Rangers offseason should be about housekeeping before any trades or signings

JOHN DAVIDSON
John Davidson and Jeff Gorton (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers were good last year, and that was before Igor Shesterkin arrived on the scene to show us they could get better. However, against the Carolina Hurricanes, it was clear that they may not have the right mix to win in the playoffs.

Rangers need to sign their RFA’s

Those three games more than anything exemplified the need to retain Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, and Brendan Lemieux. Their styles of play and never back down attitudes are important in a playoff series.

However, all are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. The Rangers still hold the negotiation advantage, but each could win a big one year award from an arbitrator and make other moves more difficult.

Resolve the Henrik Lundqvist situation

While this is a delicate situation, the answer is clear one way or another that it’s time to move on from Henrik Lundqvist. Primarily from a financial standpoint but also the future.

There are two options for the team, a trade or buyout. There’s two options for Lundqvist, retire or accept a trade. What will happen here is hard to tell and the first buyout window doesn’t open until the Stanley Cup Final.

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Georgiev and Lundqvist in the rumor mill (NHLI/Getty Images)

If Henrik opts to retire, the Rangers get all $8.5 million in cap space back. That could happen before the Final, same for a trade among the teams eliminated. However, if we get close to the buyout window and the situation is still unresolved, that’s the route I expect the team to take.

The $3.5 million savings will go towards keeping Alexandar Georgiev for at least two more seasons. Simply put, you can’t pay Henrik Lundqvist to be a backup at his salary.

Influx of talented youth gives them options

When the Rangers won the Alexis Lafreniere draft lottery a whole new world of options became available to them. The kid is going to be special, even more than we expect Kaapo Kakko to be. He should already be penciled into the third line left wing slot behind Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider. I would almost behoove David Quinn to try him with Mika Zibanejad on the top line.

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Alexis Lafreniere getting NHL ready (The Canadian Press / Peter Power)

The idea behind Lafreniere with Mika is to help Filip Chytil develop into a better center with a veteran like Kreider on his flank. It would also help Vitali Kravtsov who is a right wing, to play with CK20.

On defense, the problems are harder to solve because there is no way of knowing if K’Andre Miller is ready to play significant minutes in the NHL. So moving Marc Staal is not likely to happen. When it comes to Brendan Smith, it is time for Libor Hajek to take his spot on the third pair.

Rangers housekeeping first before any trades or signings

There’s been a lot of talk about improving at 2C and LD from reporters and bloggers. When it comes to really improving those two spots, the free agent market is not likely the best way to do it. Too many older players looking for longterm contracts to ride into the sunset with. That means the Rangers will need to make hockey deals.

When you make hockey deals, you have to give to get and Jeff Gorton will need to consider moving players like Pavel Buchnevich. Other possibilities include RFA’s like Strome and DeAngelo.

While many are eager to move those two guys, some for silly reasons, the fact that they are RFA’s diminishes their value. I’m not sure Gorton wants to trade a 25 year-old right handed defenseman who finished 4th in scoring for blue-liners at a bargain.

That’s why the Rangers need to do some serious housekeeping. John Davidson and Jeff Gorton need to lock up their RFA’s and move on from Lundqvist. Make the decision to infuse more young players into their lineup next season and then decide how a trade or signing will round out the team to win in the playoffs.