Offseason

Sweep by Carolina accentuates NY Rangers offseason needs for depth

The NY Rangers exceeded expectations this season. If you were told in August last year that this team were to make things interesting, and be three games out of the last wild card spot, you would have taken it. The Rangers rode their top six and right side defense with some timely goaltending to their play-in series loss. Lessons are learned from that loss, as the NY Rangers have some offseason needs to address.

Carolina exploited the Rangers lack of depth. That was going to be the issue with the Rangers this postseason. If the top-six didn’t score, the team wouldn’t win. That’s what happened. The top-six didn’t score, the Rangers only put up four goals in three games, and Carolina beat them up. There was a game plan, and Carolina stuck to it. They were a well disciplined team that took advantage of a young team with holes. Those holes are what keep the Rangers from being true contenders.

The Bottom Six

One injury to Jesper Fast changed everything for the Rangers. This forced Kaapo Kakko, who played very well, into a top-six role. In turn, that forced a combination of Julien Gauthier, Brendan Lemieux, and Brett Howden into roles that overwhelmed them. Gauthier is likely the best of the bunch and showed flashes of top-nine potential. Lemieux is likely a fourth liner at best. Howden doesn’t belong in the NHL.

The Rangers lacked the forward depth to compete with the Canes. If offense from the top-six dried up, then the Rangers were doomed. That’s what happened over four days in Toronto. Depth wins in the playoffs.

The Canes had Justin Williams, Jordan Staal, and Warren Foegele as their third line. The Rangers trotted out Filip Chytil on the wing. The Canes had Brock McGinn and Morgan Geekie on the fourth line. The Rangers had Greg McKegg. No matter which was you sliced it, the bottom-six always heavily favored the Canes.

If they are to take the next step, addressing the bottom-six is an offseason need for the NY Rangers. If the Blueshirts truly want to be contenders, then they need balanced scoring beyond their top-six. There is not a specific direction other than improving upon what they have today. Suffice it to say if Howden is the 3C next year, that won’t end well.

Left Defense

The Canes had a targeted approach to their series. The Rangers were strong on right defense, but borderline terrible on left defense. Forcing the left defense into quick puck moving decisions forced turnovers. This may not have always led to pucks in the back of the net, but it led to limited time in the offensive zone. The strategy worked. It played a major role in keeping the Rangers’ top-six at bay.

The left defense hole has been widely known for some time. It became even more of an issue at the trade deadline with Brady Skjei going to Carolina. K’Andre Miller is certainly going to be a welcome addition, and may already be the best left defenseman on the roster. But the Rangers need more than just him and an overachieving rookie in Ryan Lindgren.

Lindgren was by far the best Rangers defenseman this postseason, which is great for him and his development. However if he is the best defenseman, that’s a problem. If the Rangers are going to be deep enough to win, then Lindgren needs to be, at the very least, the 2nd best left defenseman on the roster. Preferably the 3LD. Depth wins.

Not A Quick Fix

Before COVID-19 threw everything out the window, we were projecting the Rangers to be true contenders in the 2022-2023 season. This was in part due to the contract coming off the books next season, but mostly due to the development time of key prospects.

Kaapo Kakko will need to develop into that top line winger we know he can be. Adam Fox will eventually need to assume 1RD control from Jacob Trouba. K’Andre Miller will need more than one AHL/NHL call up season to be ready for that role. Nils Lundkvist will need to come to the NHL and hit his potential. Morgan Barron will need to hit his potential.

There’s a lot that can still go wrong for the Rangers. But there’s a lot that can still go right. The best first step for the NY Rangers is addressing these offeseason needs. The depth of this club needs to be worked on. It’s not one or two pieces. It’s multiple.

They are trending in the right direction. However the NY Rangers offseason needs are clearly in the bottom half of their lineup. Depth matters. Depth wins. And depth needs to be addressed.

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  • All of the above and still need help down the middle. Let Strome go and acquire a real 2C so that Chytil can either be an average 3C or maybe a better 3W. Tony D is a player, but will he help bring back the 2C that gets us deeper?

    Some kids with potential are on the horizon. Unclear if any are more than bottom 6 players. The future defense looks promising, but how do we move Smith and Staal? The salary cap will make changing this team in one offseason a big challenge.

    • I don’t think this is Dave’s point. He is focused on 2021-2022 at the earliest and by then Smith and Staal will be gone.

