Have the Rangers done enough to solve their 1RW problems?

Reilly Smith, Rangers
Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers needed to target an elite right winger to play on the first line when free agency began. For one reason or another, Chris Drury failed to make that happen. The closest he got was acquiring Reilly Smith via trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he alone is not enough to fill this massive hole in the Blueshirts’ roster. There are a few in-house options as well, but chances are, Drury did not solve the Rangers’ 1RW problems.

Smith will likely play on the Rangers’ third-line

Smith is a solid acquisition for the Blueshirts, but he is better suited for a bottom-six role. The Stanley Cup-winning winger tallied 40 points in 76 games this past season with Pittsburgh, making him a solid depth piece to play with Filip Chytil and whoever remains on the third line when the summer ends.

Reilly Smith, Rangers
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Although Smith has had seasons in the past where he’s exemplified elite scoring abilities, his recent career numbers haven’t been enough to earn him a chance on the Blueshirts’ top unit. There’s a chance that Peter Laviolette could give him a shot with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, but it’s likely that Smith will be better suited down on the third line.

The Rangers have a few in-house options for the first-line

Similarly to last season, Laviolette could opt to give Kaapo Kakko a chance on the first line to start the year. He has failed to produce in a top-six role in the past, but there’s no telling what another year of development has done for the former second-overall pick. It’s possible that Kakko could receive another opportunity, but that’s only if he remains on the team when October rolls around.

Apr 23, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates across the blue line against the Washington Capitals during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

With the Rangers waiting on the right offer for Kakko, another option the Blueshirts have at their disposal is top prospect Brennan Othmann. He was given the chance to make his NHL debut with the Rangers last season, but was sent back down to the Hartford Wolf Pack rather quickly.

With the Rangers’ development camp already underway, Othmann is looking to prove his doubters wrong this year. If he’s able to impress the organization this summer, he may not only be able to earn himself a solid spot on the roster, but even possibly work his way straight up to the Rangers’ first line.

New York Rangers left wing Brennan Othmann (78) looks out during warmups before a game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden

Othmann has been the Blueshirts’ most well-developed prospect for years. It’s surprising that he hasn’t made the NHL yet, and even more shocking that the Rangers still have him attending development camp. It’d be a risky move to start the season with Othmann on the first line with little NHL experience, but it’s a risk with extremely high rewards if he plays well.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: