Do the New York Rangers need to get faster to compete in today’s NHL?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an old saying in sports that “speed kills” and right now that seems to be the case in these NHL playoffs.

Several teams that made it to the second round of postseason action did it with speed. The Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Edmonton Oilers stand out the most of the eight teams remaining.

In the New York Rangers first round series loss to the Devils, whenever the tempo picked up the Blueshirts appeared to slow down. Skaters like forwards Patrick Kane and Alexis Lafreniere or defensemen Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba, all had trouble with the pace at times.

Oddly enough, even with players that can skate well like Mika Zibanejad and K’Andre Miller there were difficulties keeping up. All of this leads to the question; do the Rangers need to get faster to compete in the NHL next season?

The early answer seems to be a definitive yes.

New York Rangers need to get faster

new york rangers
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

When we are talking about speed, it’s not that the Rangers need the second-coming of Pavel Bure (although that would be nice). This is really about playing faster overall, especially on the forecheck.

The Rangers have several players signed for next season with excellent speed that can do this. Chris Kreider is their fastest skater, but Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko have all shown good wheels.

On defense, K’Andre Miller can fly but the Rangers could use more speed on their blue-line. As good as Adam Fox is, no one will confuse his skating ability for that of Cale Makar.

Next season the Rangers are expected to have a lineup as follows:

  • Kreider – Zibanejad – TBD
  • Panarin – Trocheck – TBD
  • Lafreniere – Chtyil – Kakko
  • TBD – Goodrow – Vesey
  • Lindgren – Fox
  • Miller – Trouba
  • TBD – Schneider

I currently have both Lafreniere and Miller penciled into the lineup even though they are restricted free agents without salary arbitration.

As you can see, there are four key spot that will need to be filled with at least a few players that can skate quickly.

One of those players needs to be unrestricted free agent Tyler Motte.

Motte was one of the more noticeable players during the playoffs with his relentless forecheck and speed in all three zones. The 28 year-old is also open to a return after being reacquired and posting 5 goals and 5 assists in 24 regular season contests with the Rangers.

“I love this city and I love this group,” Motte said. “You never know who’s going to be back in the locker room at the beginning of each year. But this is one I’d love to be a part of.”

The other two forward spots are being vacated by UFA’s Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s possible that Kakko will move up and play with Zibanejad again. That leaves the other right wing spots open for both Brennan Othmann and Will Cuylle to fill in.

Othmann, 20, registered 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points in 56 matches split between the Firebirds and Petes this season. So far in the postseason, he leads the Petes with 7 goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 17 matches as they prepare to play for the OHL championship. Not really known for his skating, Othmann can keep pace on the wings from what I’ve seen to date.

Cullye, 21, recorded 25 goals, 20 assists, for 45 points in 69 games with the Pack as a rookie. He’s certainly not a speedster, but based on his limited time in the NHL this past season, he did a nice job of staying with the quicker tempo.

On defense, the Rangers could use someone a little more mobile and Zac Jones is a good candidate. Although he may be on the small side, he can transport the puck up ice well and get back quickly. The pending RFA notched 31 points in 54 games this season in Hartford and has added 5 points in 6 playoff contests to date.

Unfortunately, if you are looking to improve team speed on the free agent market it will be a challenge due to limited cap space and having their own RFA’s to sign. However, if speedy forwards like Tomas Tatar, Jesper Fast, Miles Wood, or Andreas Athanasiou linger on the market, they could be had at an affordable price.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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