Rangers: 6 final predictions for the 2024 free agency period

New York Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette watches the play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Scotiabank Arena
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are entering a crucial offseason period following their premature exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals. General manager Chris Drury expects to be a busy man this summer as he revamps this roster in an effort to get them over the hump and hoist the Stanley Cup next year.

Plenty of rumors are swirling around the NHL, and the free agency period is always an unpredictable, yet exciting show. But the Fireside Rangers crew and Empire Sports Media are going to try their hand at offseason predictions.

Here are six final predictions for the Rangers in free agency, delivered to you by Fireside Rangers co-hosts Anthony Rivardo and Eric Willsen.

Prediction No. 1: The Rangers will reunite with Patrick Kane

-Anthony Rivardo’s first prediction
Apr 5, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates center Dylan Larkin (not pictured) goal during the second period against the New York Rangers at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Patrick Kane reunion rumors have been picking up steam in recent days. Kane is “the apple of the Rangers’ eye,” according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post, who is reporting that many in the organization were left “wanting more” after his brief stint with the team in 2023.

With Jake Guentzel recently having his rights traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers’ presumed top right wing target is off the board, which could cause them to pivot to Kane.

Kane is coming off a near-point-per-game season with the Detroit Red Wings. He tallied 47 points (20 goals and 27 assists) in 50 games this season at the ripe age of 35 years old. 

While his short tenure on Broadway might have been a bit disappointing, he was playing through a hip injury at the time. He is healthy now and still able to contribute at a high level for a playoff-caliber team. If the Rangers can make the Kane reunion happen at an affordable price point, they should. Bringing in the three-time Stanley Cup champion could be exactly what the Rangers need to get over the hump in the postseason.

Prediction No. 2: The Rangers will make a strong push for Steven Stamkos

-Eric Willsen’s first prediction
Steven Stamkos, Rangers
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

With the Tampa Bay Lightning having just acquired the rights to sign Jake Guentzel, I’m guessing this seals the deal on captain Steven Stamkos signing elsewhere. He was already confirmed to test the market on July 1st, but now, Tampa Bay just simply won’t have the money to give him what he wants. 

In my opinion, Stamkos would be a perfect fit on the Rangers’ first line. He’s an elite sniper with multiple Stanley Cups and should match well with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Either Stamkos or Zibanejad would have to shift to the wing, which I would think should be Zibanejad. Stamkos is more reliable in the center of the ice, which makes me say he deserves to remain in his natural position.

After Stamkos declined an offer from Tampa Bay worth $3 million annually, his camp revealed he was looking for roughly $4-5 million depending on the term of the deal. To me, this is something Chris Drury can easily offer to Stamkos. With Jacob Trouba and Kaapo Kakko possibly on their way out of New York, there should be enough funds to make it possible.

The only potential problem I see here is that many teams will be eager to sign Stamkos. I’m not sure if he’s interested in joining the Rangers, but Drury will likely have some strong competition out there on the free agency market. If he does want to play for New York, however, signing Stamkos to a three or four-year deal should definitely be pursued.

Prediction No. 3: The Rangers will trade team captain Jacob Trouba

-Anthony Rivardo’s second prediction
Apr 23, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals during the first 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

All signs point to the Rangers moving on from team captain Jacob Trouba this offseason. Drury has reportedly been shopping the 30-year-old defenseman this offseason after meeting with him to discuss his future (or lack thereof) with the team.

Trouba is coming off of a rough 2023-24 campaign in which he totaled only 22 points in 69 games with a -4 rating. In the postseason, his deficiency as a defenseman was on full display. Trouba was on the ice for 47% of the Rangers’ conceded goals in the final two rounds of the postseason before their untimely departure.

At times, Trouba looks lost on the ice. He makes poor decisions and fails to live up to the expectations of a player who carries an $8 million cap hit. As much as I like Trouba off the ice, on the ice, he feels like a liability. It’s a tough sell anytime a team wants to move on from its captain, but I think all Rangers fans will agree that this is the right move. The Rangers should and likely will trade Trouba to clear up cap space and improve their roster in other areas.

