status of restricted free agents Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, seems to squash any hope of a significant upgrade from last year’s personnel.

As speculated at season’s end, it is possible the Rangers could dangle promising young defenseman Michael Del Zotto as trade bait, though the concern is being able to find a capable defenseman to replace him at the right price.

Instead, expect the team to look into adding a depth defenseman to round out the team’s blue line via free agency.

The team’s inactivity will likely carry over into the free agency period as well, when the market opens on July 5.

Though the Rangers are interested in adding depth down the middle (Matt Hendricks is an enticing option as a pending unrestricted free agent) and still desperately need a right-handed defenseman who can man the power play (Letang, anyone?) they will likely move forward with the same group that made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals this spring.

There were plenty of fireworks once the Rangers made a hasty exit from the second round as the team dismissed polarizing coach John Tortorella and replaced him with the affable, gentlemanly Alain Vigneault, but, save for the critical contract negotiations for franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, there is unlikely to be much by way of headlines for the rest of this summer.

Sather’s not shy about big-game hunting, of course, but with the salary cap’s significant reduction and the Rangers’ money already tied up in players like Richards, Lundqvist and Rick Nash, expect the next few weeks to be pretty anticlimactic.