Chris Drury has been relatively quiet thus far. Re-signing Kaapo Kakko has been the only move thus far, but it’s expected to ramp up. Drury has said nothing is off the table, but logically speaking we know what can happen and what won’t happen. Still, it seems unclear what the true Rangers needs are this offseason, as it’s still unclear how much shaking up they want to do.

The common narrative is the Rangers need to get tougher, and many are hyper focused on Brady Tkachuk. That Cohn-head idea is a pipe dream, at least for now. Tkachuk is a key cog for Ottawa and the prior trade rumors were confirmed to be bogus. Things change, of course, but for now this is a pipe dream.

True Rangers needs include puck movers and breakout support

With that addressed, we can focus on true Rangers needs, which starts on the blue line and works its way out. The Rangers had major issues with moving the puck out of the zone, and it’s something that has plagued them for a few years. The best bang for their buck in the offseason is simply retooling the blue line with an emphasis on players that can move the puck.

Zac Jones is naturally the first guy that comes to mind, and it does seem like he will replace Erik Gustafsson as the 3LD. That certainly eliminates one need. I am of the belief that the Rangers can’t run it back with all three of Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and Braden Schneider on the blue line, which is where I might lose some people. I don’t believe the Rangers will find a suitor for Trouba nor do I think they will buy him out. Since Schneider is cost controlled, that leaves Lindgren. Happy to be wrong here, of course.

Forwards play a role in zone exits, which is why at some point Filip Chytil needs to see more ice time. Assuming he’s healthy, which is not a great assumption anymore, Chytil’s 5v5 ice time needs to start creeping into Mika Zibanejad’s 5v5 ice time. One of Chytil’s big strengths, something we really only see from him and Vincent Trocheck, is his ability to read the breakout and support the defense in moving the puck. A defenseman can only move the puck as well as the support he has. Adam Fox notwithstanding, of course.

The Rangers struggle against teams that run 2-1-2 forechecks. Not because they are slow, but because their weaknesses are consistent puck movers and breakout support. The Chytil injury hurt more than many realize, but it can’t be solely on Chytil to provide the breakout support as F1 when exiting the zone.

But what about 5v5 scoring?

Perhaps this is galaxy braining a bit, but when addressing 5v5 scoring, the true Rangers needs come from the inputs into 5v5 scoring. Proper puck movers on the blue line and breakout support are inputs, and will certainly help against stronger teams like Florida that pressure relentlessly. But these are only two aspects.

We do generally expect centers to be F1 in the breakout and the first support option, as mentioned above, but that can change based on line makeup. That’s where the new winger with Mika Zibanejad will need to excel. It would be fantastic if the Rangers could land a Matt Tkachuk-esque winger, but that’s not realistic. Instead, landing a winger that gets to dirty areas, creates space, and supports a breakout is far more realistic. That’s what the Zibanejad line has been missing. They have the scoring talent, but they lack the space creator.

Getting that 2L going is obviously top priority and is one of the true Rangers needs this offseason, but getting tertiary scoring is also critical. Another big question is whether a third line of, as it stands today, Will Cuylle-Filip Chytil-Kaapo Kakko has enough scoring and forechecking punch to be a legitimate threat. It’s certainly a wild card, but it may not be something the Rangers need to address in the offseason. It’s something that can linger until the trade deadline, giving some rookies like Brett Berard and Brennan Othmann long looks as well.

Hopefully, 5v5 scoring corrects itself with the right moves in puck moving blue liners and better breakout support in the form of a 2RW on the Zibanejad line. The talent is there, but they need that extra piece to put it all together.


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