Rangers’ GM could have ‘tricks up his sleeve’ in free agency

May 9, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers experienced a premature exit from the postseason after a dominant regular season, falling short against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite not reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers’ front office is gearing up for a busy offseason with plans to refine the roster through drafts, trades, and free agency.

An Active Offseason for the Rangers is Expected

Chris Drury, the team’s general manager, is expected to be particularly active during this period. According to Chris Johnston of The Athletic on the CJS podcast, “Chris Drury’s gonna be cookin’ this offseason. It feels like that’s a team that could have a few tricks up its sleeve as we get into the draft window and trading/free agent period.”

This indicates potentially significant moves could be made to reshape the team’s lineup.

Potential Roster Changes

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

One of the more controversial moves could involve Kaapo Kakko, the former second-overall pick from 2019. Despite developing into a solid defensive forward, Kakko has struggled to meet offensive expectations.

With Kakko having signed a one-year, $2.4 million qualifying offer, the Rangers might see this as an opportunity to trade him to free up cap space and acquire additional assets, capitalizing on his value while he is still young.

Creative Financial Maneuvering

The Rangers demonstrated their creative financial approach by waiving Barclay Goodrow, who had a $3.6 million cap hit remaining on his contract for three years. He was claimed by the San Jose Sharks on waivers, which saved the full $3.642 million for the Blueshirts, adding flexibility to the Rangers’ salary cap. Goodrow’s departure, after contributing modestly last season, opens up more options for Drury to maneuver this offseason.

Focusing on Key Extensions and Additions

May 9, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Jake Guentzel (59) sends the puck between New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Extending key players like Igor Shesterkin and Ryan Lindgren is high on the Rangers’ priority list. Shesterkin, instrumental during the playoffs, is expected to secure a significant extension. Lindgren, known for his solid defensive play (22 +/-), also needs to be secured for the future. Beyond internal adjustments, the Rangers could also explore adding a physical winger to the top six and a new defenseman.

Speculation on High-Profile Acquisitions

Ottawa Senators right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (New York Rangers)
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If looking to boost their offensive capabilities, the Rangers might consider re-acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko. After a brief stint with the Rangers in 2022, Tarasenko demonstrated his scoring ability by notching 23 goals and 32 assists over 57 games in the most recent season, adding seven points in the postseason. Stealing him from the Panthers would feel good in any case, but he would be expensive, and the Rangers wouldn’t necessarily need him.

Strategic Moves for Future Success

Each decision and transaction the Rangers make this offseason is aimed at creating additional salary space and strengthening the team’s composition. These moves are calculated to build a team capable of achieving their ultimate goal: winning the Stanley Cup in the 2024–25 season.

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