      The Ranger problem on defense is not Smith and Staal. Smith and Staal are not playing ahead of better players. The problem is that aside from Lindgren, Trouba, Fox and DeAngelo, no one in the organization is really any good. And Tony is defensively weak and likely to never play on the PK.

      People get excited about Miller, Lundqvist, Robertson, Hajek and Rykov, but there are few sure things (perhaps none) on that list and no one is ready now. Only Miller I think has a real shot of being a factor next year. Like others, I am hopeful that Lundqvist and Robertson will be future stars, but we are very unlikely to see either in NY next year.

      Honestly, the Rangers need to sign a veteran third pair left defenseman as a stopgap for next year.

      • We need a plan that gets us to the playoffs next year as well. While the focus can be on being a team that goes deep into the playoffs in 2 years, we need to be a bit more competitive should we make the playoffs next year.

        I for one, would think we should take some positive strides next year. Get the team 1 or 2 players away by the time we are in game 60 next season.

    • It’ll be easier to draft a young NHL ready centerman and use him as the depth. Hopefully Howden can at the least become a viable NHL player. We have seen it before but he had such a promising start to his career.
      I would love to see Miller and Lindquist in the NHL by the middle of next season. Good or bad, let them learn.
      Gorton will have quite a few trade chips to work with this summer in order to fill positions of need.

  • Tony D played through a pretty severe hamstring injury.

    Fox, I hope he learned from this experience because he was bad this series.

    Lindgren is a very good player, I think he is just scratching the surface how good he can become, just because he isn’t flashy doesn’t mean he can’t be a top 4 guy.

    Trouba needs to do more…8mm is a lot of cap space for what he has provided so far.

    If I had to pick between Smith and Staal…I would pick Smith.

    Miller will be a top 4 guy.

    I believe Robertson can be a top 4 guy.

    Nils has the making of a power play specialist/offensive dman. But he is a pretty thin kid and as we just witnessed…the playoffs are a different animal.

    • jjb

      Agree with most of your post, but from all indications, Nils is a solid defensive player to go along with his offense. This kid will surprise many people……………….

  • I wanted a better showing than being swept. I really thought that our top 2 lines could dominate and that our bottom 2 lines just needed to play even. Well, silly me, that plan was a failure.

    The Canes exploited our weaknesses to their fullest. Excellent game plan on their part.

    Playoff hockey still requires some grit and a willingness to go into the dirty areas. We only have a few who go there.

    Next year, I would expect to build a deeper team all around.

    • We need to take positive steps. We made the playoffs this year and had a poor showing. I would hope to make the playoffs again next year and have a few more pieces that get us a win or 2.

  • A lot of overreacting here based on one short series against a pretty damn good coach and team (and I mean “team” as in more than the sum of its part).

    I think Fast and Lemieux with Igor in net from the beginning might have made for a more competitive series. The future still looks just as bright as before the series … and contrary to opinion I thought even Howden showed he can be a serviceable player in the NHL — he did not play badly. Re: Lindgren, you continue to underestimate him Dave.

    People are expecting an awful lot from all the young players on this team. It’s one thing being a rookie or 2nd year pro player and inserted into a lineup of good vets, it’s another thing when half your team are young pros.

    I saw a rusty team that got off to a bad start and pressed to find the rhythm and chemistry that existed before the pause. It took them 7 periods to find that, which is fine in the regular season but not in a short 3-5 game playoff series.

    • Agree about Lindgren. IMO, he was the best dman on the Rangers this year and IF Fox develops to match him, the Rangers may have their first good shutdown pair since McDonagh-Girardi.

      Fortunately, Dave is not alone in undervaluing stay at home defensemen. So while the Rangers will have to overpay to keep DeAngelo, they likely will get Lindgren at a bargain.

      JFTR, if I am Gorton and I am offered Quinn Hughes for Lindgren, I laugh.

    • I think you are pretty dead with your assessment Tanto. I think a huge weakness with this team is they cannot win faceoffs with any consistency. Special teams suffers on both sides from not being able to win key faceoffs. I don’t know if it is coaching or that our centers just don’t have the skills. A faceoff specialist would be a welcome addition to the team. NYR has not had one in years.

  • I agree with your assessment particularly on the bottom six and will add the PK is a mess too. In fact after watching our PK and Carolina’s PK It’s clear to see the difference in mentality. Carolina was constantly coming at our guys and giving us no time to set up and we just shelled and let them move the puck at will.

