New York Rangers: NHL Stanley Cup window

An overview of the New York Rangers team, and a look at their current Stanley Cup window, along with expectations for next season and beyond.

Welcome to the “NHL Stanley Cup window” series, that focuses on the current Stanley Cup window of teams around the NHL.

Each article provides an overview of a team’s current window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. We will also discuss improvements the team needs to make, to be considered a serious Stanley Cup contender.

Finally, we will give a realistic prediction and forecast of a team’s likelihood to win a championship in the near future.

This time around, we head out to “ The Big Apple” and take a look at the New York Rangers.

New York Rangers’ current Cup window

Quite frankly, the New York Rangers’ current window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup is incredibly narrow.

Their best opportunity may have come and gone already. Some may argue that their most opportune years might have been from 2012-2015, where they made the Eastern Conference finals twice, and the Stanley Cup Finals once.

After that, they have gradually been on the decline. In the process of trying to win it all, they have mortgaged their future on blockbuster deals that never paid off.

It started in 2014, where they acquired Martin St. Louis from the Tampa Lightning, then in 2015 with Keith Yandle, from the Arizona Coyotes. Finally, in 2016, with Eric Staal, from the Carolina Hurricanes.

If we look back at the history of those trades, the Rangers gave up high draft picks and valuable assets in every single deal.

Martin St. Louis deal: A 2014 First round pick + 2015 first round pick + Ryan Callahan.

Keith Yandle deal: Anthony Duclair, John Moore, 2015 2nd round pick and 2016 1st round pick.

Eric Staal deal: 2017 2nd round pick + 2016 2nd round pick + Aleksi Saarela.

It is the accumulations of trades like these, that have significantly decreased the number of assets they have today.

Even though their current roster might be good enough to be a playoff team for the next 3-5 years. New York Rangers general manager, Jeff Gorton, has a lot to do with very little bargaining chips. It will be interesting to see how he maneuvers through this transition period, and possibly give Henrik Lundqvist one last chance to win a title.

What the New York Rangers need to do to possibly win a Stanley Cup

One of the biggest weaknesses for the New York Rangers last season was their defense. They seemed to have addressed some of those issues this summer. They first bought out longtime Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi, and then signed Kevin Shattenkirk through free agency.

At the same time, they gave Brendan Smith a new four-year, $17.4 million contract extension. Smith was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings mid-season and looks to be a solid second-pairing defender for the Rangers moving forward.

In another deal, the Rangers acquired Anthony DeAngelo, from the Arizona Coyotes. DeAngelo was a high-end prospect taken in the first round back in 2014 and has potential to be a top-four offensive defenseman for the Rangers in the future.

Despite giving their defense a new face-lift, they lost a lot of depth down the middle. They lost Derek Stepan in the Anthony DeAngelo deal, and also lost Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights.

As a result, one the team’s main priorities going forward is to determine if they have enough quality centers to compete against other teams in the East. Right now, they have Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller as their top three centers. Truthfully speaking, that is probably not a Stanley Cup winning center lineup.

But in spite of that, they are relatively young, all being 25-years-old or younger, which gives them the potential to grow into high impact players in the near future. Beyond doubt, a lot of the Rangers’ future success will depend on their centers’ ability to develop into high impact players.

The Rangers must also capitalize on the free agent market to improve their team. New York is a popular free agent destination, so the Rangers will have to use that to their advantage and sign free agents that can help the team win now.

New York Rangers Stanley Cup predictions

Overall, the Rangers still have a decent core intact, featuring the likes of Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Shattenkirk, Rick Nash, and Henrik Lundqvist, to name a few. Along with a few young promising players in Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei and Jimmy Vesey.

But going forward, one of the team’s biggest question marks will be in net. Henrik Lundqvist has carried this team for many years and has been their most important player for a long time.

However, he will be turning 36 next year and is coming off a very mediocre season in 2016-2017. One may wonder if he is finally on the decline…..

Bottom line is, the Rangers’ hopes of winning a Stanley Cup will greatly depend on Henrik Lundqvist’s performance in the playoffs. If he drastically declines the next couple of years, the Rangers’ hopes of winning a Stanley Cup with this core will likely be over.

On another note, general manager Jeff Gorton has his work cut out for him. With very limited resources, he will need to make keen moves during this “rebuild on the fly”.  Not only will he to have to hit on most of his future signings, he will have to win some trades as well.

He will also have to put together a roster that will be good enough to beat Eastern Conference rivals like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens.

No doubt, the Rangers road back to the Stanley Cup finals won’t be easy. A lot will have to go right, but as long as Henrik Lundqvist is able to maintain his elite play in net, they will always have a chance to compete for a Cup.

Do you think the Rangers can win a Stanley Cup during this “rebuild on the fly”?  Let us know in the comment section below. 

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