What Should The Rangers Do To Improve For Next Season?

McDonagh and Yandle celebrate a PP goal in gm vs. Pit  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

McDonagh and Yandle celebrate a PP goal in gm vs. Pit (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

After a season in which a team doesn’t meet expectations there’s always going to be speculation as to how and why they failed to reach their goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the LA Kings or the NY Rangers, neither reached their goal of a Stanley Cup and the Kings didn’t even make the playoffs.

Regardless of your stance on what the Rangers should do this offseason there is only so much that can be accomplished in the salary cap era. The question remains as to what the Rangers can do to improve?

Cam Talbot is the Rangers best trade asset this summer!

Talbot (Getty)

Talbot (Getty)

He wants to be a starter and he played like a very good one this past season. Although most pundits don’t believe Talbot is worth the 16th overall pick, we now hear otherwise and Cory Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 draft for the ninth overall pick (Bo Horvat). In the case of Edmonton, the price for Cam Talbot may include the 16th pick in the first round of this years draft. It doesn’t seem so far-fetched now at this point as some are led to believe.

The Rangers have one of the best blue lines in the NHL with top pair guys Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. Right behind is Marc Staal and Kevin Klein who make up a very solid top four. The back-end is anchored by offensive defenseman Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle who when on top of their respective games can contribute offensively.

The problem with the Rangers back-end is that all six of their starting regulars are paid like top pair defenseman. The back-end is a strength of the Rangers but they may need to sacrifice one in order to get help up front for next season. Assuming James Sheppard and Martin St. Louis are not NY Rangers next season.

Could Cam Talbot fetch the Rangers a favorable return? 

Fulltilt owner/lead contributor Anthony Scultore wrote about the possibility of trading Cam Talbot in March and on Saturday relayed the rumor from friend and Hockey News writer Pam Murray. Read that here.

The Talbot trade seems like a foregone conclusion and it should happen. The only questions are when, what for, and to who? The Oilers and the Sharks were seemingly the first in the rumor mill but Buffalo now has shown interest. Since Buffalo is in the Rangers Conference it would cost them more than it would a team from the West. I doubt Cam Talbot goes to the Sabres but they hold the 21st overall draft pick as well as the second overall pick, which they will use to draft Jack Eichel.

The Oilers seem like the best trade partner since they have the top pick in the draft and will most definitely select Conner McDavid (McSavior). They also have a few right-handed shooters the Rangers could use up front. Jordan Eberle comes to mind but that may cost more than the Rangers would be willing to pay.

Nail Yakapov is rumored to be available in that same trade but he will need to show more consistency than he has since his breakout rookie season in the lockout shortened 12/13 season. If Yakupov can unlock his potential, then it may be worth parting with more assets as part of a larger deal. In any event, a right-handed shot on the top six right-wing should be a priority. The team will benefit from having a couple more righties up front at five on five and on the Power Play.

Anthony stated in his most recent post on the Talbot rumors that “Face it, the Oilers are very young and in need of a goalie. Keeping the 16th pick when you are getting Connor McDavid does not make much sense. The Oilers are ready now to move forward with the group they have. It is time for them to turn picks into NHL ready players”.

The Rangers will also need to find a back-up goaltender that can effectively play 20 games and stand in if Henrik Lundqvist gets hurt. With the way Cam Talbot played when Lundqvist went down with a vascular injury will be tough skates to fill. There are decent backups out there on the free agent market but at what price?

Viktor Fasth ($2.90 Mil) is a bit expensive for a backup. Karri Ramo ($2.75 mil) shared starting duties with Jonas Hiller in Calgary last season but may also prove a little too expensive for the Rangers situation. Jonas Gustavsson played extremely well in his time in Detroit at a manageable Cap Hit of $1.850. Micheal Leighton is 34 which isn’t too old for a goaltender and he went all the way to the Finals with the Flyers and he last had a very favorable cap hit of $550K which the Rangers could give him a slight raise on and possible find lightning in a bottle.

With the defense the Rangers have almost any goalie can win you some games. Leighton may be the best option available in the Rangers price range. I’m sure management will try to see what is in the system before committing a contract to a free agent.

The Rangers need to add a right-handed shot in a trade or via draft that can play top 6 either today or in the future. If it is by trade for immediate help, they may need to move a starting defenseman. If that’s the case Brady Sjkei has shown his skating ability and 2-way play in the Rangers prospect camp and pre-season. Skjei (shay) is the Rangers best defensive prospect and the most likely to get NHL playing time next fall.

oscar lindberg

oscar lindberg

They can also fill the fourth line vacancy with a 2-way center like Oscar Lindberg who had a breakout season in Hartford and a great run in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Lindberg scored 28G-28A-56 points during the season and in the Calder Cup Playoffs he tallied 3G-13A-16 points in 15 games played.

There are things the Rangers will have to get to work on and I’m sure they’ve been at it since that disappointing game 7 loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals. This draft should be paramount on their list but there will be many issues at hand this offseason even if there aren’t any big name players brought in to help.

Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, and breakout speedster Jesper Fast will all need new contracts as RFA’s. Stepan and Hagelin have arbitration rights while Miller and Fast do not. Will one of them become cap casualties? We will have to again be patient and see. If anyone can make a contending roster with little wiggle room, it’s Glen Sather. Lets just hope he leaves the draft picks to Jeff Gorton.