The New York Rangers are heading into a summer of change. Ever since The Letter went out in 2018, this team has in essence entered a chrysalis. The debate as to whether or not they were ready to break out of it yet will depend on what happens next season. For now, Chris Drury must guide the transformation after James Dolan expedited the transition.
Hiring the right coach will be key, but creating a balanced multidimensional lineup is just as important. “We need to take a deep look at what everyone’s roles are,” Drury hinted to his offseason approach. “We’ve got to get to a place where when you jump over the boards you know what your role is.” It sounded almost like indictment to how the third and fourth lines were handled this past season. A mistake Drury and whomever the new coach will be cannot repeat.
Here are several candidates that Drury should consider this offseason.
New York Rangers bottom six candidate: Zach Hyman
Zach Hyman is a 28 year-old pending UFA whom the Maple Leafs want desperately to retain. His next contract is likely to come in at the $5.5-$6 million range which could be more than Toronto can handle. This past season he scored 33 points in 43 games, primarily as a winger. The 6-1 Hyman has some experience playing center and has taken over 650 face-offs in his career which spans 345 games.
The gritty forward remains an unlikely candidate based on the cap hit his next deal will bring. However, if the Blueshirts are unable to bring in a top center he could move up on their list.
Blake Coleman would be a great fit
The 29 year-old center turned winger had himself an excellent season for the Tampa Bay Lightning with 31 points in 55 games. Coleman averaged 15:11 during the year and would be a nice fit to the Blueshirts third line.
At 5-11 and 200 lbs, he is a solid forward who is aggressive on the puck, and hits with purpose. This season he racked up 109 hits but has been known to throw his body a lot more. Prior to the 2020-21 campaign, starting in 2017 he had 216, 225, and 191 his respectively. The guy is a wrecking ball and is the type of player that makes the opposition defense look over their shoulder before playing the puck.
He will be an unrestricted free agent this season and the Rangers should give him a look. Coleman is coming off a deal that pays him $1.8 million AAV on the cap, and an increase is coming. The cap-strapped Lightning will likely let him walk, which will make him a very attractive player on the market come July 28th.
With his 20 goal potential, he will be commanding a nice contract. I would expect something in the $3-4 million range for about five seasons. It’s something Drury should consider. If he’s serious about making the playoffs and having effective players that can play a third line role, Coleman is a good place to start.
Jordan Martinook would add grit and leadership
Jordan Martinook with the Carolina Hurricanes is someone that fits the bill for me. He willl turn 29 in July but can play a high intensity style with an in-your-face attitude at 6-1 and 204 lbs. Martinook won’t come cheap as he’s coming off a deal paying $2 million, and looking for an increase. Another plus, Martinook can also take some draws.
This season, he has 13 points in 43 games. If that gives you pause, then you are also under the same illusion that some other fans have that every player on the roster should be a skill guy. Martinook does have skills however, they just better fit a third or fourth line role.
Martinook is ferocious forechecker. A physical player that refuses to back down. In 2018-19 he registered 199 hits to go along with 46 blocks playing in all 82 games for the Hurricanes. The guy is also vocal in the locker-room, beloved by his teammates, and wears a letter on his sweater too.
Casey Cizikas should be Rangers top target
Here’s my advice for Drury, go out and kill two birds with one stone. Sign Islanders center Casey Cizikas and add a piece the Rangers need while hurting your divisional rival.
The Rangers were bulldozed by the Islanders this season. James Dolan basically got tired of watching Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas run all over his skilled collection of players. The owner basically pointed to the losses to the Isles and the Tom Wilson incident as part of his reasoning for the management changes.
Cizikas is not a large player at 5-11 and 195 lbs, but he can still be the lynchpin to a stellar fourth line and win key face-offs. Losing draws is something the Rangers desperately need to address this offseason as well.
At 30 years-old he isn’t a kid and the Rangers need to balance that their neophyte lineup better. He’s coming off a deal that paid him $3.35 million so he’s not cheap. While that seems expensive for a fourth line player, the Islanders are pretty thrilled with him. Cizikas finished the season with 14 points in 56 games and face-off win percentage of 53.2.
Big Sunday NHL Rumors Update
NHL Rumors Roundup is a new feature at The Daily Goal Horn. Every Sunday they bring you the latest rumors and update some of the bigger stories from the week before. In this edition, we kick off with the latest on Jack Eichel and the Sabres disconnect. Read it all here.