News is slow right now as we wait for the last two dominoes to fall for the Rangers, those being the contracts of Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Ideally the Chris Kreider situation is handled before the start of the season as well. But until then, we wait.
1. There is a lot of talk about the Rangers making the playoffs this year. This is something I’ve discussed before, and while they could be a dark horse pick, I just don’t see it. This club would need to make up 20+ points in the standings for that to be a reality, and there are too many question marks. There are a bunch of rookies and second year pros that will need to exceed expectations for this to happen, and that doesn’t include the train wreck that is the left side of the defense. This team will be better, and be much more fun to watch, but I don’t see them sneaking into the playoffs just yet.
2. Cap space is a concern right now. They will need about $3 million for both Lemieux and DeAngelo, and have about $3 million ($1 million now + $2 million when they demote Brendan Smith/Matt Beleskey) now, so they are right there. Demote 2 more forwards to get to 13F and add a D to get to 7D and it’s less than $1 million in cap space. The name of the cap is banking cap space, and the Rangers have just 3 games in the first 2 weeks of the season. They can, in theory, run a 20 man roster and bank as much as possible early on to give them breathing room. Injuries derail this, but if they get through camp and October unscathed, this probably should fix itself with some savvy maneuvering.
3. As of right now, the Rangers are slated to have six rookies or second year pros in the lineup, seven if you include Tony DeAngelo (132 NHL games) in that category. This brings me back to point #1 – this is a rebuilding year for the Rangers. Yes, the kids are skilled, but they are kids. They will have growing pains. Expectations are high and perhaps they shouldn’t be. These kids need time to grow – none of them are Connor McDavid.
4. The goalie situation is certainly going to be interesting to watch. Henrik Lundqvist, by all stats (including #facnystats) shown, had a down year. He’s 37 years old, it’s expected. He was closer to a 50/50 split with Alex Georgiev last season, and it wouldn’t shock me to see that shift more towards a true split, or even 55/45 for Georgiev. It’s not a huge story to watch given the other kids and talent, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
5. Something to also keep an eye on is the defensive zone system and its effectiveness as the blue line starts to get better. The RD has been completely overhauled. LD is still a giant question mark, and likely depends on how much ice time Marc Staal doesn’t get. Overall defensive progress is going to be highly scrutinized, and if they still can’t get it right, then the ax should fall on Lindy Ruff. It’s long overdue at this point.