Welcome again to the most recent entry in THN.com’s ‘Three Essential Questions’ sequence. On this characteristic, we ask three large questions for each NHL crew forward of the beginning of the 2022-23 common season. On this file, we ask three essential questions concerning the New York Rangers.
Three burning questions for Rangers in 2022-23:
1. What can the Rangers do to ease the burden of star goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin? No goalkeeper did extra for his crew within the common season final 12 months than Shesterkin, who took house the primary Vezina Cup as the most effective goalkeeper of the match. The 26-year-old Russian stole a number of video games for the Blues in 2021-22, typically overcoming a lackluster defensive scheme to propel Rangers into the customarily successful column. Nonetheless, Rangers GM Chris Drury opted for a distinct search for the Shesterkin backup – parting methods with Alexandar Georgiev, and as an alternative going with veteran Jaroslav Halak.
Shesterkin performed 53 video games final season, however the Rangers will probably require Halak to play 30-35 video games to maintain Shesterkin in high form when the playoffs start. Hulk has performed not more than 19 video games for the reason that 2019-20 season, when he performed 31 video games for the Boston Bruins. But when he stays wholesome, he’ll be a extra reliable choice than Georgiev (now the beginning goalkeeper for Stanley Cup champions, Colorado Avalanches). Regardless, Chesterkin’s play will probably decide how far the Rangers go within the common seasons and past as soon as once more. Their problem, each by way of assault and by way of defensive corps, is to make Shesterkin’s life simpler.
2. Can the Blues’ younger strikers turn into frontline contributors? Rangers netted a powerful 52 targets from first-line winger Chris Kreider, and highest-paid winger Artemi Panarin as soon as once more halted the tip of the take care of a 96-point season. Nonetheless, Rangers’ future relies upon largely on the development of a slew of younger strikers, together with 22-year-old winger Vitaly Kravtsov, 20-year-old winger Alexis Lavrinier and 21-year-old winger Kabu Kaku. 23-year-old striker Philippe Shettel. Cap Pleasant plans the final three to type the Rangers’ third line of attackers, whereas Kravtsov is anticipated to skate the second line together with Panarin and the free acquisition of Vincent Trochek.
Lafreniere has proven probably the most improvement at this level, scoring 19 targets and 31 factors within the 2021-22 season, his second season within the NHL. Each Chytil and Kakko’s manufacturing have been at assault stage, with Chytil averaging solely 13:10 ice time, and Kakko averaging 15:26. To take a few of the strain off the veteran level producers, Junior Rangers have to step up and develop their video games this 12 months. Three of the aforementioned 4 gamers will probably be restricted from free brokers subsequent summer season, and Kakko is ready to be an agent for RFA in 2024. They’re motivated to earn greater paydays briefly order, however Drury will not hand out long-term offers if he does not see any enchancment of their manufacturing.
That is to not say it is a hit or a break season for Kakko, Lafreniere, Chytil or Kravtsov, the latter who has simply 20 video games (all within the 2020-21 marketing campaign) of NHL expertise to his identify. Nonetheless, Drury and coach Gerard Gallant are clearly excited by successful now, which suggests there may be lots of strain on the children to take care of extra of the burden on assault.
3. Do the Rangers have an elite protection corps, or is there nonetheless work to be achieved? Sure, the Rangers have a legit all-star D-man in former Norris Award winner Adam Fox. And sure, in addition they have above-average strikers in new captain Jacob Tropa, third 12 months NHLer Ok’Andre Miller, and 24-year-old defender Ryan Lindgren. However there’s a main dip of their current defensive confrontation between 24-year-old Lebor Hayek and 21-year-old Braden Schneider, who met in simply 60 matches final 12 months.
Drury has simply over $1 million in area to offer depth on the again finish, however he additionally has cap points within the 2023-24 marketing campaign, with $18.3 million in area, and solely 11 gamers on contract. Meaning they want Hag, Schneider, and 21-year-old Zachary Jones to offer them time, in addition to steady enchancment from 24-year-old Fox, 22-year-old Miller and 24-year-old Lindgren.
In any other case, they’re going to lean an excessive amount of on Shesterkin to save lots of them from matches, and no Rangers fan will wish to see Shesterkin overworked and heading into the post-season. Galant will attempt to preserve the Manhattan dressing room relaxed, however there is no such thing as a hiding the truth that the Rangers will want higher years than many younger gamers, and the protection crew must step up efforts.