To quote former Rangers head coach David Quinn “So, that happened.” Now the New York Rangers find themselves headed for breakup day instead of Raleigh for round two. The Rangers now face more questions than answers, as a bunch of stars, and make no mistake that’s what they were, and not a team, were lifeless in Game 7 in Newark.
How did it get to this? How did the Rangers manage to waste yet another stellar goaltending performance by Igor Shesterkin? It’s pretty simple actually, when nobody but your goaltender show up then you’re bound to be embarrassed.
Enter the New York Rangers.
Make no mistake. I am in no way taking anything away from the New Jersey Devils. They adjusted, they wanted it more, and they got it. The Rangers also did nothing to fight back against once adjustments were made. Big credit to Jack Hughes for being a superstar and showing the Rangers stars (Artemi Panarin) how to play and takeover a series. Hughes was a difference maker and Panarin was nothing more than a casual observer to his club heading off the cliff.
Here we are now in the beginning of May and we’re discussing a first round exit for the first time seemingly in forever and the Rangers face more questions than answers. Do you trade Artemi Panarin? Do you dangle Alexis Lafreniere? Do you make K’Andre Miller available via trade? Limited cap flexibility and a horrific performance on national TV to a bitter rival lead to change.
Moving Panarin, while it could be ideal, it’s highly unlikely. Partially due to his NMC but nobody is willingly going to take 11.6 million dollars off your cap in a flat cap era. Even if it’s a guy who’s a 90 point regular season producer but Panarin’s recent playoff failures will also hurt Drury’s bargaining power in any potential Panarin trade.
Lafreniere is the interesting name that’ll be bandied about this summer. He’s heading towards restricted free agency and he did little to help his cause in the playoffs with no points in the series. The first overall pick was expected to be a franchise altering player (see Jack Hughes), and Lafreniere just isn’t that. Dangling Lafreniere now could address roster construction concerns while selling early enough to get a decent enough return.
The only thing we “know for certain” is that Gerard Gallant will be hailing a cab in front of MSG to head out of town. Gallant’s warts are well known and they were exposed by Lindy Ruff. Gallant’s stars let him down, but he still looks to be the sacrifice. Beyond firing Gallant, Chris Drury is going to have major work ahead of him to overhaul this roster to being a true Cup contender. Because right now, they’re not and that’s a major disappointment.