3 in-house moves the Rangers need to make this offseason

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

After registering a franchise record 114-point regular season and winning the President’s Trophy, the New York Rangers entered the postseason with Stanley Cup expectations.

After sweeping the Washington Capitals and closing out the Carolina Hurricanes in six games, the Blueshirts’ pursuit for their first cup since 1994 ended in the Eastern Conference Finals after the Florida Panthers won three straight to eliminate the Rangers in six games.

President and general manager Chris Drury now enters a crucial offseason as the Rangers look to contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup once more next season.

The Rangers need to extend Igor Shesterkin immediately

May 9, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers do not get to game six against the Panthers without Igor Shesterkin. The former Vezina Trophy winner had a solid regular season, posting a 2.58 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage with four shutouts across 55 games.

Shesterkin had an even better postseason, which Panthers head coach Paul Maurice likened to José Théodore’s run in 2002. The 28-year-old had a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage while leading the entire NHL in saves and shots against.

Shesterkin’s price will only increase, with the cap expected to grow over the following two offseasons. The time is now to lock up the Russian goaltender for the foreseeable future.

The Rangers have to make a decision on Kappo Kakko‘s future

New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates with the puck against Calgary Flames center Jonathan Huberdeau (10) during the third period at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The former second-overall pick’s time in the city that never sleeps has not gone as expected. After taking a step forward following signing a two-year $4.2 million bridge deal, Kappo Kakko regressed in 2023-24.

Despite frequently playing alongside top-end talent like Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, the 23-year-old scored just 13 goals and registered six assists across 61 games. In the postseason, Kakko was even a healthy scratch at one point and had just a goal and an assist across 15 games.

It is time for Drury to decide on the pending restricted free agent: either trade his rights and cut bait with a player who has primarily been viewed as a bust or extend him if he feels another year under head coach Peter Laviolette will finally unlock his full potential.

Alexis Lafrenière has earned his extension

May 11, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenière (13) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in game four of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafrenière was the Rangers’ breakout player this season. The former No. 1 overall pick set career highs in goals (28), assists (29), and points (57) while playing in 82 regular season games for the first time. Lafrenière had an equally effective postseason scoring eight goals and adding six assists across 16 games. Lafrenière has come into his own and needs to be a part of the Rangers’ long-term future, which starts with an extension now.

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