Key Rangers storylines after 2024 NHL All-Star break

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL All-Star break arrived at an opportune time for the New York Rangers. Just 12-12-1 in their previous 25 games, the Rangers lost Ryan Lindgren to an upper-body injury, Jacob Trouba to a suspension and Filip Chytil for the rest of the season right before the break.

So, yeah, it’s a good time for the Rangers to regroup before attacking the final 33 games of the regular season.

Though stuck in a negative vibe the past six weeks or so, the Rangers remain first in the Metropolitan Division. And the teams behind them each have their own issues to contend with.

So, the sky is not falling on the Rangers.

But they do need to find their game again after the break, that 7-2 thrashing of the Ottawa Senators on Saturday notwithstanding. The Carolina Hurricanes are two points back in the Metropolitan. And the Rangers need to regain that swagger and those winning ways from early in the season in order to meet high expectations in theStanley Cup Playoffs.

That said, let’s examine some key storylines down the stretch for the Rangers.

Key Rangers storylines after 2024 NHL All-Star break

Rangers have several holes to fill ahead of NHL trade deadline

You may have heard the NHL trade deadline is March 8. And you may have also heard that the Rangers need a third-line center, top-line right wing and likely third-pair defenseman.

That’s going to make for a rumor-filled next six weeks, or whenever general manager Chris Drury is able to finalize deals. Remember, he moved quickly before the deadline last season, specifically making trades weeks ahead of the deadline for forwards Tyler Motte and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The Rangers could use a jolt to their lineup sooner rather than later. But don’t expect Drury to jump the gun, instead making sure he’s got the exact deal(s) he wants.

As reacquiring Motte a year ago proved, Drury is not averse to reunions with former Blueshirts. So, keep an eye on Tarasenko, Frank Vatrano and perhaps Anthony Duclair in the coming weeks.

Related: Rangers eyeing center Adam Henrique ahead of NHL trade deadline

Rangers will try to remain unbeaten outdoors, play Islanders in Stadium Series

The Rangers and Islanders will meet outdoors for the Stadium Series at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 18. The Rangers’ outdoor unbeaten streak will be on the line. They are 4-0-0 outside, including a 2-1 win against the Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29, 2014. They also defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Ballpark on Jan. 2, 2012; the New Jersey Devils 7-3 in the Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26, 2014; and the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in overtime in the Winter Classic at Citi Field on Jan. 1, 2018.

Henrik Lundqvist backstopped each of those four wins. So, the unbeaten streak will need a new goalie, likely Igor Shesterkin, to carry it forward this season.

SEE: Rangers unveil bold Stadium Series jerseys

Dates with Metropolitan Division rivals populate Rangers schedule 

The Stadium Series will incredibly mark the first game played this season between the Rangers and Islanders. They’ll play four times in the final 28 games.

The Rangers will also see plenty of the Devils (three times), Flyers (3) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2) down the stretch. Each of these divisional games will be crucial as the Rangers desperately want to finish first in the division for the best playoff seeding.

Can Igor Shesterkin find the consistency that’s eluded him this season?

Artemi Panarin. Adam Fox. Mika Zibanejad.

There are plenty of important Rangers.

But perhaps none more so than Igor Shesterkin. Which makes his ability to regain consistent excellence in his game imperative if the Rangers hope to make a deep playoff run this spring.

The 2022 Vezina Trophy winner is representing the Blueshirts at All-Star Weekend in Toronto. But it doesn’t quite feel like it’s been an All-Star season for the 28-year-old.

Too many off nights. Too many questionable goals against. Too many times not being great.

Such is the curse Igor carries now. He set the bar so high, that now he’s expected to play in that rarified air all the time. It’s not easy, obviously. But a more consistent Shesterkin will go a long way to curing the Rangers ills down the stretch.

Will Artemi Panarin, Peter Laviolette, Adam Fox be NHL award finalists?

Shesterkin isn’t in the Vezina conversation this season. And it’s unlikely Will Cuylle will have a big enough role to contend for the Calder Trophy.

So, outside of a possible Presidents Trophy, Stanley Cup championship and/or Conn Smythe Trophy winner, who gives the Rangers their best chances at winning some hardware this season?

Early in the season, Artemi Panarin was a Hart Trophy candidate and Peter Laviolette was front and center for the Jack Adams Award. A strong finish could bolster the candidacy of each again, though it’d be mighty tough for Panarin to beat out Nikita Kucherov or Nathan MacKinnon as League MVP.

A dark horse is Adam Fox to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy. He’ll be hard-pressed to catch and pass Quinn Hughes for the award as top NHL defenseman, but Fox is just about a point-per-game player who’s healthy again and likely will have a strong finish to 2023-24.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny