Rangers open to moving off several core stars this offseason

Apr 26, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93), Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20), and Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) stand on the ice during a stoppage in play against the Washington Capitals in the second period in game three of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers bounced back from their first-round defeat at the hand of the New Jersey Devils that ended the 2022-23 campaign and won the President’s Trophy with a franchise record 114 before quickly dispatching the Washington Capitals in four games in the opening round.

The Carolina Hurricanes proved a more challenging opponent, but the Blueshirts eliminated them in six before running into the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers.

After taking a 2-1 lead, the Rangers dropped three straight and got eliminated by a Panther squad that is on the brink of winning the Stanley Cup as they are up 3-0 on the Edmonton Oilers.

While getting to game six of the Eastern Conference Finals two out of the past three years is quite the accomplishment, the Blueshirts need something to change to get them over the hump, and that could be moving on from some of their core.

Chris Drury is open to change

Mar 30, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA;  New York Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette looks on prior to the game against the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re looking at a lot of different things,” Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury said on a Zoom call. “And there’s different ways to get to where we want to go. To me, really, nothing’s off the table. We’re trying to be better. We’re trying, as I said, to reach the ultimate goal here. In the middle of that process now and trying to figure out what’s next and what can we do to be better.”

‘Nothing’s off the table’ for Rangers offseason: Chris Drury (nypost.com)

Drury does not sound fully committed to running things back with the same group and could make a move within the core to capture the Stanley Cup.

Who from the Rangers’ core could realistically go?

May 11, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) look on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in game four 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 Rangers’ “core” consists of six players: Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Jacob Trouba.

Fox and Shesterkin are going nowhere, the former Norris Trophy winner is locked up for the foreseeable future, and the Blueshirts are working on an extension with Igor.

After disappointing postseason performances, Panarin has been the subject of trade rumors for the past two offseasons. Still, the Breadman is coming off a Hart Trophy-caliber regular season with 49 goals and 71 assists, and his $11.64 million cap hit makes it difficult for him to be moved.

Kreider and Zibanejad don’t appear to be going anywhere after Drury said this during the same press conference:

“For me, Mika and Chris are terrific players. Can drive a line all by themselves. We’re going to continue to look and explore and try to find someone that could become a good fit for them.”

‘Nothing’s off the table’ for Rangers offseason: Chris Drury (nypost.com)

That leaves Trouba, the Blueshirts’ captain as the member of the core who could realistically be on his way out. The 30-year-old struggled defensively this past season, putting up a negative four plus/minus in the regular season.

While Trouba’s physicality and leadership are certainly valuable to the squad, the Michigan native is getting paid like an elite defenseman. With his $8 million cap hit taking up 9.1% of the Rangers’ overall salary cap space, the change that could be made to the core is getting rid of Trouba.

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