The New York Rangers had a quiet offseason, avoiding any flashy free-agent signings and making more subtle moves to enhance their roster. With their biggest signing only coming in the form of an aging Blake Wheeler, most of the work was spent improving the quality of the bottom six. The Rangers strengthened their bottom six this offseason, bolstering their depth with a handful of one-year deals.
The Rangers left their third line mostly the same
Barring any unforeseen changes by new Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette, the third line will remain mostly the same. Kaapo Kakko is likely being moved up to the first line to play alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, but there isn’t room to have either Alexis Lafreniere or Filip Chytil advance to the top six. Unless Chytil is given the opportunity to swap places with Vincent Trocheck for a portion of the season, both he and Lafreniere will spend 2023 remaining on the third line, as they had last season.
While Laviolette hasn’t confirmed who will be taking Kakko’s spot, many analysts and reporters expect Jimmy Vesey to fill in on the third-line RW. Vesey seems to be the most likely player to get improved ice time. He spent a portion of last season playing on the first line and seemed to handle the increased expectations and minutes well. Vesey, 30, also has the opportunity to act as a mentor to Lafreniere and Chytil, who are still in the early stages of their NHL careers.
Offseason signings bring new depth to the fourth line
Rangers GM Chris Drury went on a shopping spree this offseason, signing an abundance of veteran players to serve as fourth-line depth. At this time, it seems as if Barclay Goodrow will be the only returning player for that line, with newly-signed veterans competing for the center and right-wing positions.
Nick Bonino is the likely candidate to fill the fourth-line center role for the Rangers. He may not be the biggest point producer, scoring only 19 points in 62 games last season, but Bonino will contribute much more to the locker room. Having won two Stanley Cups throughout his career, Bonino has the ability to act as a leader and guide a young, somewhat inexperienced Rangers team deep into the postseason.
“Bonino played under Peter Laviolette when he was a Nashville Predator so there will be a relationship between the two already. A gritty, hard-nosed center that was a part of one of the best third lines in the league when the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.”via Blue Line Station
Tyler Pitlick is a candidate to take over as the right winger on the fourth line. Despite scoring only 16 points in 61 games last year, Pitlick’s size and veteran status could potentially make him an impactful player.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Pitlick has the ability to provide a level of physicality and grittiness for which the team was desperately searching. Pretty passes and highlight-reel goals can only take the Rangers so far once they enter the playoffs.
Has the Rangers’ bottom six improved?
The Rangers certainly added more leadership and experience this offseason. Bonino and Pitlick stand out as proven NHL veterans that could propel the Blueshirts deep into the postseason.
Lafreniere and Chytil will continue to play alongside each other, trying to prove themselves while fighting for a future role in the top six. They will be surrounded by veteran players who will be able to guide them in their development.
Most of the older players the Rangers signed won’t be producing a surplus of points, but they should have enough skill to contribute at a somewhat consistent pace. Age may be the only factor holding this team back, but there is a lot of potential for the bottom six to blossom into something special.