Have the New York Rangers improved their roster enough this offseason to remain competitive in the ever improving Metropolitan Divison?
It’s safe to say that GM Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers did what had to be done this offseason. At times the moves were questionable but ultimately a necessary evil. Other moves were savvy and were required to extend the success of the franchise into future years.
The trading of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona was a necessary evil that was handled very well. Yes, losing Stepan hurts the team down the middle, but his contract was unsustainable. When all the trades were complete and free agency took place the Rangers essentially traded Stepan and Raanta for Anthony DeAngelo, Lias Andersson, and Kevin Shattenkirk. Doesn’t sound too bad when you phrase it like that now does it?
The New York Rangers then focused within their own organization starting with the buyout of Dan Girardi, the signing of Jesper Fast to a 3-year deal, and officially announcing the retirement of Kevin Klein. Mika Zibanejad has filed for salary arbitration and will more than likely be signed in the near future.
The Blueshirts also filled some hole by signing undersized, yet effective center David Desharnais and underachieving goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Desharnais should be able to fit in nicely with a gritty, hard working fourth line the Rangers are always striving for. Pavelec, on the other hand, will have his work cut out for him with the best goalie coach in the World Benoit Allaire. If Pavelec is lucky his tenure with the Rangers will end with an NHL starting gig like his predecessors Raanta and Talbot.
Although some aspects of the lineup have yet to be determined the Rangers opening night roster will be along these lines (see what happened there?)
- Kreider – Zibanejad – Nash
- Vesey – Hayes – Zuccarello
- Buchnevich – J.T. Miller – Grabner
- Puempel – Desharnais – Fast
- McDonagh – Shattenkirk
- Skjei – Smith
- Staal – DeAngelo
These lines assume that Nick Holden remains a Ranger, no other trades are executed, and that no additional free agents are acquired. The defense has been upgraded tenfold, however, the offense leaves something to be desired, especially down the middle. Hayes is not skilled enough to be a 2C and J.T. Miller is better suited on the wing. These are the cards that were dealt and adjustments will have to be made.
The question remains whether the New York Rangers have improved from the roster constructed last year. Every team in the Metropolitan division has strengthened, making it the most challenging division in the NHL. Let’s jump around the division and see what other teams have been up to.
The Washington Capitals who won the Division and the president’s trophy last season will remain a top contender next year. The league’s top team did lose free agents Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR), Karl Alzner (MTL), and Justin Williams (CAR), as well, as Marcus Johansson (NJD). Yet, the core of Washington remains intact with the re-signing of T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky. Expect the Capitals to be at the top of the charts next season.
What else is there to say? Yes, they lost some players including Nick Bonino (NSH), Trevor Daley (DET), M.A. Fleury (VGK), and Ron Hainsey (TOR). They were also able to acquire Antti Niemi, Matt Hunwick, and re-sign Justine Shultz. Will they make the playoffs next season? Yes. Hell, they will probably win the Cup again. That’s what good teams do, find ways to win.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Was last season a fluke? Can Tortorella continue to bring this team up the ranks while also working them to the bone? Ask any Rangers fan and they will say no. The Blue Jackets will live and die by the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. If he can put together another Vezina winning season like last year, Columbus will be just fine. Sam Gagner was the only real loss CBJ faced, who can easily be replaced. Expect another successful season.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have been relatively quiet as far as quantity of transactions but were able to make a significant improvement by adding Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome in a trade. The Islanders struggled for most of the season, but came on strong late in the year. If the Isles can figure out their goalie situation they can contend for a playoff spot next season.
The Flyers were god awful last season with no goaltending and even worse defense. Steve Mason has left the team but was replaced by washed up, failed Calgary goaltender, Brian Elliott. Elliott will be given a fresh start and likely the starting position come October. The Flyers are always a tough, gritty team who can battle their way into the playoffs with a few stretches of good play. Likely they just miss the cut, but anything can happen.
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The Canes are the most improved team in the Metro Division. Can they creep their way into a playoff position? Likely not, but with the addition of proven winner Justin Williams and ready to break through starting goaltender Scott Darling they are ready to make some waves (I know..). The Hurricanes put together a nice run towards the tail end of last season. Expect them to be an improved team next year.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have had a tough going the last few seasons. It’s unfortunate that the talent of Taylor Hall is wasted in the armpit of America. Anyway, the Devs were able to acquire highly skilled center Marcus Johansson from Washington and ink Brian Boyle. Both are major improvements from last season. The additions help but Jersey is far from a playoff position next year.
All other teams in the Metropolitan division have improved, or at least stayed the course from last season. Do the Rangers have what it takes to battle for a playoff spot? Here’s how I see the division falling into place.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Washington Capitals
- New York Rangers
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Islanders
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New Jersey Devils
Within the best division in hockey, the New York Rangers will always be fighting an uphill battle. However, similar to this season, the playoff format can work to a team’s advantage slotting them with a weaker Atlantic Division. The NHL season is a long journey to the big show. October can’t come quick enough.
What order do you think the Metropolitan Divison will finish this season? Let us know by commenting.