New York Rangers offseason changes led by Vincent Trocheck and relying on kids
The New York Rangers have had a decent offseason to date. No more major moves are expected, at least in the form of free agent signings. All in all, GM Chris Drury made 9 key signings with 4 of them being unrestricted free agents that were not here last season. He also let 6 of his own unrestricted free agents walk and made two trades.
When you look back on the moves for next season’s lineup it began with the signing RFA Vitali Kravtsov to a one-year, one-way extension on June 13. At the time, Drury’s plan wasn’t quite clear, but by signing him along with RFA’s Sammy Blais, Julien Gauthier, and Libor Hajek it signaled the end for the team’s trade deadline acquisitions.
All are low cost signings that can help in replacing those unrestricted free agents the team let go. Drury was limited in his options knowing that cap space was going to be tight next season. With the new contracts of Mika Zibanejad ($8.5M AAV) and Adam Fox ($9.5M) kicking in, there simply wasn’t much he could do.
Let’s dive into the Rangers offseason for 2022-23
|NYR OUT||POS||NYR SIGNED||PROJ POS|
|Ryan Strome||C2||Vincent Trocheck||C2|
|Andrew Copp||RW2||Kaapo Kakko||RW2|
|Frank Vatrano||RW1||Vitali Kravtsov||RW3|
|Tyler Motte||LW4||Sammy Blais||LW3/LW4|
|Justin Braun||7D||Libor Hajek||7D|
|Patrik Nemeth||LD3||Ryan Carpenter||C4/13F|
|Alexandar Georgiev||G2||Jaroslav Halak||G2|
|Kevin Rooney||C4/13F||Julien Gauthier||13F|
New York Rangers accomplished their offseason goals
The Rangers knew they were not going to be able to keep all their UFAs. With only around $10 million in cap space to play with, the mission was simple:
- Sign a second line center
- Re-sign Kaapo Kakko
- Sign a veteran backup
New York took care of their top priority almost as soon as free agency opened on July 13 by signing Vincent Trocheck from the Carolina Hurricanes.
Trocheck, 29, registered 21 goals and 51 points last season. He is a two-way player that is built to succeed in the playoffs. His signing came at a steep cost, more so in term (7 years) than in money ($5.625M AAV).
“This was one of just a few teams that we really looked at and thought it was a good fit,” Trocheck said. “Coming in we knew that New York was probably our No. 1 choice, and when they came today it was an easy decision.”
The signing meant that Ryan Strome’s time with the Rangers was done after four solid seasons as the second line center.
“It’s an important part of any hockey team and it’s a hole we wanted to address,” Drury said. “Just excited to have Vincent on board. He’s a real good player, does a lot of different things. We’re excited to have him.”
Prior to the NHL Draft, the Rangers made a key trade by sending Alexandar Georgiev to the Colorado Avalanche for three draft picks instead of losing him for nothing. He was due a $2.65M qualifying offer that New York was never going to give and consequently make him a UFA.
The Rangers used some of that money to sign Jaroslav Halak to a one-year deal at $1.55M to back up Igor Shesterkin. They also wisely signed Louis Domingue for two years at an AAV of $775K as an insurance policy.
Halak, 37, posted a 4-7-2 record in a backup role with the Vancouver Canucks last season. The key stats were his .903 SV% and 2.94 GAA in limited action behind Thatcher Demko.
Domingue, 30, has a record of 59-60-10 in 142 career appearances. His GAA of 3.04 and SV% of .905 are also respectable for a backup. His entire cap hit can be buried in the AHL where he’s likely to start the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
They closed out their top goals when they signed Kaapo Kakko to a 2-year extension with an AAV of $2.1 million. The Rangers second overall pick from the 2019 Draft is expected to play in the top six on right wing, replacing either Andrew Copp or Frank Vatrano.
Kakko, 21, had a really difficult 2021-22 season simply trying to stay on the ice. He missed 39 games due to three separate injuries but posted 18 points in the 43 matches.
Rounding out the rest of the offseason
When the Rangers traded defenseman Patrik Nemeth, it came at a cost. In order to free themselves of his full $2.5M cap hit for two years, they needed to add two draft picks to the Arizona Coyotes. The first was a second round pick in 2025, plus a conditional pick that will either be a second round pick in 2024 or 2026. Drury did get back prospect defenseman Ty Emberson, who played with K’Andre Miller at Wisconsin.
The Rangers also added more center depth to the organization by signing veteran Ryan Carpenter, who will replace Kevin Rooney and/or Tyler Motte.
Carpenter, 31, registered 12 points in 67 games split between the Chicago Blackhawks (59) and Calgary Flames (8). His one-year contract is for $750K, which can also be completely buried in the AHL if needed.
Justin Braun, who was acquired at the trade deadline acted as the 7th defenseman until the playoffs. Coming in for a struggling Nemeth, he played well as the third pair left defenseman with Braden Schneider. That job will likely go to Zac Jones for next season. By re-signing Libor Hajek, the Rangers have their extra defenseman.
Sammy Blais should be a lock on the bottom six after tearing his ACL in November and missing the season. Julien Gauthier will battle with Dryden Hunt to be an extra forward.
Finally, there is no direct replacement for Frank Vatrano. After bouncing around the lineup, he found a home on the first line right wing with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Alexis Lafrenière may get the first try in camp at that spot. With Kaapo Kakko moving up to the second line, Kravtsov should suit up with Filip Chytil on the third line.
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