Welcome again to the newest entry in THN.com’s ‘Three Necessary Questions’ collection. On this characteristic, we ask three huge questions for each NHL crew forward of the beginning of the 2022-23 common season. On this file, we ask three vital 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 yr than Shesterkin, who took dwelling the primary Vezina Cup as the very best goalkeeper of the match. The 26-year-old Russian stole a number of video games for the Blues in 2021-22, usually overcoming a lackluster defensive scheme to propel Rangers into the usually profitable column. Nevertheless, 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 seemingly require Halak to play 30-35 video games to maintain Shesterkin in prime form when the playoffs start. Hulk has performed not more than 19 video games because the 2019-20 season, when he performed 31 video games for the Boston Bruins. But when he stays wholesome, he’ll be a extra reliable possibility than Georgiev (now the beginning goalkeeper for Stanley Cup champions, Colorado Avalanches). Regardless, Chesterkin’s play will seemingly decide how far the Rangers go within the common seasons and past as soon as once more. Their problem, each by way of offense and by way of defensive corps, is to make Shesterkin’s life simpler.
2. Can the Blues’ younger strikers become frontline contributors? Rangers netted a formidable 52 targets from first-line winger Chris Kreider, and highest-paid winger Artemi Panarin as soon as once more halted the tip of the cope with a 96-point season. Nevertheless, 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 kind 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 essentially the most growth 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 had been at assault degree, with Chytil averaging solely 13:10 ice time, and Kakko averaging 15:26. To take a number of the strain off the veteran level producers, Junior Rangers have to step up and develop their video games this yr. Three of the aforementioned 4 gamers can be restricted from free brokers subsequent summer time, and Kakko is about to be an agent for RFA in 2024. They’re motivated to earn larger 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. Nevertheless, Drury and coach Gerard Gallant are clearly excited about profitable now, which suggests there may be a whole lot of strain on the children to cope with extra of the burden on assault.
3. Do the Rangers have an elite protection corps, or is there nonetheless work to be carried out? Sure, the Rangers have a authentic 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 yr 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 yr.
Drury has simply over $1 million in house to supply depth on the again finish, however he additionally has cap points within the 2023-24 marketing campaign, with $18.3 million in house, and solely 11 gamers on contract. Meaning they want Hag, Schneider, and 21-year-old Zachary Jones to present them an excellent 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 avoid wasting them from matches, and no Rangers fan will need to see Shesterkin overworked and heading into the post-season. Galant will attempt to maintain 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.