Prediction No. 4: The Rangers will extend Ryan Lindgren, rather than trade him

-Eric Willsen’s second prediction
Feb 24, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55) looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

There have been numerous rumors about Ryan Lindgren’s future with the Rangers. Some reports have said the Blueshirts are working hard to extend him, and others have said he could be traded if the right deal comes across Drury’s desk. I personally think the trade rumors are pure speculation, and Lindgren will remain with the Blueshirts for the foreseeable future.

It makes no sense why the Rangers should move on from Lindgren at this stage of his career. He hasn’t even entered his prime yet at just 26 years old, and is already one of the best defensemen currently on the roster. You could make the argument that K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider are just as good as him, but I personally believe that Adam Fox is the only defenseman currently better than Lindgren.

I understand that some fans are worried about Lindgren’s long history of injuries. I’ve heard fans claim he’s on a collision course to be the next version of Marc Staal, but I have hope that Lindgren’s injuries won’t tear his career apart. Unless he receives numerous concussions, or has a serious season-ending injury, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about regarding Lindgren’s longevity in the league.

Prediction No. 5: The Rangers will sign a veteran defenseman in free agency

-Anthony Rivardo’s final prediction
Dec 10, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Roy (3) awaits a face-off against the New York Rangers during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

With Trouba likely on his way out the door, the Rangers will need to add a defenseman in free agency. They added an intriguing defenseman prospect in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft on Friday night, however, it could be a while before they start seeing any returns on that investment. The Rangers need an immediate upgrade in their defensive corps, and I think they will find one in free agency.

Matt Roy is a popular name amongst Rangers fans. The 29-year-old star defenseman is likely to leave the Los Angeles Kings this summer by way of free agency. He fits the mold of what the Rangers need in a stay-at-home defenseman who can improve the team’s coverage of the ice in front of Igor Shesterkin. I’d be elated to see Drury land Roy this summer.

However, I also feel like the Rangers could take a more cost-effective approach while upgrading their defense. Roy will likely carry an AAV in excess of $6.1 million. Drury could wind up investing that money could be invested in the offensive lineup. But I think that would be a mistake.

The Rangers’ defense has been a problematic unit over the past few seasons. I hope to see Drury right this wrong and finally invest top-dollar on a top defenseman this summer. The Trouba contract was obviously a bad investment. But if they get it right this time, an upgrade on the defensive end of the ice could help the Rangers better emulate the style of play seen by the champion Florida Panthers, ultimately increasing their probability of beating teams like Florida and making it to the Stanley Cup Finals next year.

Prediction No. 6: The Rangers will trade Kaapo Kakko and a top prospect for Trevor Zegras

-Eric Willsen’s final prediction
Trevor Zegras, Rangers
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Although I don’t want to see Trevor Zegras become a Ranger, all signs are pointing to it being a strong possibility. The Blueshirts are rumored to have expressed interest, and the 23-year-old Anaheim center has said New York is his top destination if he ever leaves the Ducks.

Zegras is the exact opposite of what the Rangers need right now. They’re lacking in size and physicality in their offensive corps, and Zegras does not bring either of those to the table. He’s on the smaller side, and is not known for his strength. 

I’m not sure why Chris Drury would be interested in making this deal, but there is one upside to these rumors. Zegras is only 23, making him a young moldable player the Blueshirts could develop into a top center years from now.

If this deal is in fact made, I’m predicting that Kaapo Kakko and a top prospect would be involved. Kakko has reportedly been on the trade block for the last few days, and the Rangers have stated that any prospect not named Gabe Perreault could be moved. I would assume the prospect desired by Anaheim would be Brennan Othmann, who I am fine with seeing be traded- just not for a player like Zegras.

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