    We always like to chase the big name FA’s. But there are a few FA’s this year that can help us. Guys like Derek Grant, Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin. Just to name a few. We need a C that can win key face offs and fore check. I know they aren’t everything but it’s a big weakness. On LD someone like Joel Edmundson. Not someone I have given a lot of though to, but I was surprised who well he played against us. ( I wouldn’t pay him $3.1 mill, but I’d inquire) Justin Braun could also be a good fit for a short term deal. Bit they need to move Smith and Staal. And that will be no easy task.

    I would move on from Strome. He’s been good for us, but not good enough. There are also other options out there that should cost less than $5 mill that seems to be attached to his next contract. Plus trade at high value. I am thinking about guys like Galchyenuk and Mikael Grandlund. Both should be in line for short term show me type deals at less dollars.

    We also need to change our style and play better defense in general. Since Torts was fired our D has been in the decline. Partially because of personnel but partially because of our style, which seems to be give up the line and let them bombard our goalie.

    Here’s hoping we land #1 in the draft. Glad Morgan Barron is signed but no need to rush him to the NHL. It was also interesting to me that Quinn Choose Fogerty over Kravtsov to play for Fast. I’d like to see Kravtsov on the big team next year, but time will tell if he is ready.

    It’s a good long term story. But we are still rebuilding and we need some role players to come in the short term. We have a lot of high end talent. Now we need some grinders

    • Always liked Joel Edmundson, wanted the Rangers to draft him the year we took the Undertaker…but he will be too rich.

      Nathan Beaulieu would add some brawn and would be cheap.

      Carson Soucy, could be a sneaky good signing.

      Brandon Dillon would be a nice get but I assume he will be too rich as well.

      And the dark horse of all dark horses…Chara. I have always been against swan songs….but, boy, would he teach guys how to play defense.

  • Lots of questions for the Rangers to answer. They are still in transition and have some good players who are still learning at Hartford.

    Take my suggestions with a grain of salt. I played some hockey back when I was young, but I am a lawyer not a hockey player and I am a fan, not a GM, so I know squat! But it is interesting and fun to speculate.

    I’d like Ryan Strome better if he was cheaper than he will be, and if he was a 3C, (and on a good team that is what he would be.) He is likely to be neither so I think that the Rangers should trade the man or sign him to a short deal while they still have the advantages of him being a RFA.

    Perhaps try to sink or swim with Chytil as your 2C, unless you go for someone more established, or if you keep Strome on a short deal. But still consider flipping Chytil and Strome so that Strome is a 3C like he should be. If Chytil is overwhelmed you just put Strome back at 2C.

    Play Kravstov on the third line. Play Fast on the third line on his off wing, centered by either Strome or Chytil.

    Play Morgan Barron as your 4th line center. Put Lemiuex on that line. Play Gauthier on the 4th line.

    Kreider/Zibanejad/Buchnevich
    Panarin/Chytil/Kakko / (Panarin/Strome/Kakko)
    Fast/Strome/Kravstov / (Fast/Chytil/Kravstov)
    Lemieux/Barron/Gauthier

    Some holes to fill on defense. Staal should be the 7th Dman. Smith should be gone. Maybe Miller is ready to make the jump, but I think the other Wolfpack Dmen are still a couple of years away. So play Miller with either Trouba or DeAngelo. Find another left defenseman so that you can use Staal only if necessary.

    Miller (Someone?) Trouba
    Lindgren Fox
    Someone? (Miller) DeAngelo
    Staal

    • Peter

      I read your post, after posting my own, and it appears that we may be on the same train of thought. I go one step further, and say let the kids sink, or swim, by putting them in a position to prove themselves.

      Someone mentioned Galchyenuk, a risky move, but could work out well, and move Barron to my fourth line. There is a kid at Wisconsin who played with Miller, a center, who has size, and skill. Dylan Holloway, and he would fit in as well as a potential 4th line center filling that need.

      There are a number of options that can be useful, again management has got to do their home work, no poor draft picks, and we should be ready to go full speed ahead within the next two-three years max!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • “They are still in transition and have some good players who are still learning at Hartford.”

      Sadly this is not true. Two good players did start the season in Hartford – Lindgren and Shesterkin, but looking at the end of season roster, the only undeniable talent was Kravtsov. Otherwise there are no future stars and only a small number with a 50/50 shot at being marginal – Rykov and Gettinger basically, maybe Hajek.

