Rangers could form dream pairing with two former All-Star free agent signings

Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, Rangers
Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are expected to make some major changes to their roster when the free agency market opens on July 1st. Patrick Kane is one name that has been tied to the Blueshirts in recent rumors, but there may be another big fish New York could be targeting as well.

Steven Stamkos will test the open market on July 1st

Steven Stamkos, Rangers
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Per Pierre LeBrun, Steven Stamkos’ agent confirmed he will remain a free agent when the market opens Monday afternoon. The longtime Tampa Bay captain has an elite shooting ability, making him an exciting option for Chris Drury and the Rangers to consider looking at.

Stamkos, 34, is coming off a massive eight year contract worth $8.5 million annually. His age hasn’t slowed him down one bit, as the veteran forward has gone over a point per game in seven of his last eight seasons. He’d be an incredible addition to the Rangers’ roster, but would come with a hefty cap hit on what would likely be a multi-year deal.

In addition to Stamkos’ elite skill, he brings a championship-winning mentality that not many other players possess. He’s one three Stanley Cups with the Lightning, and has played in five total Finals. The Rangers have been cursed with many of their players falling off in the playoffs, but Stamkos has proven to be an elite postseason warrior. His leadership and experience would be an asset that the Blueshirts have been lacking for quite a long time.

If Drury is somehow able to clear enough cap space to make it possible, he should absolutely take a crack at signing Stamkos. Many teams will be gunning to sign the veteran superstar, but fans have seen Drury pull off more incredible stunts than this.

A Patrick Kane reunion could be on the horizon

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

In addition to Stamkos, the Rangers could target another veteran superstar in free agency — Patrick Kane. A reunion with Kane could be forming as the Blueshirts are reportedly interested in bringing the three-time Stanley Cup champion back to Broadway.

Kane’s first stint with the Rangers was a bit unsuccessful. He was acquired at the 2022 trade deadline in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Blackhawks that gave the Rangers a lineup destined to take them all the way.

However, Kane joined the team injured, hampered by a hip injury that ultimately caused him to play below expectations. The rest of the Rangers’ stars also failed to live up to the hype during the postseason, and the team was subsequently bounced in the first round by the New Jersey Devils.

Despite the sour taste that Kane’s first stint might have left in some fans, there would be reason for optimism in a Kane reunion. He’s coming off of a solid bounce-back season with the Detroit Red Wings, totaling 47 points (20 goals and 27 assists) in 50 games.

Few NHL players possess more postseason pedigree than Kane. And, considering he’s still a near point-per-game player at the age of 35, he could be the summer-splash addition that gets the Rangers over the hump in the postseason.

Signing Kane would be significantly cheaper than Stamkos. He will also likely be looking for a multi-year deal, but the Rangers could try to sign him for less than $5 million annually. The fact that Kane is rumored to have New York as his preferred destination also helps, as Drury might be able to ink a deal cheaper than what most other general managers around the league would need to spend.

Even though there are a handful of reasons why the Rangers should try to give Kane a second chance, there would still be many fans upset by his return. The Blueshirts have been lacking size and physicality, which has undoubtedly been the reason for multiple postseason failures, and adding Kane to the roster would not solve that problem.

But if Drury is able to add more than just Kane this offseason, he may be able to balance the roster enough to turn it into a Stanley Cup-winning team.

Projecting a Rangers first-line led by Kane & Stamkos

Patrick Kane, Rangers
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers’ first-line is led by two long-tenured stars in center Mika Zibanejad and left wing Chris Kreider. But the first-line right wing spot is open for grabs and signing Kane could be the way it gets filled.

But obviously adding both Kane and Stamkos onto the first line would push one of Zibanejad or Kreider out of the trio. In order for this lineup to work, Kreider would need to take on a new role down on the third line.

Moving Kreider down to the third line seems like an initially shocking move, but shaking up their world class second line would be a huge mistake. And Kreider’s skill set could blend well with the team’s third line trio.

On a theoretical line consisting of two centers, either Stamkos or Zibanejad would need to shift to the wing. The smarter option would be to leave Stamkos in his natural position, and moving Zibanejad to the left circle where he could utitlize his patented one-timer shot. Zibanejad-Stamkos-Kane seems like a world class line consisting of speed, hands, and shooting abilities, a much better unit than the Rangers’ used this past season.

As far as Kreider’s fate after potentially being demoted to the third line, he would still end up playing with some incredible forwards. Filip Chytil will more than likely start the year off as the third line center once again, as Vincent Trocheck has locked himself in as a reliable top six forward. The third line right wing is a bit of a question mark with Kaapo Kakko’s future in the air, but he, Jimmy Vesey, or Will Cuylle would also be solid fits.

Kreider would obviously be unhappy to see himself demoted and moved away from Zibanejad, but this potential new top unit is enough reason to go through with it anyway. Money will be a tough challenge to overcome, but if Drury can somehow make it work, the Rangers need to consider adding two Stanley Cup champions to their roster.

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