The New York Rangers are a team with multiple holes to fill during the offseason as they have lost two key players in center Derek Stepan, who they traded to Arizona on Friday and blueliner Dan Girardi, who they waived before the expansion protection rosters were due a week ago, to protect younger players. On top of that, both proved to be among the team’s top defenders against opposing teams’ top lines. They must be able to replace that.
Both holes, not including the backup goaltending spot that was vacated after the team moved Anttii Raanta to the Coyotes as well, must be filled from without and the franchise didn’t get much immediate help in return from Arizona. The team received 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, who played 39 games for the hapless Coyotes. While the former 2014 first-rounder fared well in those games, putting up five goals and nine assists in that span, that doesn’t translate that he will make the roster outright with the Rangers. The other asset they received in the trade was the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, which turned into 18-year-old center Lias Andersson, who will likely need a few years to reach New York.
According to New York Posts’ Larry Brooks, the team should look into acquiring two veterans who can fill those roles for the next year or two until some of their younger players are ready for bigger roles. The scribe lists 37-year-old center Joe Thornton as the perfect player to take over as the team’s top center. He could play next to his friend Rick Nash and form a solid line. A second option would be to trade for New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk to fill that same spot, despite the possibility that New Jersey’s general manager Ray Shero may force the team to move a quality player. If the team promotes from within, there should be a lot of pressure of 2010 first-rounder Kevin Hayes, who at 25, might be ready to take his game to the next level. Hayes has had three solid seasons with the Rangers, putting up nearly 50 points this last year and might be ready for an increased role.
On defense, the team should have close to $20MM in cap space and are expected to be players in the free agent market. They’ve already been linked to Washington Capitals’ unrestricted free agent Kevin Shattenkirk, but the team also hopes to have their own unrestricted free agent, Brendan Smith, locked up as well. Otherwise, they will have double the problems behind the line. Brooks adds the team attempted to move up from the seventh pick Friday to get Dallas’ third overall pick, likely to take top defensive prospect Cale Makar, but were not willing to pay the price for it. Makar ended up going fourth to the Colorado Avalanche.