3 Rangers who could disappoint this season

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at Bell Centre
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are looking to redeem themselves after an excruciating defeat in last season’s playoffs. In order to succeed, their stars must shine bright and lead the way as the Rangers look to improve their record. Despite big names like Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin being almost guaranteed to have an elite showing, there are some players on the Rangers’ roster that could ultimately disappoint in the 2023-24 season.

Lafreniere may not break out as Rangers hope

With Filip Chytil completing a successful breakout campaign last season and Kaapo Kakko being given the spotlight on the first line this next season, Alexis Lafreniere is left as the only kid to not have made his mark on the Rangers. Being drafted first overall in 2020, Lafreniere has had quite an underwhelming NHL experience thus far.

Throughout his career, Lafreniere has only totaled 91 points in 216 games. Now at the end of his entry-level contract, it’s time for Lafreniere to finally prove himself as a worthy first-overall selection and make an immediate impact. Although the Rangers have yet to re-sign the young forward, all signs point towards a deal being reached before the 2023-24 season gets underway. In what will most likely be a short-term bridge deal, Lafreniere must begin to produce points.

Lafreniere told La Presse’s Simon Olivier Lorange while participating in a Pro-Am charity game in Quebec City last week that the two sides are in talks, expecting to agree shortly.

“My agent and the Rangers are in discussions. I hope it will be settled in the next few weeks,” he said. “I love playing there. I love the city, the fans, and the arena. It would be super cool to continue.””

via Blue Line Station

Lafreniere’s struggles stem from a lack of opportunities he’s had to succeed in the NHL. Ever since being drafted, the young Canadian has been trapped down in the bottom six. While the other kids now have time to flourish on the top lines, a highly congested left side on the Rangers leaves Lafreniere little room to grow. Although many fans want Lafreniere to finally break out, he may have a difficult time doing so.

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Wheeler’s age may continue to drag stats down

Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition for the Rangers this year was the signing of veteran forward Blake Wheeler. Despite being at the tail end of his career, the Blueshirts still expect a big showing from Wheeler by slotting him in a top-six position.

Although Wheeler, now 36 years old, tallied 55 points in 72 games last season, his stats have quickly begun to decline as he has gotten older. It’s possible that Wheeler will be able to maintain similar numbers while playing alongside Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, but the organization must also consider the possibility that there will be a significant regression from the veteran player.

Quick may not be able to give Shesterkin enough rest

In order to replace backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak, the Rangers signed veteran goalie and future hall of famer Jonathan Quick to a one-year deal. Although he may have been the best option on the market, there are still many potential issues that come with the signing.

Similarly to Wheeler, Quick’s age may be the biggest factor here. At 37 years old, his stats have significantly been affected by the test of time. Also considering last year’s injury-riddled season, it’s hard to tell just how well Quick will perform behind superstar Igor Shesterkin.

One of the Rangers’ biggest weaknesses is their overreliance on Shesterkin. In order for him to be fully energized when the playoffs arrive, the Rangers must have a suitable backup they can rely on to give Shesterkin enough rest. Quick may be able to steal some games here and there, but he may struggle to start against a competitive team. The Rangers are hoping that the three-time Stanley Cup champion will be able to work some magic and help them reach their long-awaited goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fifth time in franchise history.