The New York Rangers promised their fans the team would rebuild their team and in a surprising fashion, they have kept their promise this summer.
When the New York Rangers sent out a letter advising the fans of their intentions to rebuild the team last season, many, including myself, were not sure the organization possessed the testicular fortitude to actually do it.
Well, that is just what the team has done up to this point.
The team entered the NHL Draft with a game plan, though many did not agree to it at the time, and used all three of their first-round draft picks to select the future New York Rangers.
They used the ninth overall pick to select Vitali Kravtsov. The 18-year-old out of the KHL shows a lot of promise with his stickhandling skill and speed. The team then went on to select K’Andre Miller (22nd overall) and Nils Lundkvist (28th overall.)
Following the draft, free agency began with Rangers fans holding their breath to see if the team would stand fast on their rebuild or do what they have done best over the years, overpay a free agent that might help the team this season and maybe next season. The team did sign 25-year-old Fredrik Claesson, a defenseman who played for the Ottawa Senators last season, to a one-year contract for $700,000.
As for the teams restricted free agents, the organization was able to avoid salary arbitration hearings for all the had filed. Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei, Ryan Spooner and Kevin Hayes all agreed to terms and barring any trades will be participating in training camp in September.
A new coaching staff led by David Quinn will have the responsibility to lead this mix of young kids and veterans back to its winning ways. In fact, due to progress up to this point, the word “rebuild” should no longer be used. Rather, this team is retooling itself. The progress made in a somewhat small and silent way is the correct process to take.
Providing the team doesn’t make any trades between now and September, the Rangers have a good idea of who they will put on the ice come their first preseason game in September. There is no question this season as to whether Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil will make the roster. They should not be considered the future anymore as their time to shine is now.
With that fans must understand that a retooling team is one that will continue to make changes to improve. This includes multiple line combinations to experiment with, call-ups from their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack and via trades.
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The retooling of New York is right on track. This years team has no pressure as in past seasons. Most in the hockey world don’t believe the Rangers have a shot at the playoffs or the wildcard, but that’s why they play the games. The team has plenty of veterans that know how to win hockey games.
Lead by Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei the team can build from the defensive end of the ice. Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes, the Rangers Veterans forwards on the team, will be able to mentor the young players on the team and at the same time lead the way during games offensively. This is no easy task, but do not think for one minute that every game they play in will be a blowout as this club will be competitive every night.
The players the team picked up at the deadline last season will now have the opportunity to show what they can do in New York. Ryan Spooner, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Matt Beleskey all need to bring there game every night to prove last year’s trades were the right moves Jeff Gorton made.
Slow and patience is the way of the New York Rangers world now. The organization has learned that big trades and free agent signings do not always work. For this team, it hasn’t worked since 1994, so maybe the time to change how the way things were done has finally come.
The fans and the organization will have a better idea of how this retooling has worked out by December. For now, it’s time to rip down the ‘under construction’ sign and get to work. About seven weeks until camp opens, looking forward to seeing what the “New” New York Rangers will look like.