The New York Rangers spent much of their offseason fixing one of their biggest weaknesses in their defense. The team went out and signed free agent Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year, $26.6MM deal, then re-signed trade deadline rental Brendan Smith to a new four-year, $17.4MM deal. They traded away top center Derek Stepan and backup goaltender Antti Raanta for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick. Perhaps more importantly, they bought out Dan Girardi, who was struggling. With all the changes, the Rangers should have one of the best defensive corps in the league. With Shattenkirk paired with Ryan McDonagh, Smith paired with veteran Marc Staal and young Brady Skjei paired with either Nick Holden or DeAngelo, the Rangers should be in fantastic shape.
But at what cost? The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn writes (subscription required) that the Rangers’ knee-jerk reaction to their second-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators have crippled the team in other areas. He writes the goaltending situation is now worse due to moving Raanta to Arizona. Instead, New York signed Ondrej Pavelec to a one-year deal, but there is a huge difference between the two backups. Raanta was a stud backup who now will get his chance to be an NHL starting goalie. Pavelec has been inconsistent in his time with the Jets, but has struggled so bad in the last couple of years that Winnipeg demoted him to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Incidentally, Pavelec played 18 games for Manitoba and finished with a 2.78 GAA in that span — which wouldn’t be acceptable in the NHL. Probably not the backup you would want when your starter Henrik Lundqvist, who is 35 years old, is coming off the worst season of his career. Lundqvist finished the year with a 2.74 GAA in 57 games and .910 save percentage. Those numbers suggest that his workload might need to be diminished in the future — probably not the best time to be trading your top backup.
The scribe also mentions that the team also has to wonder if they have enough offense to get through the season. The team traded away Stepan, who he admits isn’t that big of a loss, but considering that there is no true center who can take his place, that’s not a good sign. Yes, Mike Zibanejad will likely assume the top role, but he will likely be one of the worst top centers in the NHL. Their other three centers J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and David Desharnais are all acceptable, but none are outstanding centers. Luszczyszyn adds that what the Rangers really need is a big-name scorer, which they lack. The team instead relies on Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, who are great players, but not two players you should have leading your offense.
All in all, the belief is the Rangers have traded one concern for many others. Will these offensive changes really change anything?