The New York Rangers lost in six games to the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. They revamped their defense this off-season but lost a key piece in Derek Stepan.
It’s tough to predict where they’ll finish because of how the Metropolitan division is so strong.
New York’s forwards took a bit of hit this off-season as they traded their number one center in Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes. Stepan is a big hole to fill, but Mika Zibanajed seems more than ready after the deal he signed this off-season from the Rangers. He had 14 goals and 37 points last year but only played in 56 games due to injury. He did have two goals and nine points in the playoffs though for the Rangers.
Mats Zuccarello has been a great top-six forward for the Rangers. While he only had 15 goals last season, he still had 59 points. A 2.35 5V5 points per 60 is also outstanding too. His goal scoring should be up this season.
Rick Nash enters this season in the last year of his deal and is coming off another 20+ goal season for New York. It’s not known if the Rangers will extend him, but he’s still a capable top-six forward.
Chris Kreider has been one of the more underrated forwards in the league the past couple seasons. He set a career high in goals this past season with 28 and points with 53. He’ll likely be on the top line again this season and rightfully so.
Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, and Pavel Buchnevich are all good depth players for New York and should all be good yet again this season. It wouldn’t seem likely for Grabner to have 27 goals like he did last season but he’ll still pot some.
Kevin Hayes will slide up in the lineup as a center and will be counted on to do a bit more this season. J.T. Miller, of course, can’t be forgotten as he set a career high in points last season with 56 and can play wherever in the lineup. Both Miller and Hayes are RFA’s next season and could be looking at an increase in pay if they have even better seasons.
This is another above average forward group for the Rangers this coming season just like it was the previous season.
New York’s defense was a mess last season as Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were playing too many minutes and had some bad gaffes for them. They were able to buy out Girardi over the off-season and replace him with Kevin Shattenkirk, who was the best defenseman on the free agent market. Shattenkirk is a big upgrade for them and will play with Ryan McDonagh on the top pairing. McDonagh finally gets to play with a great defenseman as he’s been stuck with Dan Girardi for the past few seasons.
On the middle pair, New York has Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith which is one of the better top four pairings in the entire league. Smith doesn’t have good offensive numbers, but he’s great defensively and can move the puck up the ice. Skjei had his first full season with New York last year and made Rangers fans ecstatic for his future. He had five goals and 39 points with a 50.6 CF%. His 1.68 5V5 points per 60 isn’t bad at all either. He’ll grow even more this season and should be a staple on the blueline for years to come.
On the bottom pairing, New York will likely ice Nick Holden and Marc Staal. Anthony Deangelo, who was acquired from the Coyotes in the Derek Stepan deal, could also get a spot there. A bottom pairing for Staal is good for him at this point in his career as he can’t play top pairing minutes anymore or even middle pairing minutes. He’s been in decline for a couple of seasons now, but they should be able to survive with him in a bottom pairing role. If he continues to regress, they can just scratch him.
Nick Holden had 34 points last year on the blueline despite having a CF% of 47.4. He should also be fine in a bottom pairing role. Anthony DeAngelo had five goals and 14 points in 39 games last season for Arizona, and he’s fighting to be on the bottom pairing with both Holden and Staal. Overall, New York’s defense is much better than it was last season and that’s good news for Henrik Lundqvist in net.
Henrik Lundqvist will be in net again this season. Last season was his first season of not having a save percentage of .920 or higher since 2009. It was .910 which is the lowest of his career. Lundqvist is still one of the best goaltenders in the world and will go down as one of the best to ever play the game, but the decline could be coming. He’ll turn 36 during the season, but we’ll see if he can bounce back from being .910 last season or if the decline hits a tad.
Backing him up will be Ondrej Pavelec from Winnipeg after Antti Raanta got traded to Arizona with Stepan.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move. If buyers, what area might they need to improve?
New York will most likely buy as this is a team that’s expected to make the playoffs. They’d potentially look to upgrade their bottom six forwards a bit. It’s never a bad idea to do that for any playoff team.
What rookies could make the team?
Lias Andersson was thought to have a chance to make the team, but he was loaned to Frolunda of the SHL earlier today. Filip Chytil looks to have a chance to make the team as he scored an overtime winning goal in preseason. He’s also centering the second line in practice which shows that the team is giving the 18-year-old a serious look.
Which player could take a step forward this season?
Brady Skjei can take an even bigger step forward for the Rangers this season after his outstanding rookie season. He’ll be playing top-four minutes throughout the season and can likely put up even better numbers offensively than he did his rookie year.
Which players could regress?
Marc Staal had already been showing signs of decline, not just last season but the season before. It may get worse this season as he gets a bit older even when he plays on the bottom pairing. There’s also the possibility that Lundqvist has another season where he’s around .910 as he continues to get well into his 30’s.
How will the team do?
New York will be in the fight for a playoff spot this season though they should be able to make it. They have a good enough roster to get in the playoffs and finish somewhere between third and fifth in the Metropolitan division.