After a disappointing early exit from the postseason, the New York Rangers are entering a critical offseason if they hope to stay in Stanley Cup contention.
Here are three decisions that could make or break the Rangers’ offseason.
Who becomes head coach number 37?
After back-to-back 100-plus-point regular seasons, head coach Gerad Gallant and the Rangers have parted ways. Now who replaces Gallant?
Will the Rangers hire another veteran coach, this time with a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree like Mike Babcock or Peter Laviolette? Both are safer options for a team trying to win now, but the Rangers are known to take risks when choosing a coach.
They could promote from within like the Lightning did with Jon Cooper and bring up Kris Knoblauch, who has been excellent coaching the Hartford Wolfpack and has first-hand experience with many of the youngsters on the Rangers roster.
Regardless of who the Rangers hire, this is a decision they have to get right if they want a serious chance to lift the Stanley Cup.
What happens with Artemi Panarin?
Before the season began, the idea of the Rangers trading Artemi Panarin seemed ridiculous. However, after a disappointing postseason that saw the Blueshirts’ 11.64 million dollar man put up only two points( both assists), that scenario has become plausible.
Panarin is coming off back-to-back 90-plus-point seasons, so he should fetch decent value on the trade market despite his high cap hit. However, the return could vary from another star player like Mitch Marner or a package similar to what the Buffalo Sabres got for Jack Eichel.
If the Rangers decide to trade Panarin, he has a no-movement clause that could complicate any deal for the two-time all-star.
Trading a star is never an easy decision, but if the Rangers decide to do it, the ramifications could either lead to a Stanley Cup or begin another rebuild.
Who becomes cap casualties?
With some critical players set for a pay raise, the Rangers will have to make a move this offseason to alleviate some cap space if they would like them to stay in the Big Apple.
Barclay Goodrow seems like an obvious cap casualty candidate, as the 30-year-old is scheduled to make 3.64 million per year for the next four years.
Vincent Trochek is a sneaky option to be traded in a salary cap move, as last year’s big off-season move to be the Blueshirts’ second-line center has become replaceable thanks to the emergence of Filip Chytil.
Whether general manager Chris Drury decides to part ways with one of the aforementioned names or another player in the hopes of cap relief, he has to be careful to balance contending in 2024 with the organization’s future.