With the draft over and free agency opening on Friday, the New York Rangers must fix one aspect of their team, or nothing else will matter.If you have been paying attention to the New York Rangers over the past week or two, then you understand that a majority of the news has been full of speculation that hasn’t amounted to much.
No big moves were made during the draft (Nick Holden certainly isn’t not a big move) and with free agency quickly approaching, the Blueshirt faithful are anxiously awaiting to see what moves Jeff Gorton and company will make.
But I’m here to tell you that despite these moves, Gorton must address an aspect of this team that was easily their Achilles heel last season.
Sure, I’m not saying anything ground-breaking, but the simple fact is that the Rangers were stuck in mediocrity last season because of their defense.
It was bad.
Throughout the 2015-2016 season, the Rangers lost games in the closing seconds because the defense couldn’t cover their assignments. They have become slow and banged up.
Keith Yandle, an offensive bright spot, was effective on the power play but his careless defensive zone passes would often lead to turnovers.
Dan Boyle would occasionally provide an offensive spark, but it has become obvious that his age has caught up with him. He is slow and not able to clear players in front of Henrik Lundqvist. This most likely won’t matter moving forward as he has made multiple comments about his possible retirement.
Kevin Klein and Ryan McDonagh have emerged as the most reliable players on the blue line, but they have become injury prone over the past couple of years and haven’t been able to play up to their full potential as a result.
Not even close.
But their downfalls have simply been the opposite and equal reaction to action, as their hard-nosed and fearless styles of play have aged their bodies seemingly before our eyes.
We have John Tortorella to thank for that.
Free agency begins on Friday, and Jeff Gorton must address this team’s defensive woes first and foremost.
Because if he doesn’t, nothing else will matter.
That is, unless the Rangers are planning on scoring five or more goals a game.
Much has been made of a possible Steven Stamkos deal, but he will easily be looking for a huge contract which would be a foolhardy proposition for the Rangers.
McKenzie: I could see upwards of a double-digit number of teams probably prepared to give Stamkos double-digit millions on 7-year contract.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 17, 2016
The irony though, is that even if the Rangers were somehow able to acquire Stammer, it wouldn’t matter much with their sub-par defense.
If I had a wish-list, here are the players that I would try to acquire:
Jason Demers (DAL, 2.4M)
Kyle Quincey (DET, 4.2M)
Luke Schenn (LA, 1.6M)
All of these players are cheap, reliable defensemen who could easily help to patch up the Rangers blue line.
It will be interesting to see how Gorton carries out his free agency plans, especially with the Rangers tight cap situation.
One thing is for sure.
The worst possible scenario for Gorton, is that he simply does nothing come Friday.