It has been said many times before that all Stanley Cup contenders have a “window”. In others words, the span of time they have to win it all before everything declines. Since the New York Rangers made the 2012 Eastern Conference Final, they have been considered a contender.
With a team built around all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who wouldn’t pick this team every year to go all the way?
After a failed attempt in 2014 against the Los Angeles Kings, and a bitter loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, analysts basically shut the door on the Rangers. Saying that they’ve had their runs at it, and now their time is done.
When they traded away captain Ryan Callahan for Martin St.Louis, they “went for it”. When they traded Anthony Duclair just a year ago for defenseman Keith Yandle, they “went for it”. Well, it’s time to go for it again, and this time they might have better luck.
After spending 12 years of his current career with the Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal has switched sides. The day before the Trade Deadline, first-year general manager Jeff Gorton traded Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela and two second-round picks for Staal, a move which sent shockwaves around the league, signaling this team was once again going for a title.
Staal waived his no-movement clause to be in New York. He not only wanted to be with his brother, but he wanted to win the Cup again, that’s why he’s here.
He told media after his first morning skate, “I want to help this team win.” He’s certainly a player with a tremendous pedigree in the postseason. He’s posted 43 points in 43 career playoff games, and he led the Canes to a championship in 2006.
He joins a Rangers squad which already has qualified centers in Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, and Dominic Moore. With Staal joining the mix this team has a dimension we haven’t seen in quite some time.
However, this may just be one of their last shots at winning it all. With Staal, Chris Kreider, Dominic Moore, Viktor Stalberg, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, and Dylan McIlrath all becoming free agents after this season is over. With the Rangers so tight to the cap there is very little chance of them being able to retain these players, so the team might have a different look to it come next year.
The most important thing for this team is that they have a grizzled, experienced core of players. Lundqvist, Brassard, Stepan, Moore, Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Kreider, and the defense save Yandle and Boyle all made the trip to the 2014 Final.
This team has won plenty of playoff series’ over the years to know what it takes. They’ve come back from two 3-1 series deficits. One in 2014 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and last year against the Washington Capitals. The comebacks both came in the second round.
They’re resilient, hard-working, and won’t take “no” for an answer. The addition of Staal will only make this team even more poised for a deep run.
With Lundqvist’s prime years coming to an end, he is getting older, and will soon start to slow down in terms of production. What better time to win then now?
When talking Cup at the beginning of training camp, head coach Alain Vigneault told the huddled group of journalists and media members; “We believe that we have a team that has the elements to win the Stanley Cup. We firmly believe that, so failure is not an option.”
Brassard told Pat Leonard of the Daily News yesterday, “We’re already playing with all the best teams right now. So if everyone that follows hockey doesn’t want to put us to win the Stanley Cup, that’s fine like that. We’ll go into the playoffs as underdogs and we’ll make our way all the way there.”
Talk about a confident bunch.