Welcome again to the newest report in THN.com’s “Three Burning Questions” sequence. In this selection, we generate 3 large questions for each and every NHL crew previous to the beginning of the 2022-23 steady season. In this report, we’re asking Three Burning Questions concerning the New York Rangers.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS FOR THE RANGERS IN 2022-23:
1. What can the Rangers do to ease the weight of celebrity goalie Igor Shesterkin? No goaltender did extra for his crew within the steady season closing yr than Shesterkin, who earned his first Vezina Trophy as the sport’s peak goalie. The 26-year-old Russian stole many a recreation for the Blueshirts in 2021-22, regularly overcoming a lackluster defensive scheme to push the Rangers into the win column extra regularly than no longer. However, Rangers GM Chris Drury selected a special search for Shesterkin’s backup – parting techniques with Alexandar Georgiev, and as an alternative going with veteran Jaroslav Halak.
Shesterkin performed a career-high 53 video games closing season, however the Rangers will most probably ask Halak to play 30-35 video games to stay Shesterkin in top form for when the playoffs start. Halak hasn’t performed greater than 19 video games for the reason that 2019-20 marketing campaign, when he made 31 appearances for the Boston Bruins. But if he remains wholesome, he’s a extra loyal choice than Georgiev (now the beginning netminder for the protecting Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche) used to be. Regardless, Shesterkin’s play is more likely to dictate how a ways the Rangers pass within the regular-and-post-seasons as soon as once more. Their problem, each on offense and in relation to their protection corps, it to make Shesterkin’s lifestyles more straightforward.
2. Can the Blueshirts’ younger forwards become frontline members? The Rangers were given a super, 52-goal season out of first-line winger Chris Kreider, and top-paid winger Artemi Panarin as soon as once more held up his finish of the handle a 96-point season. However, the Rangers’ long term relies in no small phase at the development of a slew of younger forwards, together with 22-year-old winger Vitali Kravtsov, 20-year-old winger Alexis Lafreniere, 21-year-old winger Kaapo Kakko, and 23-year-old ahead Filip Chytil. Cap Friendly tasks the latter 3 to include the Rangers’ 1/3 line of forwards, whilst Kravtsov is projected to skate on the second one line along Panarin and free-agent acquisition Vincent Trochek.
Lafreniere has proven probably the most building at this degree, posting a 19-goal, 31-point season in 2021-22, his sophomore NHL season. Chytil and Kakko each had their manufacturing on offense degree out, with Chytil averaging handiest 13:10 of ice time, and Kakko averaging 15:26. To take one of the vital drive off their veteran point-producers, the Rangers’ kids wish to step up and develop their video games this yr. Three of the 4 gamers above might be limited unfastened brokers subsequent summer season, with Kakko scheduled to be an RFA in 2024. They have the inducement to earn larger paydays briefly order, however Drury isn’t going handy out long-term offers if he doesn’t see any growth of their manufacturing.
This isn’t to signify it’s a make-or-break season for Kakko, Lafreniere, Chytil or Kravtsov, the latter of who has handiest 20 video games (all within the 2020-21 marketing campaign) of NHL revel in to his title. However, it’s transparent Drury and head trainer Gerard Gallant are eager about successful now, which can imply there’s a lot drive at the youngsters to care for extra of the weight on offense.
3. Do the Rangers have an elite protection corps, or is there nonetheless paintings to do? Yes, the Rangers have a valid all-star D-man in former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox. And sure, additionally they have above-average blueliners in new captain Jacob Trouba, third-year NHLer Okay’Andre Miller, and 24-year-old defenseman Ryan Lindgren. But there’s a vital drop-off of their ultimate defensive pairing of 24-year-old Libor Hajek and 21-year-old Braden Schneider, who blended to look in handiest 60 video games closing yr.
Drury has rather greater than $1 million in cap house to offer intensity at the again finish, however he additionally has cap problems within the 2023-24 marketing campaign, with $18.3 million in house, and handiest 11 gamers underneath contract. This approach they want Hajek, Schneider and 21-year-old Zachary Jones to provide them high quality time, in addition to endured growth from the 24-year-old Fox, 22-year-old Miller and 24-year-old Lindgren.
Otherwise, they’ll be leaning an excessive amount of on Shesterkin to bail them out of video games, and no Rangers fan will have to need to see Shesterkin overworked heading into the post-season. Gallant will attempt to stay the dressing room comfy in Manhattan, however there’s no hiding the truth that the Rangers will want higher years out of many younger gamers, and the protection corps must step up.