At times this season the New York Rangers have looked the part of legitimate Stanley Cup contender. With a talented a deep group of forwards, the Blueshirts have shown the ability to score goals in bunches and have been among the top offensive teams in the NHL all season long. Certainly they boast enough firepower to keep pace with anyone in the league.
At other times the defensive lapses that derailed their 2015-16 campaign have reappeared and may again threaten to undermine the Rangers playoff hopes. It looks more likely than ever that Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein are simply ill-suited for the fast paced style the Rangers want to employ and just can’t cut it in top-four roles. Either would be decent options on the third pair but right now one of them has to play on one of the team’s top two pairings.
So what exactly are the Rangers? Are they a team one savvy blue line addition away from competing for the Stanley Cup? Or are they a team whose window is all but closed; one that needs too much help to reasonably expect to contend and who should resist the urge to mortgage yet more of their future in what will almost surely be another fruitless effort to win it all? That’s the question that GM Jeff Gorton and his staff have to answer in the coming days.
39 – 19 – 2, 80 points, currently in third place in the Metro Division.
They’re the Rangers and have essentially been all-in for the last several seasons. The Blueshirts have added Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle and Eric Staal at the deadline at each of the last three trade deadlines respectively and they’ll be a buyer yet again. But don’t necessarily expect a splashy move. Gorton has already displayed a strong desire to protect the organization’s limited pool of prospects and draft picks. They’ll look to make a deal but likely are not willing to sacrifice much in the way of young NHL talent or futures in any move.
Deadline Cap Space
According to Cap Friendly, the Rangers will have just more than $10.1MM in cap space with which to play with. Again, a significant departure from past versions of the Rangers but a welcome one all the same as the team won’t necessarily have to pay a higher price due to requiring their trade partner to retain salary.
2017: NYR 1st, NYR 3rd, Florida 4th, NYR 5th, Vancouver 6th, NYR 7th
2018: NYR 1st, NYR 2nd, Ottawa 2nd, NYR 3rd, NYR 4th, NYR 5th, NYR 6th, Florida 7th*
*Contingent on Dylan McIlrath appearing in at least 30 NHL games in 2016-17.
Shockingly, the Rangers still have their first round pick for 2017. The Blueshirts haven’t exercised a pick in the draft’s opening round since 2012, when they chose defenseman Brady Skjei 28th overall. Should they choose to hold onto that pick, they do own multiple second round picks in 2018 thanks to the Derick Brassard–Mika Zibanejad swap. Perhaps they’ll be willing to make one of those choices available.
After failing to earn a spot with the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford, Ryan Gropp returned to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, where he has registered a 25-41-66 scoring line in 55 games. He was the Rangers second round pick in 2015 and could be viewed by some teams as a potential late bloomer. The Rangers are fairly deep between the pipes in their system with Igor Shesterkin leading the way. Adam Huska and Tyler Wall are both playing NCAA hockey this season and are legitimate NHL prospects. The Rangers have done an excellent job as an organization identifying unheralded goaltending prospects and seeing them develop into quality pro netminders and Huska and Wall have a chance to continue that trend.
The Rangers will be reluctant to move anyone on the NHL roster but might consider including one of Jesper Fast or Oscar Lindberg in a package to upgrade the blue line given the amount of depth up front. They might also be willing to part with Matt Puempel or Brandon Pirri but neither player likely carries much trade value. Other clubs will come calling on young forwards like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider, players just beginning to hit reach their respective ceilings in the NHL, but it would take a substantial offer to pry one of them away.
Players to watch: Kevin Klein (recent back issues could increase the Rangers need on the blue line); Lindberg; Fast; Gropp; Wall;
- Defense: The question is whether one legitimate top-four blue liner is enough or will the team need to add two new defensive options.
- Defense: See above
- Defense: See above the above.