Twenty-twenty is here and the New York Rangers are already starting to face some of the dilemmas the new year offers.
For the New York Rangers, the New Year has gotten off to a bumpy yet exciting start.
Winners of just two of their first five games in 2020, New York continues to find itself searching for consistency all throughout the lineup. Lately, they just have yet to put together a full 60 minutes for more than two games. Even though it’s extremely frustrating, it’s part of the process that will most definitely help them in the future.
Just like the rest of the season, there have been bright spots, though. The improved play of Filip Chytil continues to be a major storyline of the year, along with the emergence of Adam Fox and Alexandar Georgiev. From a developmental standpoint, there’s plenty to be happy and positive about despite the Lias Andersson situation.
Speaking of Andersson, getting to the bottom of his situation is probably the most important issue president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton have on their plate. With that said, there’s still plenty of time to figure that out so we’ll leave that off our list for now.
Here are the three biggest dilemmas facing the Blueshirts the rest of the season:
1. Three goalie situation
It’s no secret: the recall of top prospect Igor Shesterkin has given the Rangers a problem they created themselves.
Moving forward, it just does not make sense how the Rangers plan to shuffle Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev and rookie Shesterkin on a consistent basis. The proof is right there in the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Blues Saturday when Lundqvist made his first start in nine days and did not have the greatest outing.
Reports indicate the Blueshirts are starting to float Georgiev’s name out there in trade talks, but there is nothing imminent that will help give everyone their fair shot at equal playing time.
The most realistic case, for the time being, has to be shuffling Shesterkin back and forth from the NHL to the AHL on days where’s not scheduled to start. They lost that option with Georgiev since he would have to go through waivers in order to sent to Hartford, and there is no chance he would make it to Hartford if that were to happen.
2. An extremely tight salary cap
The Rangers are going to have to make some very tough decisions over the next weeks leading up to the trade deadline, and it deals with the hard, unforgiving NHL salary cap.
Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith all have one more year with a combined $18.5 million cap hit, which might lead to New York having to say goodbye to some key players hitting the market this summer.
Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast are both unrestricted free-agents this summer, while Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome are due for a pay raise as restricted free agents. All five players play key roles for this Ranger team and are all due for pay raises.
A year ago saying goodbye to a player like Strome might have been realistic, but he and Artemi Panarin have developed a special type of chemistry no team would want to break. Fast continues to be a favorite of head coach David Quinn, while DeAngelo looks to have finally put it all together and become a force on the blue line.
While some of these decisions won’t be resolved until the summer, they will have an impact on this current Rangers team-leading dilemma number three of this piece.
3. To be sellers or not
The last two seasons of this rebuild, general manager Jeff Gorton sold at the deadline trading away several key players of the last decade for a significant amount of assets. This deadline is a little different, however, considering the course this rebuild has taken.
Of the current roster, the obvious sell would be to move Chris Kreider, who could possibly fetch a first-round pick and a prospect while Fast could bring in a pick New York could use down the road but it isn’t as simple as that.
Kreider is a unique player who possesses a skill set that most players on this roster don’t possess. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Rangers extend him before the deadline; or, at the very least, if they simply hold onto him and risk losing him for nothing.
For the first time during this rebuild, New York finds itself just outside of the playoffs, and they have to ask themselves if selling for a third-straight year is the best option for them moving forward. The answer isn’t a simple one, and they might be better off just staying pat on the Feb. 24 trade deadline.