Rangers Offseason: What The Fans Want After Disappointment

As a fan, it’s disheartening coming to terms with everything the public said about the Rangers all season being true. As the dust settles on a season that saw New York fall short of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the focus sharply turns to the offseason. A period ripe with possibilities epitomizes a crucial juncture for the franchise. Fans are demanding strategic reassessments and bold moves for their next chance at the title. This phase will test the acumen of Chris Drury’s front office as time is ticking on the Rangers’ core. 

The focus is optimizing the salary cap. Due to that, familiar faces will probably walk out the door and play elsewhere. This is due to the impact of key players’ contracts. The first round candidates include Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Erik Gustafsson, Barclay Goodrow, and the bright prospects of players like Brennan Othmann

Contract Extensions and Buyouts

The New York Rangers have a projected salary cap space of $11,306,809 for the next year. This figure considers their current cap hit of $76,393,191 and a salary cap limit of $87,700,000.

An area of priority this offseason is the potential contract extension for star goalie Igor Shesterkin. There is some speculation that this upcoming deal could set a new record for the highest-paid goalie in history, surpassing Carey Price’s deal with Montreal. The Rangers have a history of substantial investments in their goaltending, as seen with Henrik Lundqvist’s previous contracts. No messing around with this position; Igor deserves it for carrying the Rangers to another Eastern Conference Finals.

Additionally, the team is contemplating the buyout of Jacob Trouba’s contract, which were rumors that started last season. Trouba did not meet playoff expectations, and he simply might not be worth the contract. If they bought out Henrik Lundqvist, they’ll buy out Trouba. His contract has two more years at an $8 million cap hit, with a buyout costing $4 million for the first two years and then $2 million for the following two years.

Reassessing the Defensemen

The Rangers faced heavy criticism for their defensive performance following their elimination by the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final. The Panthers’ ability to maintain intense pressure and forecheck disrupted the Rangers’ usual defensive setups, causing breakdowns in their zone exits and transitions. The Rangers struggled to adapt their defensive strategies to counter the Panthers’ speed and puck movement, leading to prolonged periods of defensive zone time and high-quality scoring chances against.

It’s challenging to pinpoint exactly which defensemen might depart as a direct result of the defensive shortcomings. However, considering factors such as performance, contract status, and the team’s future direction, it appears Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller are the only guarantees to start for the New York Rangers next year. 

Forward Positions

The forward lineup was spearheaded by Artemi Panarin, who continues to be a critical offensive force for the Rangers, until the Eastern Conference finals. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider remain key figures in the team’s attack, but lacked a consistent Right Winger who could produce more fire power.  

The Rangers’ wingers struggled with inconsistency, failing to generate offensive pressure or sustain attacks in the Panthers’ zone. This lack of wing production hampered the Rangers’ ability to stretch the Panthers’ defense and create scoring opportunities. The team’s reliance on its top line for offensive output became a liability, as secondary scoring from the wings was virtually nonexistent.

Coming Up Small

These top forwards faced heavy criticism for their underperformance in the ECF. Despite high expectations, these players failed to deliver critical goals in the series. Panarin, known for his playmaking abilities, was nearly a non-factor until a late, inconsequential goal in the final game. Zibanejad had a notable “what if” moment but otherwise remained quiet, and Kreider, despite carrying the team through earlier rounds, could only manage a single goal in the Conference Final.

Young talents like Kaapo Kakko were further scrutinized in contrast to Alexis Lafrenière, who really blossomed during this playoff run. The depth in the forward positions, including players like Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow’s contracts are currently under the scope.

Pending Free Agents 

Many fans look at this list and have no strong ties. After this series, some will be happy about these departures. With upcoming unrestricted free agents, including Alexander Wennberg, Jack Roslovic, Blake Wheeler, Erik Gustafsson, and Chad Ruhwedel, this could kind of clean up the slate for Drury. They also find themselves with three starters whom are restricted free agents including Kaapo Kakko, Ryan Lindgren, and Braden Schneider.  

RFA’s are players who have completed their contracts but do not have complete freedom to negotiate with any team. They’re restricted because their current team holds a right of first refusal to match any offer sheet they might sign with another team. If the current team chooses not to match the offer, they may receive compensation, such as draft picks, from the offering team. Typically, RFAs are younger players coming off their entry-level contracts or those who have been tendered a qualifying offer by their team. Managing these contracts will be essential to maintain the team’s competitive edge while adhering to salary cap constraints. 

Trades & Pipe Dreams

The Rangers face significant decisions in the free agency market as they look to bolster their lineup. With expected departures, there is almost a clean slate for left and right wingers. The early rumors include Jonathan Marchessault and Steven Stamkos. Both bringing championship experience and scoring abilities to the team. Those are the big names, but both being over 30 years old with mileage is a little concerning, especially for the big money they will demand. Drury may have to find those diamonds in the rough with the big contracts the Rangers have. 

Blockbuster Tkachuk

The rumors have started swirling around Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk. With speculation growing despite official statements suggesting otherwise. Tkachuk is signed to a long-term contract and in his prime, this is not someone the team is looking to move lightly and would require a blockbuster deal. Senators General Manager Steve Staios has dismissed the notion of trading Tkachuk, indicating it would take a monumental offer to consider such a move. This remains their focus, barring Tkachuk himself requesting a trade.

Despite official dismissals, the speculation has not stopped, with the New York Rangers being mentioned as a dream landing spot for Tkachuk. Adding a player of Tkachuk’s caliber would address some of their needs, particularly in terms of 5-on-5 play. Some fans view a Tkachuk type player is the missing piece in getting over the hump. Easier said than done.

Finding Balance

The Rangers’ strategy involves both preserving core assets and exploring opportunities to add experienced, impactful players. The balance between maintaining financial health and making aggressive moves to enhance their competitive edge will be key to their success in the upcoming seasons. The offseason is now under the microscope, and will be scrutinized carefully under the meticulous watch of Chris Drury. Future moves appear to be inevitable with a sprinkle of pipe dreams. As we creep closer to July, the Rangers’ offseason endeavors will take bold and masterful decision-making to continue their pursuit as the Stanley Cup will pass the 30 year mark of 1994.


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