      There is something of a pipeline of players who were not at Hartford this year, but the Wolfpack itself was pretty bare.

      • Kravstov, Miller, Lundqvist, Robertson and Barron are all pretty decent prospects, so to claim that the cupboard is bare seems inaccurate to me.

        • You are smarter than this, Peter. Please reread my comment. I said there was relatively nothing in Hartford and your list contains only one Wolfpack player – whom I acknowledged. “the Wolfpack itself was pretty bare.”

          Incidentally, I don’t know how to assess the overall cupboard. I haven’t followed other systems and wonder “Is five players a lot? Or is it below average?” I really don’t know how many kids other teams have that they are really excited about.

          And while I expect fine things from this quintet, I am not sure that any of them – except hopefully Kravtsov – merits the can’t miss label. I presume the Rangers will be thrilled if 3-4 of them become NHLers with maybe two as top six or top four.

          • Well Ray, both Miller and Kravstov were with the Pack. Yeah I forgot that Robinson was in the WHL. Barron is headed either to Hartford or the big club, and Lundqvist should be pretty soon. But I was thinking generally about their overall prospect pool and I wasn’t limiting my comment to the Wolfpack, but I yes, I guess you were. Mea culpa.

            I’d say that Miller and Kravstov are both possible stars. Lundqvist might be too. Robinson and Barron I think are probably NHL’ers, but their ceilings might be a bit lower. Yes, with prospects nothing is certain until they do it in the NHL.

          • Miller signed March 16 for the coming year. In a covid free world, he may have signed a PTO with Hartford in March, but of course that did not happen.

            Many may question my interpretations (and sometimes with good reason), but my facts are seldom wrong.

            Regarding their respective futures, I think we are on the same page.

  • RW Center LW

    Kreider Zib Buch
    Breadman Chytil Kakko
    Gauthier Barron Kravstov
    Lemieux ? Fast

    Trouba Miller
    Fox Lingren
    Robertson ADA/Nils Lindqvist

    This could be the potential line up, even before we draft, and or, trade for anyone else. This assumes that both Smith/Staal are gone, and Howden is moved as well. As a starting point, we have improved the team by elimination, and again without any people we get in return, draft, or UFA that we may want to sign. The key is if management, or Sather, let’s the GM do what’s right for this team?????????????????

    FYI, I see this draft as a very deep, and good one, while we have two picks, let’s make the right moves. No more getting off of the board, do our research of the players, we don’t need a repeat of another Andersson.

    Just my thoughts for what they may, or may not be worth!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • There’s zero downside to playing Miller, Barron and Kravtsov in a season where the playoffs are only a possibility and the Cup is a pipe dream. I will be seriously upset if guys like Staal, Smith, McKegg, PDG and others without a future here are playing ahead of these kids.

    I really question Quinn’s thinking on this… it’s self-serving and not in team’s best interest. There needs to be some FO intervention here.

  • Everyone seems to pencil in Chytil as definite number 2 center next year. I know the kid is young and has skill, but he really hasn’t proven in almost two years a heck of a lot to warrant number 2 center next year. I believe he will certainly get better (maybe even a star), but to me, so far, he seems inconsistent, and a soft player who gets lost in the shuffle and needs to dominate more. Maybe the expectations are a little to high for him next year. Right now, I can see him more as a number 3 center until he matures and scores some goals and assists consistently. Bottom line, we need a better more mature number 2 center next year, whether Chytil proving something in the beginning of the year, or another player more experienced and consistent. Strictly just my opinion.

    • You may be right Craig. I’d just like to see them try the kid there for a while and see if he suddenly gets it. Sometimes that happens with players. You’re correct that he might need another year. But, perhaps giving him a try could provide a boost that gets him to the next level. If he isn’t ready, we at least know that he can center the third line.

    • He is not proven, but he as of today looks way batter then Strome….. We probably need more mature #2 C, but may be they had to invest in Chytill last season instead of Strome…..

  • I wouldn’t even touch the depth matter before coaching question is solved. Quinn is not the guy, IMHO better get drunk Monti then keep sober Quinn….

  • 1- Lindgren is a keeper and a fine defenseman already with some more offensive upside too. Kid is smart , tough fearless. He isn’t an overachiever in any way. Kid was a mid second round pick , a much bett pick in the second round by Boston than any player we have picked there since Stepan.

