The New York Rangers made several minor signings at the beginning of free agency in July to bolster their roster for new head coach Peter Laviolette. Without making any splash signings, some fans may question whether or not GM Chris Drury has done enough to keep the Blueshirts in contention for a Stanley Cup playoff run in 2023-24.
Can the Rangers bounce back from a disappointing first-round exit?
The New York Rangers and their fans can still feel the disappointment of being eliminated in the first round of last season’s playoff tournament. They held a 2–0 series lead before it all fell apart as the Blueshirts lost the first-round series against their cross-river rival New Jersey Devils in seven games.
In response to the early postseason exit, the organization went through significant coaching staff changes, parting ways with HC Gerard Gallant and hiring Laviolette in his place. The team then went through the process of adding players via free agency, attempting to upgrade their lines despite being forced to say goodbye to players due to a very tight salary cap.
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Notable offseason acquisitions for the Rangers
Drury did what a good GM is supposed to do, filling out New York’s roster while also keeping his club cap-compliant. As of Monday morning, the only player unsigned is forward Alexis Lafreniere.
Rangers offseason acquisitions:
F- Blake Wheeler
F- Nick Bonino
F- Tyler Pitlick
D- Erik Gustafsson
D- Connor Mackey
G- Johnathan Quick
Rangers offseason departures:
F- Patrick Kane
F- Vladimir Tarensko
F- Tyler Motte
F- Alex Belzile
G- Jaroslav Halak
Was Blake Wheeler the Rangers’ most important signing this offseason?
The Rangers signed a couple of key veterans this offseason, but arguably no acquisition is more vital than Blake Wheeler. This season, the 36-year-old will need to raise his game in order to produce the necessary points that will allow the Rangers to improve on last year’s playoff results.
Wheeler’s arrival has him pegged as a top-six forward. He spent his last 12 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets but will take on a big role on the right side of the Blueshirts’ offense this season. He will immediately fill the Blueshirts’ need at right winger and has the stats to prove that age has not slowed him down yet. Wheeler has appeared in 1,118 regular-season NHL games. In that span, the forward has amassed 922 points (312G and 610A).
“I’m not looking for promises or guarantees,” Wheeler said. “You just want an opportunity. If I can come in in good shape and ready to roll from Day 1, hopefully it’s an opportunity that I can earn. It’s exciting to have players up and down that lineup that you can maybe slot next to. Guys that you’ve been worried about playing against over the years and now you get to put on the same [uniform], is pretty exciting.”NewYorkRangers.com
Rangers add crucial backup to Shesterkin
The Rangers will have a new goalie backing up Igor Shesterkin this year. The team signed three-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick to replace the departing Jaroslav Halak.
Quick struggled last season as a member of the Los Angeles Kings as his playing time diminished. He was then traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline but saw little game action until injuries forced him into a backup role last season.
Quick appeared in 41 games last season, but that number will be cut almost in half as Shesterkin will carry most of the workload for the Rangers this year. The backup will likely play in 22-25 games this season. Quick will need to get the team points in at least a dozen of these games to propel the team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Quick’s experience and willingness to accept the role as backup are two assets of which the Rangers and Shesterkin can take advantage. His ability to be able to play an important role while seeing limited game action is crucial to the success of the team.
Did the Rangers do enough to win more playoff games?
On paper, this team looks like it can do some damage in the playoffs. However, paper and reality are two distinctions that can contribute to success or failure.
The Rangers are not the young team that they were just four years ago. The opportunity to win a championship is slowly deteriorating to the point where this team is in a win-now situation.
The core of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, and Shesterkin are running out of time either by age or by contract status and need to get the job down now.
Wheeler and Quick might be the final two pieces the team needed to make a run at winning the Stanley Cup. However, the Rangers thought the same when they signed Vladamir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane last season. Those two additions did not yield the desired results for the Blueshirts. Expectations this season are high and the Rangers will need their offseason acquisitions to make an impact as they are embarking on a crucial 2023-24 season.
Follow Frank on X at @RangerProud