The Rangers and Devils rivalry is restocked and ready to rock
The two Metropolitan teams have had themselves quite an offseason, as both clubs added multiple pieces that will change each franchise for next season and many more to come. The Rangers and Devils have had their fair share of scrums over the course of their history, as seen in the infamous line brawl to start off a regular-season game in 2012.
Getting back to good
However, over the last few years, the Rangers/Devils rivalry has taken a back seat due to the fact that neither has been playing meaningful games simultaneously. Of course, there was that time in 2012 that we don’t need to talk about, but since then it’s been quiet from the two Metro teams.
The Devils have made the playoffs one time since the 2012-2013 season, and the Rangers had a solid season in all but the last two years. But this offseason each of the two clubs spent some money, moved pieces, and drafted the best two players in the world, all in hopes of winning some games next year and beyond.
Kakko vs Hughes
Starting off with the successful drafts, it’s clear by now that Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko were, and still are, the best two players in the 2019 draft by a long margin. The Devils didn’t move from Jack Hughes at first overall, so the Rangers said “thank you very much” and grabbed Kaapo Kakko second. We don’t need to go over what each player brings to their respective team, because by now it’s well known that these two players will have a huge impact on the future of their respective franchises. As for next season, most experts say Kakko is more NHL ready and will likely have the bigger impact right out of the gate.
Moving onto the Subban and Trouba comparison. Well, maybe not a comparison as to “who’s better,” but comparable enough to say that the Rangers and Devils both got the man they wanted. The Rangers traded for the rights of RFA Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets a few weeks ago, then signed the 25-year-old to a massive seven-year, $56 million dollar deal. Jacob Trouba is expected to be the top-line defenseman the Rangers have wanted and needed for a long time.
Driving across the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, the Devils made waves by trading what was initially perceived as not a lot for popular defenseman PK Subban. The big reason why Nashville traded Subban was because of his $9 million cap hit for each of the next three seasons, which the Devils took on entirely. It’s no secret that the 30-year-old Subban had a down year last season, but the Devils are sure that the electric Subban, the player that the NHL loves so much, is still in there and he can bolster their back end. PK Subban made it clear that he’s in New Jersey territory, as well:
Now for the second batch of rookies. Vitali Kravtsov was selected ninth overall by the Rangers in 2018, which was first hit with confusion and backlash from the Rangers community. However, since then, Kravtsov has put on a show and now has everyone excited for what he can bring to the team next year. The 6’4″, 19 year-old had one of the best seasons a teenager can have in the KHL last year, and now the Rangers have two rookies they are expecting to make an immediate impact going into next year and the foreseeable future.
Another newcomer for the Devils, who was just acquired this week from the Vegas Golden Knights, is Russian forward Nikita Gusev. Traded and immediately signed to a two-year contract, the Devils really struck gold with Gusev. Although already 27 years-old without an NHL game under his belt, Gusev is pure goal-scorer in every which way. Traded from the Golden Knights because of their cap situation, Gusev will now get the chance to thrive in the NHL while playing with the Devils’ dynamic forward group.
Panarin the game changer
The last comparison between the two clubs comes at forward, as the Rangers now have a dynamic pairing with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Starting with Zibanejad, who had a breakout year last year, tallying 74 points in 82 games, has taken over the top center role in New York. Whether or not you think he truly is a first-line center, he didn’t do anything to suggest he wasn’t all of last season.
Now on the wing, the Rangers have arguably a top-five goal-scorer in the NHL, in a man named Artemi Panarin. Panarin signed a gigantic seven-year, $81.5 million dollar deal to come to the Big Apple, as we reported he would. Panarin is a clear first-line winger; a point-per-game player and the type of player the Rangers have been missing for some time.
In New Jersey, they have 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, who was infamously acquired from Edmonton in the one-for-one swap with Adam Larsson. Hall, now 27, struggled through injuries last year but still managed to score over a point-per-game in the 33 contests he played. It’s no secret that Taylor Hall can score at will, as he showed in the 2017-2018 season by scoring 93 points in 76 games. Next to him is 20-year-old Nico Hischier, who the Devils expect to take a huge step going into his third NHL season. Hischier, who was drafted first overall by the Devils in 2017, has 99 points in 151 games in his two NHL seasons.
Ready to Rock
Taking a step back and looking at what each team has done this offseason, the Rangers and Devils each went into the summer with a goal and achieved it. Getting the lucky draw at the draft lottery is what kicked this all off, but both teams are focused on one thing now, winning games. Although the Rangers are still a young group, and it hasn’t been too long since they announced a rebuild, they wouldn’t have given out $137.5 million to two players this offseason if they weren’t hoping to win now at some level.
GM’s Jeff Gorton and Ray Shero are in a class of their own this offseason, and it’s not even over yet, as the Rangers are absolutely going to make more moves before the summer ends. All we can do now is wait because October is closer than it seems. Both of these clubs should be fun to watch, especially when they’re lined up across from one another.