New York Rangers
32-36-14, 78 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Phil Di Giuseppe, F Michael Haley (signed to a PTO), F Greg McKegg, F Danny O’Regan, F Artemi Panarin, D Adam Fox (acquired from CAR), D Jacob Trouba (acquired from WPG, then re-signed)
Subtractions: D Julius Bergman (SHL), D Chris Bigras (signed with PHI), D John Gilmour (signed with BUF), D Neal Pionk (traded to WPG), D Rob O’Gara (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Dustin Tokarski (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Connor Brickley, F Brendan Lemieux, D Fredrik Claesson, D Tony DeAngelo, G Brandon Halverson, G Chris Nell
Re-signed: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Vinni Lettieri
Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton thought he won the lottery when he landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and selected Kaapo Kakko, but he actually won the lottery twice this offseason.
Gorton signed the biggest prize in free agency to the biggest contract among unrestricted free agents and nabbed Artemi Panarin for the next seven years at $11.643 million per season.
Panarin and Kakko are lightly to be centered on the same first line by the legendary DJ, Mika Zibanejad.
Head coach, David Quinn, has no shortage of options when it comes to testing out the new faces in The Big Apple, as Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox were box acquired by the club in addition to Panarin’s signing.
Trouba’s restricted free agency rights were acquired from the Winnipeg Jets and shortly thereafter re-signed in exchange for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick that originally belonged to Winnipeg and was previously acquired by New York in the Kevin Hayes transaction at the trade deadline.
The 25-year-old defender brings his skillset in its prime to stabilize the blue line for a team that is retooling on the fly and looking to shortened the lifespan on its rebuild. Trouba now carries an $8.000 million cap hit through 2025-26 with a no-movement clause set to kick in after this season and a modified no-trade clause for the final two years of the deal.
Fox, the 21-year-old protege from Harvard University, was originally sent to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Calgary Flames in the Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin trade.
After declining to sign with the Canes, Carolina sent Fox to the Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick that may become a 2020 2nd round pick if he plays in 30 or more games this season.
What’s more, Gorton was still active in the trade market, making a minor move with the Buffalo Sabres, shipping Jimmy Vesey off to Buffalo for a 2021 3rd round pick.
Only Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo are still unsigned-RFAs with about $1.000 million in cap space available before New York makes any other transactions– with or without another team involved– to save a little more money.
The Rangers have eight contracts expiring at the end of this season, including backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s current deal which runs a $792,500 cap hit.
With 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist expected to retire in two-years time when his seven-year extension carrying an $8.500 million cap hit that he signed in December 2013 expires, Gorton may have to get creative to assure Georgiev of the starting role– and a starter’s salary– in the meantime for one more season of overlap with Lundqvist.
It’s not feasible for New York to keep Lundqvist past due as Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin could almost run the crease by themselves as things are today.
By season’s end, if the Rangers aren’t in a wild card spot, they will have at least significantly improved from their standing in 2018-19 and reduced their minus-45 goal differential from last season with a new-found defense.
At the very least, New York is improving and adapting to the game, while their counterpart on Long Island may be getting worse.
Offseason Grade: A
Things are tight with the salary cap for Gorton and Co., but the good news is Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are both pending-UFAs at the end of the season. If the Rangers keep one (Kreider) over the other or let both of them go– via a trade or free agency– some much need cap room will open up for the younger players that are projected to be or currently part of New York’s core.
Also, signing the biggest name in free agency, while fleecing another team in need of cap relief from one of their top-two defenders for next to nothing generally gets a GM high marks for an offseason’s worth of moves. The rebuild is right on track and on schedule.