The New York Rangers were two wins from returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 18 years. They enter the 2012-13 season a three-game losing streak while dealing with thoughts of what might have been.
The New Jersey Devils, their rivals from across the Hudson River, ended the Rangers' hopes of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Manhattan. A big reason was the amount of energy the Rangers had to expend to expunge the eighth- and seventh-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference in the first two rounds.
2012-13 Rangers Fantasy Team Preview
Under-valued: Michael Del Zotto - Most offensive-minded defenseman on team gets overlooked with Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal on the blue line, but Del Zotto had 10 goals and 41 points last season with a plus-20 rating while quarterbacking the power play.
Over-valued: Carl Hagelin - Despite a breakout rookie season in 2011-12, Hagelin could be the odd-man out among the team's top-six forwards when Marian Gaborik returns from his injury, which would decrease his fantasy value significantly.
Sleeper: Chris Kreider - Kreider will be arguably the biggest sleeper pick in all of fantasy hockey and could finish the season with 25-plus goals while being a top-six forward for the Rangers.
General manager Glen Sather's months-long pursuit of Rick Nash finally proved fruitful, as the former Columbus Blue Jackets captain came on board this offseason -- and the price was less than previously expected. Sather might not be done adding, and the Rangers still have plenty of salary-cap space to maneuver with.
*Marian Gaborik is not expected to be ready for the start of the season
NOTES: Gaborik would likely slide into the spot next Stepan when he returns after they found some chemistry last season. There are several candidates to earn a spot in the lineup with Gaborik out, and that doesn't include a potential addition via free agency or trade.
Aside from Kreider, who stepped into the lineup during the playoffs but has never played a regular-season game, Thomas and J.T. Miller are probably the Rangers' most exciting prospects -- but Kris Newbury, Ryan Bourque and Chad Kolarik are among the other possibilities. Give Thomas the edge over Miller if it is a short-term move, because Miller can go back to the Ontario Hockey League and the Rangers won't burn a year off his entry-level contract.
The Rangers need another defenseman -- and that may very well be Michael Sauer, whose availability is still uncertain because of a concussion that cost him most of last season. The top four is solid, but coach John Tortorella had little faith in using six defensemen in the playoffs.
Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy for the first time last season and could become the first goalie in franchise history to win the award twice. The Rangers are the only Original Six team to not have a two-time Vezina winner. Biron has had two strong seasons as Lundqvist's backup, giving the Rangers one of the best tandems in the League.