Rangers ties run deep with Stanley Cup champion Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

No doubt there’s was some sting for the New York Rangers on Monday night, watching the Florida Panthers celebrate their Game 7 win against the Edmonton Oilers, hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

After all, it was just a couple of weeks ago that the Rangers were two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, only to lose in six games to the Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final.

Two recent former Rangers played a big part in knocking the Blueshirts out of the playoffs this year, and helping the Panthers eventually outlast the Oilers in an epic seven-game Final.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola each played all 24 postseason games with the Panthers. Tarasenko had nine points (five goals, four assists) and scored the series-winning goal against the Rangers in Game 6 of the conference final. This is his second Stanley Cup after the veteran forward previously helped the St. Louis Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship in 2019.

Mikkola won the Stanley Cup for the first time Monday. The 28-year-old defenseman had two goals and four points in the run, including scoring a big goal in Game 2 of the Final. He was fourth among Panthers defenseman this offseason, averaging 18:39 in ice time.

The Rangers acquired Tarasenko and Mikkola from the Blues on Feb. 9, 2023, a trade that sent forward Sammy Blais and a first-round pick the other way. Each played well for the Blueshirts down the stretch, and Tarasenko scored three goals in New York’s first-round playoff loss to the New Jersey Devils.

So, they weren’t Rangers for long; but were Rangers nonetheless.

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Rangers ties to Panthers more than Vladimir Tarasenko, Niko Mikkola

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the championship roster, the Rangers have other ties to members of the Panthers organization.

Minor league goalie Magnus Hellberg, who was part of Florida’s Black Aces in the postseason, played a couple seasons in the Rangers organization, including three games for the Blueshirts. And former Rangers first-round pick Bobby Sanguinetti is an assistant coach with Charlotte, which is Florida’s affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Three other former Rangers players play key roles for the Panthers. Former defenseman Bryan McCabe is Florida’s Director of Player Personnel and ex-forward Shane Churla is the Director of Amateur Scouting for the Panthers. Their long-time broadcaster Randy Moller, was a Rangers defenseman from 1989-92 and was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Jay Wells, who helped the Blueshirts win the Stanley Cup in 1994.

The Panthers goalie consultant, Francois Allaire, is the brother of Rangers longtime goalie guru Benoit Allaire. And assistant general manager Gregory Campbell is the son of former Rangers coach Colin Campbell, who was also an assistant on Mike Keenan’s staff in 1993-94.

So, there was a bit of the Rangers in that Stanley Cup celebration.

Now, Chris Drury and Co. is charged with making sure next time it is a pure Rangers celebration as the last team standing.

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

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