PHILADELPHIA -- New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather wanted to go for another run at the Stanley Cup with the same group that fell three wins short last season.
"We like everybody," Sather said Saturday at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center.
What Sather wanted and what he knew he'd realistically be able to do this offseason never matched up.
Sather issued center Brad Richards a compliance buyout last week. Friday, the NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association jointly revealed the salary cap for next season will be $69 million.
Sather said he thought the figure would be higher. His shock couldn't have been too great, because hours before the cap was revealed Sather traded right wing Derek Dorsett to the Vancouver Canucks for a better chance of signing some of the Rangers' own free agents.
New York is approximately $23.3 million under the salary cap with 11 players signed, according to Capgeek.com.
The Rangers have to attempt to work out a contract with restricted free agents Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and John Moore, all of whom received qualifying offers (defenseman Justin Falk did not). In addition, the Rangers have Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Daniel Carcillo and Raphael Diaz scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1.
As much as Sather may want to retain all his free agents, he knows it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, because of the salary-cap restraints and the value the players place on themselves after helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final.
"But we didn't win, so I think realistically some of these guys probably have to pull the horns in a little bit," Sather said.
The Rangers are at risk of losing at least three of their unrestricted free agents, for various reasons.
Stralman will command a big contract as a 27-year-old, right-shot defenseman. He has said he is comfortable in New York but is looking for stability for his family, including his four children. The Rangers may not be in position to compete for Stralman.
Boyle and coach Alain Vigneault have a difference of opinion on what the player's role should be, or at least could be, in the future. Boyle wants more responsibility as a top-nine forward who can score, but Vigneault wants him back to play the same role on the fourth line and the penalty kill.
"There are roles for different players to play, and if they can accept them you can have a good team, but if you've got players that aren't willing to accept their roles then you've got conflict all the time and that creates problems," Sather said. "I'm not interested in problems. I want people that want to play within the team structure, and that's how you win."
Pouliot is coming off his most productive season in the NHL with 36 points in 80 games playing on a line with Brassard and Zuccarello. Pouliot, who has played on one-year contracts since 2009-10, could receive multiyear offers if he hits the open market. The Rangers don't appear willing to offer him anything more than a one-year contract because of the leverage they feel they have.
"I guess that's why you're a free agent, you get to look at the market, but he found a place where he was very comfortable," Sather said of Pouliot. "The coach liked him. The line was very good together. They had a good structure. They had good chemistry. Now you move on to another place, you may be back into the same situation you were in two years ago, which doesn't always work. I think you have to decide yourself what's the important thing, whether it's winning or getting a few more dollars someplace else. In my book, it's always winning."
The Rangers are planning to win, but it's inevitable some of the players will be different.
"I don't know where it's going to go," Sather said. "That's why we have all summer to figure it out."