Former Rangers forwards reunite with Red Wings

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Red Wings snatched up one of the top remaining free-agent forwards Wednesday, when they signed Vladimir Tarasenko to a two-year deal worth $4.75 million annually. The move doesn’t just take a talented scorer off the market — it also reunites him with former New York Rangers teammate Patrick Kane, whom the Blueshirts had expressed interest in ahead of NHL free agency before he re-upped with the Red Wings.

Tarasenko and Kane are reunited after each was acquired in separate trades before the 2023 trade deadline by the Rangers. Each finished the the 2022-23 season in New York though neither veteran was re-signed once it was over.

When Rangers general manager Chris Drury traded for Tarasenko and Kane there was much excitement and hope that the new star power could help carry the Blueshirts on a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the aging stars with four Stanley Cup rings between them at the time couldn’t boost the Rangers, who flamed out in the first-round, losing to the New Jersey Devils in seven games.

Though Tarasenko and Kane weren’t the main culprits, the No.3-seeded Rangers blew a 2-0 series lead against the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils and lost the opening-round series in seven games.

Tarasenko was second on the Rangers in that series with three goals and tied for fourth with four points. Playing with a bad hip, Kane scored only one goal against the Devils but was third on the Blueshirts with six points.

The two star wingers played 26 games together between the regular season and the playoffs. Tarasenko had 11 goals and 25 points in 38 games with the Blueshirts between the regular season and postseason, and Kane had six goals and 18 points in 26 games.

Shortly after the season ended, Kane had hip resurfacing surgery. Though he had interest in re-signing with the Rangers after his rehab, New York was up against the salary cap, so he signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings. Kane looked much healthier after the surgery and had 20 goals and 47 points in 50 games with Detroit.

Reportedly, Tarasenko also wanted to return to the Rangers, but that wasn’t an option unless he took a steep pay cut. So, he signed a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators, who eventually traded him to the Florida Panthers before the 2024 trade deadline. After scoring 23 goals in the regular season, Tarasenko scored five postseason goals, including the series-winner against the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, before helping the Panthers win the Stanley Cup in seven games against the Edmonton Oilers.

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Former Rangers populate Red Wings roster

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kane signed a one-year contract before free agency started to remain with the Red Wings. He and Tarasenko will again team up as veterans with championship pedigree, this time on a talented youthful Red Wings team that barely missed the playoffs last season, and are seeking to end an eight-year postseason drought.

They’re far from the only former Rangers that will look to help the cause. In fact, there are now six former Blueshirts on the Red Wings roster.

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson signed a two-year deal with Detroit after completing a solid full season in New Yor. Forward Tyler Motte, who had two different stints with the Rangers, and former Blueshirts goalie Cam Talbot both signed this offseason as well. That’s on top of Andrew Copp who joined the Red Wings two years ago after he helped Motte and the Blueshirts reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2022.

And keep in mind, Detroit has been linked to Jacob Trouba. While that situation has gotten much more complicated in recent days, the Red Wings would be a top destination for the Rangers captain if he is traded.

Of the six former Blueshirts in Motown, Tarasenko and Kane actually have the fewest games played in a Rangers uniform. Yet excitement that came with their arrival on Broadway and eventual letdown of the Blueshirts first-round exit that season still linger.

Now they’ll run it back as teammates again, this time in Detroit. And it won’t take long for the Rangers to get an up-close view of their recent past because they play a home-and-home set against the Red Wings on Oct. 14 (at Madison Square Garden) and Oct. 17 (at Little Caesars Arena).

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

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