Hiring Peter Laviolette tops New York Rangers offseason moves
The New York Rangers have had quite the busy offseason by signing 9 free agents, extending 4 free agents, and hiring a new head coach.
When looking at all these moves, it’s safe to assume the Blueshirts view themselves as a Stanley Cup contender. By naming Cup winner Peter Laviolette the new bench boss over an up-and-comer, and by adding veterans like Blake Wheeler, they’re all in.
Let’s take a look at the Rangers moves to date and rank them by impact.
Peter Laviolette top move for Rangers
Laviolette, 58, was named the 37th head coach in franchise history on June 13. For his NHL coaching career spanning 21 seasons, his record stands at 752-503-25-150 with a 78-76 mark in the playoffs. He’s also been to three Stanley Cup Finals (2006, 2010, 2017) winning with the Carolina Hurricanes on his first attempt.
“When I started this process, I wanted to have a detailed and thorough search, and I’m happy to report that search led to Peter Laviolette,” President and General Manager Chris Drury said. “I truly believe his résumé speaks for itself and commands respect on many different levels.”
According to multiple reports, several Rangers’ veterans expressed a lack of game planning for opponents and in-game adjustments leading to Gerard Gallant’s dismissal. That won’t be the case with Laviolette, who is a tactician that demands perfection and hard work.
“For me it’s also about – you prepare yourself to play playoff hockey,” Laviolette said after being hired. “When you watch the playoff games, it’s a reminder that the compete inside the game is what makes teams great. You have to practice that on a daily basis. It has to start in training camp and become part of your DNA.”
When assessing all the moves made the Rangers this offseason to date, there’s no doubt in my mind this is the most significant.
When the bell rang for Free Agent Frenzy on July 1, the Rangers hit a home run by signing veteran right wing Blake Wheeler, who was bought out by the Winnipeg Jets.
Wheeler, 36, registered 16 goals and 39 assists for 55 points in 72 games. For his career, he’s notched 312 and 922 points in 1,118 matches with 45 points in 65 postseason contests.
“My focus is having a great summer, coming in in as great of shape as I can be and put my best foot forward,” Wheeler said. “You look at the (Rangers) roster and there are world class players up and down this lineup – I see myself being able to complement some of the elite guys this roster has.”
By adding a proven player that is willing to get his nose dirty in the tough areas for just $800,000 with performance bonuses, the Rangers addressed a need without hurting their biggest order of business.
The Rangers accomplished half of that business when they inked restricted free agent defenseman K’Andre Miller for two years at $3.8M AAV. At just 23 years of age, he posted a career high 43 points in 73 games to solidify himself as the future of the team’s blue-line. Drury now needs to ink fellow RFA Alexis Lafreniere to his bridge deal.
Another key signing that I believe is a huge plus for the Rangers was adding fourth-line center Nick Bonino.
The 35 year-old pivot posted 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points in 62 games split between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins last season. Adding a two-time Stanley Cup winner for just $800,000 is always a win.
“He does just about everything that you can ask your fourth-line center to do,” Drury explained. “He plays [penalty kill], he certainly has a winning pedigree and is an extremely smart player that I think will pass on a lot of good wisdom to all of our young players and players that haven’t won Cups yet.”
Other notable moves
The Rangers also bolstered the team’s bottom six by signing Tyler Pitlick to a one-year deal at $787,500.
Pitlick, 31, recorded 7 goals and 9 assists for 16 points in 61 games last season with the St. Louis Blues. The big forward is an excellent candidate for the fourth-line thanks to his penchant for hitting. He had 103 hits for the Blues in 2022-23.
On defense, Drury was wise to not only extend young promising defense Zac Jones for two years, but also added insurance with veteran Erik Gustafsson.
Finally, the Blueshirts added veteran netminder Jonathan Quick to backup Igor Shesterkin.
Quick, 37, has a career mark of 375-277-84 with a GAA of 2.47 and .911 save percentage. He also knows a thing or two about winning as he backstopped two Stanley Cup runs with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.