The New York Rangers have become regulars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs again, something that wasn't the case despite high payrolls before the salary-cap era.
John Tortorella is gone to the Vancouver Canucks, and Alain Vigneault has arrived in what essentially became a swap of coaches. Brad Richards is still here after much speculation his contract might be bought out.
After a pair of major trades with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, most of the Rangers team that reached the second round before being brushed aside by the Boston Bruins returns. Ryane Clowe proved to be a rental, moving across the river to the New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers focused on remaking the depth of the roster in the offseason, adding free agents Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore up front, and a series of transactions brought Justin Falk, Aaron Johnson and Danny Syvret to replace Steve Eminger and Roman Hamrlik on defense.
This is one of the best rosters in the Eastern Conference, especially if Richards manages a better season with a new coaching staff. How the team plays for Vigneault could be the difference between challenging for a division title and being considered a Stanley Cup contender and just trying to get into the playoffs, like the Rangers did a year ago.
Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Rangers:
Taylor Pyatt - Aaron Asham
NOTES: Hagelin and Callahan could miss time at the start of the season, and Stepan remains a restricted free agent. Add that to a new coaching staff and there is plenty of uncertainty how the Rangers will be aligned up front. Zuccarello could see time in the top six, and J.T. Miller could make the team during training camp if any of those other three aren't ready for opening night.
The defense looks more stable at this point. Staal should be ready after an eye injury last season, and Falk might prove to be a sneaky acquisition. There likely was some bad luck in his performance for the Minnesota Wild last season, but he might need an injury to someone to see regular playing time. Johnson has a one-way contract, and the Rangers could keep eight defensemen, but he could end up in the American Hockey League without penalty against the salary cap.
It will be an interesting season for Lundqvist, in part because the Rangers aren't likely to play as protectively in front of him, and because this is the final year of his contract.
Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22
2013-14 FANTASY PREVIEW: RANGERS
Under-valued: Derick Brassard -- He'll be a popular draft pick this year after posting 12 points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and deservedly so. Drafted No. 6 in 2006 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the change of scenery to New York looks like it's exactly what Brassard needed -- he has excellent point potential and should see plenty of power play time for the Rangers in 2013-14.
Over-valued: Brad Richards -- With Brassard in the mix, Richards could end up as the team's third-line center, and after a disastrous 2012-13 season (11 goals, 23 assists in 46 games and then healthy-scratched during the playoffs), he should only be selected late in fantasy drafts just in case he finds a way to turns things around under new coach Alain Vigneault.
Sleeper: Ryan McDonagh -- McDonagh received just 0:38 of power play ice time per game last year under John Tortorella. Expect that to change with Vigneault at the helm, and that could do wonders for McDonagh's developing offensive game (four goals, 15 assists in 47 games). McDonagh is a future All-Star -- draft accordingly.
Follow Matt Cubeta on Twitter: @NHLQubes
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