Scouting a Divisional Opponent - the New York Rangers made big changes on and off the ice

The Rangers' emphasis on getting tougher was quite evident

The New York Rangers’ tumultuous offseason began before the season officially ended. It largely stemmed from a rather meaningless game at the end of the season, in which the Rangers were basically playing out the stretch. You may recall the “incident” that had the whole hockey world outraged involving Washington Capitals bruiser Tom Wilson. Wilson set off a butterfly-effect string of events by punching Pavel Buchnevich, who was laying facedown, and then slamming a helmet-less Artemi Panarin to the ice during the ensuing scrum.

At the time, nobody knew this incident would largely shape the Rangers offseason, both on and off the ice.

New Management

Shortly after the Panarin-Wilson fiasco, owner James Dolan fired off a “Dan Gilbert-esque” angry, emotional tweet trashing the NHL Department of Player Safety’s — George Parros in particular — decision to not pursue any supplemental discipline against Wilson. He even went so far as calling for Parros to be removed from his position.

It wasn’t long after this tweet was sent, Team President John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton were unceremoniously fired. It was a move that caught the league by surprise and defied logic considering the team has been on the upswing since Davidson returned to rebuild the team. The official story is that the two were canned because the rebuild was not happening fast enough for Dolan’s liking, but that explanation simply doesn’t hold water.

According to Frank Seravalli, Davidson and Gorton “scurried to distance themselves from the team statement that was issued” and privately informed other league executives they had no idea it was coming. “Philosophical differences” that large seem like a much more plausible scenario for the removal.

Either way, we Jackets fans can’t complain as it brought J.D. back to Columbus to pick up where he left off. Dolan promoted then-Assistant General Manager and former Rangers captain, Chris Drury, to the General Manager position. It didn’t take long for him to start re-shaping his team.

Dolan also decided to move on from Head Coach David Quinn. Gerrard Gallant was brought in to get this team to the next level. Gallant is an excellent hire who should have no problem getting the most out of this very talented club.

Adding Grit

Drury wasted no time in assuring that his New York Rangers would be a tougher team to play against. The bottom six will have a few new faces when the puck drops on the 2021-22 season.

Enter Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow,

It was painfully obvious Reaves was signed to make Tom Wilson finally answer the bell. You can all but guarantee that fight is already scheduled. Drury spent a 2022 3rd round pick to bring in Reaves just to send a message.

Goodrow was added essentially for nothing (2022 7th round pick for his rights) and will add tenacity and a physical element to the forward corps. This was something the Rangers struggled with last season, especially against teams who play a “heavier” game, such as in-state rivals, the New York Islanders. It’s also worth mentioning Goodrow is a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner. That pedigree is never a bad thing to add to a locker room. The 28-year-old was quickly signed to a six-year deal with a $3.6M AAV hit. It seems pretty steep, but Goodrow does a lot of little things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, not to mention his veteran leadership.

Shoring up the Defense

New York rounded out their defense with veteran defenseman, Patrik Nemeth, receiving a  three-year deal with a 2.5M cap hit. Nemeth doesn’t bring a flashy game to the table whatsoever, but that is not what he was brought in to do. He will most likely be paired with high-end defensive prospect, Nils Lundkvist, on the third pairing. The Rangers look to have a very solid defense led by Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox.

The Igor Era

Highly-touted 25-year old goalie, Igor Shesterkin, was rewarded with a four-year deal carrying a $5.6M cap hit. It is not all that different from the contract the Blue Jackets just gave their goalie of the future, Elvis Merzlikins, considering both players have a limited sample size in the NHL. Shesterkin is coming off a season in which he posted a 16-14-3 record, along with a 2.62 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage in 35 games. The young Russian goalie only has 47 career NHL games to his name, so the Rangers are obviously banking on continued future success with this deal.

Youth Movement

It’s no secret, the Rangers have a plethora of young talent. This team has the potential to be scary in the near future, considering they have 2020 first overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere, and Norris Trophy winner, Adam Fox, not even in their primes. Then there are potential stars in Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov all of whom are age 23 or under. The biggest key to the Rangers success both this season and beyond lies in the continued improvement of their young core — if Drury can find a way to keep them all together.

Young star players are getting paid big money earlier in their careers than ever, and Drury had to keep that in mind this offseason. It was for this reason goal-scoring winger, Pavel Buchnevich, was shipped to the St. Louis Blues for Samuel Blais and a 2nd round pick. It was a painful move in the moment, but one that will prove necessary in the not-so-distant future when players like Fox and Lafreniere are due new contracts.

New York also cleared additional space from buying out the contract of Anthony DeAngelo. All in all, New York was able to generate over $3 million in cap space for the future.

Like the Blue Jackets, New York is a very young team. Very young, and very talented. It’s clear James Dolan does not have patience, so the pressure is on to get into the playoffs this year. It will be interesting to see if the team can rise to the challenge in a very difficult Metro division.

Do you think the New York Rangers are a playoff team?

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