New York Rangers
Once again the New York Rangers purchased the biggest prize on the free agent market in July. Some things never seem to change, but this move is a little bit different than those of the past for the Rangers.
For the first time in a long time the Rangers have developed a youthful core, a group of players with some decent talent, but more importantly a shared belief system on the ice. The Rangers are one of the youngest teams in the league, and yet some of those players also feel like veterans now. Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist have all been through the wars, but they’ve got plenty of years left in them. The acquisition of Richards is a piece that is being added to address a need, and upgrade the overall talent level; not to bring in a savior in order to resurrect the franchise.
New York’s biggest question heading into season will be whether or not the young players who stepped up last season will be able to duplicate their play again this year. The second pairing on defense, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh, were both rookies who played like veterans a year ago. A regression by either one would hinder the Rangers’ chances in the Atlantic Division, but progression by both could put them in contention.
Derek Stepan made the team surprisingly out of training camp and proceeded to put up 21 goals and 45 points in his freshman campaign. With the addition of Richards, Stepan will lose ice time but also get an opportunity to play against opponents third defensive pairings. It will be hard for Stepan to put 25 or more goals with reduced ice time, but staying close to his production from last year will make the Rangers one of the deepest teams down the middle in the league.
It would be strange to have a Rangers season preview and not mention Henrik Lundqvist, so here’s the obligatory acknowledgement. The thing is that Lundqvist has become the model of consistency in net, and it’s time for his teammates to pick him up this season.
Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal will be looked upon to continue their outstanding play this season.
The addition of Mike Rupp gives the Rangers a player who can fill various roles, contribute in the locker room, and limit the abuse that a useful player like Brandon Prust has had to take while defending his teammates on a nightly basis.
If the Rangers can solve their home ice woes they could be looking at a top five seed in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps an Atlantic Division crown.