New York Rangers center options in 2022-23
The New York Rangers will have a new look down the middle now that Ryan Strome and Kevin Rooney have left via free agency. Vincent Trocheck will replace Strome as the team’s second line center for certain. However, the battle for fourth-line center vacated by Rooney is not so cut and dry.
As we continue to look at the Blueshirts roster, the focus has been on both wings. You can review our outlooks below:
Let’s dive into the centers.
New York Rangers lineup: C
When it comes to the center position, the first three lines have their pivots penned in to start the season. It’s really only the fourth-line that raises some questions, but it will likely have another freshly signed free agent filling the role.
The unquestionable first-line center of this team is Mika Zibanejad. His play over the last few years has garnered talk of him being named captain, an honor that just went to Jacob Trouba. The 29 year-old middle man excels in all three zones and in every facet of the game.
Prior to the start of last season, the Rangers awarded him with an 8-year contract extension for $8.5 million AAV and a full no-move clause. Zibanejad rewarded the organization with his best season in the NHL, setting a career-high with 81 points in 81 games. He then led the team in playoff scoring with 24 points in 20 contests.
This upcoming campaign, Chris Kreider will remain on Mika’s left side after scoring 52 goals. However, Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be given a real chance to switch to the right wing position on that line. The trio did play together last season for a total of 275 minutes, so their familiarity will help going forward.
The Rangers appear to have had their sights set on Vincent Trocheck almost as soon as they were eliminated. Ryan Strome noted that very little to no talks were had which indicated the team was going in another direction. On July 13, the first day of free agency, GM Chris Drury signed Trocheck to a 7-year deal with an AAV of $5.625M and a no-trade clause for the first three seasons of the contract.
The Rangers are really banking on Trocheck to be an upgrade over Strome, who averaged .81 points for the last three years with Artemi Panarin. In contrast, Trocheck has averaged .69 points over that same time frame. Of course, one has to assume a decent uptick in offense playing with Panarin.
Trocheck, 29, registered 51 points in 81 games last season. While the Rangers expect offense, he’s really a two-way center that is built to succeed in the playoffs. And that’s what it’s all about for this team as their Stanley Cup contention window has opened.
The Rangers are expecting young Filip Chytil pick up from where he left off in the playoffs.
Chytil, 22, scored just 8 goals and 22 points during the 2021-22 regular season. However, during the post season he racked up 7 goals and 9 points in 20 playoff contests.
Centering the Kid Line with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, the trio controlled play more often than not. This upcoming season, Chytil will most likely have some new wingers featuring Vitali Kravtsov.
While the Rangers want Chytil be a shooting center, they need to see his ability to elevate his wingers as well. He’s also entering the final year of his contract earning $2.3M, and he’ll be an RFA with arbitration rights next summer.
Should Chytil continue to struggle, the team could dangle him as trade bait come the Trade Deadline. He turns 23 years-old on September 5th.
Rangers fourth-line center
When it comes to the fourth-line center position, a lot of people believe it’s Ryan Carpenter’s job to lose. I am one of them, unless another winger emerges in camp and forces Barclay Goodrow to that role.
However, I don’t think the coaching staff is coming into training camp in September handing Carpenter the job. There are some other options, so let’s dig deeper.
Carpenter, 31, registered 12 points in 67 games split between the Chicago Blackhawks (59) and Calgary Flames (8) last year. He signed a one-year deal for $750,000, which means if the Rangers send him to Hartford to start the season it comes off the cap completely.
The rugged center played for head coach Gerard Gallant in Vegas for two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19). That familiarity and ability to win face-offs gives him the upper hand. Carpenter was 51.5 on draws in 2021-22.
Rydahl, 27, scored 30 points in 44 games in the SHL last season before signing as a free agent with the Rangers. He’s a big forward at 6-3, 201 lbs that can also play center and is considered a clutch performer.
On the way to winning the SHL Championship, he potted 12 points in 19 games. Rydahl is also waivers exempt, so there’s a good chance we might see him this season even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp.
Edstrom, 21, notched just 9 points in 43 SHL games last season, but the Rangers didn’t draft him to score. At 6-6′ and 207 lbs he is a tank of man that isn’t shy about hitting.
This will likely be his first season in North America and his development is better suited to start with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. He’s also waivers exempt, so the Rangers may want to see him in the NHL at some point this year.
In the end, I truly believe this is how the Rangers center position will shake out:
- Mika Zibanejad
- Vincent Trocheck
- Filip Chytil
- Ryan Carpenter
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