After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the New York Rangers:
The New York Rangers have gone backward since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. There is legitimate concern whether they can reverse the trend.
The Rangers lost in the Cup Final two years ago and reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2015 before losing at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0. They got back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, but lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup champions, in five games in the Eastern Conference First Round.
They were largely inconsistent last season, when they also appeared slower than in their previous two seasons under coach Alain Vigneault.
The Rangers still have a core in place, led by goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and believe they can and should win the Stanley Cup. The problem is their window of opportunity appears to be closing with Lundqvist 34 years old and a thin prospect pool, a result of going the past four NHL Drafts without a first-round pick.
There's no debating the Rangers are a bubble team after spending a few seasons as a bona fide contender.
Video: Rosen breaks down the Brassard for Zibanejad trade
Here is what the Rangers look like today:
KEY ARRIVALS: Mika Zibanejad, F: The young center came to the Rangers in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Monday. New York got Zibanejad and Ottawa's second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft for center Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick in 2018. It's a good move for the Rangers. Zibanejad is 23, and Brassard turns 29 on Sept. 22. Zibanejad had 51 points last season; Brassard had 58. Zibanejad has one-year left on his contract with a $2.625 million NHL salary-cap charge; Brassard has three years remaining on his contract with a $5 million cap charge. Zibanejad can fill the roles Brassard had as a top-six center who plays on the power play. ... Michael Grabner, F: Recognizing the need for speed on the wing, the Rangers signed Grabner to a two-year contract on July 1. They hope Grabner can be a depth scorer and important penalty killer. It's the same role Carl Hagelin played with the Rangers before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem, who never panned out in New York and was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft on Jan. 8. The Rangers' penalty kill was 26th in the League last season at 78.2 percent. Grabner has to be able to boost the percentage back up into the 80s, at least. If he can score it will be a bonus, but he had 17 goals and 14 assists in 114 games over the past two seasons. ... Nathan Gerbe, F: Listed at 5-foot-4, 178 pounds, Gerbe was signed to a one-year contract on July 1 to bring even more speed to the lineup. Gerbe had a down year last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring three goals and four assists in 47 games. He averaged 13 goals and almost 30 points in each of his first two seasons in Carolina. ... Nick Holden, D: He was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on June 24 for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Holden played 82 games with the Avalanche last season and had 22 points averaging 21:52 of ice time per game. He has a left-handed shot, giving the Rangers four defenseman who shoot from that side, including McDonagh, Marc Staal and Brady Skjei. ... Adam Clendening, D: The 23-year-old is hoping to get his career on track after playing 50 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers in the past two seasons. He's a righty who might have to start the season in the American Hockey League. ... Michael Paliotta, D: Like Clendening, 23 and a righty, Paliotta is also destined to start with Hartford in the AHL because of the logjam on the blue line. He has played two NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. ... Josh Jooris, F: He signed a one-year, two-way contract and will compete for a fourth-line role. He might have an advantage with Oscar Lindberg expected to miss the first month of the season recovering from bilateral hip surgery. Jooris had 37 points in 119 games with the Calgary Flames over the past two seasons.
Video: TOR@PHI: Grabner's speed beats Mason on a breakaway
KEY DEPARTURES: Keith Yandle, D: The veteran signed a seven-year, $44.45 million contract with the Florida Panthers, after the Rangers traded Yandle to Florida because they knew he would be too expensive for them to sign. Yandle had 42 assists and 47 points in 82 games last season. New York will be hard pressed to make up his production, especially on the power play. ... Derick Brassard, F: Brassard, who was traded to the Senators, had 27 goals and 58 points last season. ... Dan Boyle, D: The 40-year-old finished his two-year contract with the intention to retire. There has been no announcement from Boyle about retirement, so he remains an unrestricted free agent. Boyle had 24 points in 74 games last season. ... Eric Staal, F: He signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild on July 1. The Rangers acquired Staal from the Hurricanes on Feb. 28, but he had six points in 20 regular-season games and was held off the score sheet in five playoff games. ... Viktor Stalberg, F: He signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Hurricanes on July 1 after playing primarily on the fourth line last season, when and had nine goals and 11 assists in 75 games. ... Dominic Moore, F: The Rangers' fourth-line center for the past three seasons is an unrestricted free agent.
ON THE CUSP: Pavel Buchnevich, F: The 21-year-old is the prize of the Rangers' prospect pool and the hope is he can fill a top-nine forward role after signing his three-year, entry-level contract. Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel, said Buchnevich could have been a top-six forward last season had he decided to sign with New York instead of choosing to stay in the Kontinental Hockey League. Buchnevich had 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 58 games combined between SKA St. Petersburg and Severstal Cherepovets. ... Nicklas Jensen, F: The 23-year-old re-signed with the intention on making the NHL club. He has appeared in 24 NHL games, all with the Canucks, and has three goals and three assists. Jensen had 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 68 AHL games last season, including 15 goals and 10 assists in 41 games with Hartford after the trade. ... Adam Tambellini, F: The 21-year-old, 6-foot-3 left wing had 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 74 games with Hartford, his first professional season after tearing up the Western Hockey League for 86 points (47 goals, 39 assists) with the Calgary Hitmen in 2014-15. ... Ryan Graves, D: The 21-year-old, who is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, is one of the Rangers' top defense prospects. He had 21 points in 74 games with Hartford, his first as a pro.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Power-play production in the wake of losing Yandle, who tied for the Rangers lead with 22 points last season, which ranked him 11th in the League. The Rangers need to discover someone else who can be effective from the left point. McDonagh might be able to fill that role, but he doesn't have the same shot as Yandle and hasn't been close to as good from that position. Skjei might be given the chance there because he is a left-handed shot.
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm5: Lundqvist stops Daley, Crosby
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: With little roster improvement following an early postseason exit, Lundqvist may need to shoulder even more of a load than he has in the past in order to remain a top 10 fantasy goalie. Lundqvist had the worst goals-against average (2.48) of his NHL career last season and allowed 15 goals in five playoff games. He leads the League in wins since 2005-06, but his supporting cast, especially on defense, is facing more questions than ever. Buy low if Lundqvist slips in fantasy drafts, but he's no longer worth taking among the 50 overall. It's strange to see this perennial first- or second-round pick in this boat.
Rick Nash - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Pavel Buchnevich
J.T. Miller - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
Nathan Gerbe - Josh Jooris - Michael Grabner
Ryan McDonagh - Brady Skjei
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein
Nick Holden - Dan Girardi