The New York Rangers were bounced out of the qualifying round in a sweep at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. Aside from a few moments, the Rangers were focusing more on passing and shooting rather than responding to or matching the aggressiveness of the Canes.
This article was originally published on 8/16
I can already hear the groans from the “new age” hockey fans. Regardless of what I write from this point on, someone is going to hit me with an “Ok Boomer!” The fact is, I am not saying you shouldn’t be trying to pass and shoot. You don’t win without a load of talent and skill. However, in the playoffs, you better be ready for war. Being passive in the post-season is a death sentence.
Rangers need to find more snarl in their lineup
Over the last few days, I spoke with several people about the Rangers and their needs. Former Blueshirt, Ron Duguay had a lot to say about how easy some of the Rangers can be to play against. He focused in on Filip Chytil specifically, calling him a “nice kid, but not a center he would’ve drafted in the first round.”
For Duguay, if an NHL team is going to draft a center iceman in the first round, they better believe that player will be on one of their top two lines. He feels that you need to be sure that center can grind four rounds to win a Stanley Cup. Duguay doesn’t see Chytil being that player. He’s a skill forward who turns away from aggression rather than challenge it.
Ron wasn’t the only one that had some insights on the Rangers. An agent I spoke with under the condition of anonymity, said the Rangers don’t have the right mix. His belief is that the Rangers have too many skilled players and need more toughness. It would be wise for the team to reward all three RFA skaters this summer, because they’re players who don’t back down.
Keeping Strome, Lemieux, and DeAngelo
Of all the players in the lineup during the Return to Play, only Brendan Lemieux, Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo dropped the gloves. When Brendan Lemieux finished his 2 game suspension, he was buzzing and getting in the grills of Canes’ players in game 3, his sandpaper was missed in both games 1 and 2.
Too many Blueshirts are non-confrontational and are easy to play against. This is not an attack on the Rangers skilled forwards. You can’t win without Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. But do the Rangers have too many who play that way? That’s why NY must find the right deals for all three.
As I was told by the agent, “putting together a Stanley Cup team is like a recipe, you need the right ingredients to win.”
The Rangers have options
One of my questions to the agent was about the impact of the flat cap this summer. Would teams find it more difficult? His response was straight forward in the fact that UFAs will get paid, and most RFAs will get lowballed.
While that may still happen with the Rangers RFAs, they really need to start thinking longer term with players who are willing to stick up for themselves. It was pointed out to me that Alexis Lafreniere will bring that style with skill. Additionally, the agent stated the Rangers will save money on Henrik Lundqvist next season, and should look to use some of the 10 picks they have in the draft to make changes.
One player that in particular makes more sense now to trade with Lafreniere joining the team is Pavel Buchnevich. He is a talented forward but is too similar in style to Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov who are projected to be top six wingers.
What if they trade Buchnevich and a pick to land a top left defenseman to pair with Jacob Trouba? Or maybe look at a trade for RFA, Josh Anderson in Columbus. The bottom line is the Rangers now have a lot of options.
Those options need to help the team win in the playoffs next. It is now up to Jeff Gorton to identify exactly what they need, trade the right players, and find the correct mix.
A winning recipe.