Most people will take one look at the offseason for the New York Rangers and think one thing — their objective is to beat Tom Wilson after the late regular season skirmish that happened in May. And yes, some of their moves have been quite questionable.
The Risky Acquisitions
The two main decisions that have fans scratching their heads are trading for Barclay Goodrow’s rights and then signing him to a bloated six-year deal just north of $3.6M per year, and then trading Pavel Buchnevich for Sammy Blais and a future second round pick. Certainly we’ve seen an effect in preseason odds for the Rangers at sites like allslotscanada.com. While the team were still in the winning column more often than not with a 27-23-6 record last season, their odds of returning to the post-season hinge upon their newfound grit.
Other acquisitions such as Patrik Nemeth, Jarred Tinordi, and Ryan Reaves are also not great players, except for when it comes to being super physical.
But in hockey, it is a very real thing that if you do not have some element of grit, you are going to get pushed around and beaten. The Rangers did not have that in 2020-2021, and the incident with Wilson and the Capitals made them realize it.
Did they get overly desperate for their offseason acquisitions? Yes, and Chris Drury may regret some of them in the future. But a team like the Rangers can justify it, because they do not have many other weaknesses on their roster.
Their forward core, in particular, is stacked, and in terms of high-end talent, they have it. I really do believe that the physical element in the bottom six is the finishing touch for them, and say what you will about the contracts signed, but this will make them tougher to play against.
Examples from Other Teams
Remember that the Tampa Bay Lightning dealt with the same thing after getting swept in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, and made moves to fix those holes. And let’s not sit here and act as if they did not get desperate themselves. Maybe they did not overcompensate to the degree that the Rangers did, but they traded packages that included first round draft picks for Goodrow and David Savard.
Do not misunderstand, today’s era of hockey is not like it was in the past, when enforcers and gritty players were hot commodities. But the Stanley Cup playoffs are a grind, and without players that are physical enough to take their opponents off of their game, it is extremely hard if not impossible to not win a Cup.
Some of you may read this and think that the Pittsburgh Penguins’ efforts to become more physical derailed their contending status, but that team was and is going in a completely different direction. Ever since winning their last Cup in 2017, their main core has been aging and has honestly gone stale at this point.
The Rangers are not in that boat, as they are still emerging from their rebuild and slowly heading back to playoff contention. I believe that they have yet to get the best out of youngsters such as Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller, and Ryan Lindgren is taking steps forward.
Can They Win?
This team has the potential to be dangerous moving forward, because they are quite well-rounded on paper. They have scoring, defense, goaltending, and the ability to play a physical game, and it is hard to beat a team that can win in multiple ways.
Oh and the hire of Gerard Gallant was a slam-dunk move. Say what you will about the individual moves that the Rangers made, but the effects it could have on the team very well might justify the cost, at least somewhat.
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