Despite another successful 100-point regular season, the New York Rangers disappointingly lost to the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the playoffs last year.
As a result, general manager Jeff Gorton had a busy summer trying to re-tool his team for a better outlook in 2017/18.
The Rangers made some big moves, parting ways with several long-time veterans including Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi. They also made a big splash in the free agent and upgraded their defense, by signing Kevin Shattenkirk.
There are many new faces on the Rangers’ roster heading into the new season. Perhaps this new look will give Henrik Lundqvist and other longtime members another shot at the Stanley Cup.
Let’s take a look at all that has happened for the “Broadway Blue Shirts” heading into this new season.
Kevin Shattenkirk was one of the most sought-after free agents on the market this summer. The Rangers were able to sign the 28-year-old to a deal that will pay him $6.65 million per season, over four years.
The signing is a huge addition for the Rangers’ defense, in that they have Shattenkirk for his best prime years, without overcommitting on the number of years. Shattenkirk comes in as New York’s number one defenseman on the right side and will give the Rangers more mobility and offensive production from the backend.
Expect to see Shattenkirk on the Rangers top pairing with Ryan McDonagh on opening night.
In replacement of Antti Raanta, NY went out and signed former Winnipeg Jets’ goalie, Ondrej Pavelec. It is a one-year deal, worth $1.3 million dollars.
Pavelec comes in as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup and should give the Rangers a solid 20-30 games next season.
The Rangers signed veteran center David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million dollar deal on July 5th.
The former Montreal Canadien and Edmonton Oiler is a decent faceoff man, with veteran leadership and can be used in multiple situations including the power play and penalty kill.
Most importantly, Desharnais helps shore up the Rangers’ depth at center. Especially after losing Oscar Lindberg to the Vegas Golden Knights and Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes via trade this offseason.
DeAngelo is a 2014 first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 21-year-old is still trying to find his way in the NHL, and New York may be the place where he finally finds his break.
DeAngelo has potential to be decent top-two pairing NHL defenseman with offensive upside. It will be interesting to see if he can make an impact in the Rangers’ lineup next year.
Lias Andersson was the seventh overall pick for the New York Rangers in the 2017 NHL Draft. The pick was acquired in the deal that sent Stepan and Raanta to Arizona.
Andersson has played the past two seasons with HV71 Jonkoping in Sweden, and the professional experience should give the 18-year-old a chance to make the Rangers roster next season.
On June 23rd, 2017, Derek Stepan was part of the blockbuster deal, which sent him and Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes.
The departure of Stepan leaves a huge hole for the Rangers at center ice. Stepan is a perennial 55-point player in the NHL and is decent two-way center with excellent playmaking abilities.
Moving forward, it looks like the Rangers believe Mika Zibanejad can step into Stepan’s role and be the team’s number one center next season.
The Rangers bought out Dan Girardi on July 14, 2017 with three years left on his deal.
He has been a longtime staple on the Rangers blueline, but Girardi’s play has significantly declined over the past few seasons.
At the end of the day, it is a huge emotional loss to the Rangers in the locker room, but it might be best for the team, as they are trying to get younger and faster on defense.
Antti Raanta was part of the deal that sent Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes. He was arguably one of the best backup goalies in the NHL last year posting a solid .922 save percentage.
The 28-year-old has a good chance to become the number one goalie for the Arizona Coyotes this coming season.
Oscar Lindberg was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights at the NHL expansion draft. He was a solid depth center for the Rangers last year, providing quality bottom-six minutes.
Look for Lindberg to have a bigger role in Vegas in 2017/18 and possibly have a breakout year.
Moving on up
Jimmy Vesey had a decent start to his NHL career, scoring 6 goals and 8 points in his first 10 NHL games. However, the former Hobey Baker Winner hit a “rookie wall” after that, and struggled to find the net for much of the season.
Regardless of that, the 24-year-old finished the season with 16 goals, 11 assists and 27 points in 80 games last year.
Coming into 2017/18 we should see Vesey build upon his rookie stats, and be an important complementary scorer for the Rangers’ offense.
Brady Skjei was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers last season. As a rookie defenseman, he put up an impressive, five goals and 39 points in 80 games.
He made a huge impact on the Rangers’ blueline with his smooth skating and puck-moving abilities. Skjei should see top-four minutes next year, and be a key player for the Rangers’ defense for the foreseeable future.
What can the New York Rangers achieve this season?
The New York Rangers should be playoff bound once again in 2017/18. However, it is uncertain how far they can go in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With a revived defensive core featuring Kevin Shattenkirk and along with Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith expected to step up, we should see a more mobile defense next year. In that, it may help them keep up with more teams in the league and win more games in the process.
Up front, the Rangers plan to rely heavily on Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes to be their top-two centers. If the Rangers want to go anywhere next year, Zibanejad, Hayes and J. T. Miller will need to be huge impact players for the team at center ice. As good center depth is an important factor to have, especially for teams with championship aspirations.
When you look at the current core of the Rangers, which includes Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, and Henrik Lundqvist, considering them as a top-four team in the East isn’t too much of a stretch.
As long as Henrik Lundqvist can still play at an elite level, they will always have a chance to go far in the playoffs.
The Rangers play in a tough Metropolitan Division and will have to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets for a top three spot.
It will be tough, but as long as the Rangers get off to a good start, and win their divisional games against the Blue Jackets, they should finish third in the division just behind Pittsburgh and Washington.
Therefore, a playoff berth shouldn’t be a concern, but with Lundqvist not getting any younger, 2017/18 might be the year where they to “go all in”.
As a result, we should expect them to be exploring the trade market during the season and be buyers at the NHL trade deadline.
Ultimately the Rangers’ hopes of winning a Stanley Cup will greatly depend on “King Henrik”. If he were able to put together an impressive playoff run, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rangers go far in the playoffs.
Based on all these factors, a third round playoff appearance with an outside chance of slipping to the Stanley Cup finals should be the goal for the Blueshirts in 2017/18.
Do you agree with this analysis? What do you think the Rangers can achieve in the 2017/18 NHL season? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to vote in the poll.
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