    2- Howden was good in this series and clearly outplayed golden boy Chytl who was terrible and that’s a compliment. Buchnevich play in the series?

    3- We weren’t competitive enough because our best players didn’t show up for the playoffs for whatever reason. CK woke up in game 3 and Bread was ok but not great.

    4- depth is definitely a problem but can be addressed from within and maybe a signing.

    5- In posting projected lineups, maybe we should add LaFreniere in here and there or will that jinx us? 😂

    6- We may be as high as 9-10 as things are currently looking if we don’t win the lottery. A good spot to land NHL ready Anton Lundell and later Dylan Holloway or Noel Gunter at 18-20 perhaps.

    • Czech

      “Howden was good in this series and clearly outplayed golden boy Chytl who was terrible and that’s a compliment”.

      Not to be critic, but maybe you should replace your current prescription on your glasses. Howden was awful, and Chytil had himself a rather good series, along with Kakko.

      As for the names mentioned as possible picks, yesterday I mentioned Holloway myself, whom I believe is NHL ready. Then you mentioned Noel Gunler who is a twig, we need bulk now. Gunler is 6’2″, 174 lbs, but can play both wings, so he would be a project worth considering, along with Hendrix Lapierre, 6’0″ 181 lbs, and also a center.

      All in all, any of the kids named would be good down the road a few years!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Czech is not the only person who said Howden was good during the Canes series…..Brooks also said that Howden played well and many others as well… I know that Ranger leadership is very high on Howden and will be back next season. I am not so high on Howden, but agree with Czech that Chytil was not so good. Chytil to me, has tons of talent, but lazy……Just my opinion….

        • Rockey

          Opinions are what they are. Plenty of us felt Chytil played very well, as did Kakko, and many article were written to that effect. I’m not going to get into a fight over this point!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Package Stahl if possible or buy him out. The King should play with his brother next year and then consider a Ranger position. This will free up a lot of cap space to get a good left side D man that is still young.

  • We have many holes, a few overpaid players and kids with potential chomping at the bit. A guy like Lafreniere would really help with the talent level on this team. Looking at another season where we just squeak into the playoffs. I give DQ one more year

  • Just my observations:

    1) kakko MUST spend time, at least a year, in Hartford instead of on the top lines. Maybe he was great in Finland among kids his age but has been nothing but a bust up here.

    2) trouba better start playing up to that nice, fat contract we gave him. 3 or 4 good hits a season doesn’t cut it. So far just another yandle/shattenkirk type signing.

    3) lotsa comments about how prospects can help. I, for one, have not seen any of these kids play so to me they’re just prospects. Too soon to say they’ll be any better than what we have.

    4) we have enough fast, little Europeans. Time to start drafting and/or trading for some bigger, stronger North American players.

    5) time to bid farewell to hank. We have two excellent, young goalies as well as a couple on the farm whose development shouldn’t be hindered for another year because of his contract or misguided sentiment. That goal he gave up at 1:01 of the first period of the first game should have been the last goal he gave up as a ranger.

    6) and finally I’m not so sure about Quinn. While it’s way too soon to start asking for his head I think his game management is questionable. Perhaps it is due to not having the right personnel to work with but some of his decisions have left me scratching my head.

    • You mean the goal he gave up on a pass across the slot line to a completely uncovered streaking winger? That goal? Cuz if that’s the one you don’t know much about hockey…

  • Just my observations:

    1) kakko MUST spend time, at least a year, in Hartford instead of on the top lines. Maybe he was great in Finland among kids his age but has been nothing but a bust up here.

    2) trouba better start playing up to that nice, fat contract we gave him. 3 or 4 good hits a season doesn’t cut it. So far just another yandle/shattenkirk type signing.

    3) lotsa comments about how prospects can help. I, for one, have not seen any of these kids play so to me they’re just prospects. Too soon to say they’ll be any better than what we have.

    4) we have enough fast, little Europeans. Time to start drafting and/or trading for some bigger, stronger North American players.

    5) time to bid farewell to hank. We have two excellent, young goalies as well as a couple on the farm whose development shouldn’t be hindered for another year because of his contract or misguided sentiment. That goal he gave up at 1:01 of the first period of the first game should have been the last goal he gave up as a ranger.

    6) and finally I’m not so sure about Quinn. While it’s way too soon to start asking for his head I think his game management is questionable. Perhaps it is due to not having the right personnel to work with but some of his decisions have left me scratching my head.

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