Rangers: Top 3 free-agent targets to solve the 1RW hole

May 26, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (10) moves the puck past New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the first period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are expected to address their hole on the first-line right wing in free agency next week. There will be plenty of options for general manager Chris Drury to consider, but three free agents stand out.

The Rangers could attempt a reunion with Vladimir Tarasenko

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

If you can’t beat them, steal them. That could be the mindset that Drury adopts this summer as he considers poaching some top talents from the Florida Panthers squad that eliminated the Rangers from the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after spending this past season split between Ottawa and Florida. He previously spent the 2022-23 season split between St. Louis and New York after the Rangers acquired him via trade at the deadline.

Tarasenko was a solid addition for the Rangers during the 2022-23 season. In the 31 regular season games he played with New York, Tarasenko totaled 21 total points (eight goals and 13 assists) while playing on the first line alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Tarasenko quickly developed chemistry with his linemates — a chemistry that could be rekindled if he signs back with the Blueshirts this summer.

This season, Tarasenko was still an effective player, totaling 55 points (23 goals and 32 assists) across 76 games. He has been a major catalyst toward the Panthers’ postseason success, too, as Florida is preparing for a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. Tarasenko has won a Cup before and is on the verge of earning his second. His postseason pedigree would be a valuable feature for the Rangers to pursue this summer.

Jonathan Marchessault would bring the clutch postseason performances that are missing

Jonathan Marchessault, Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Another elite postseason performer who will be on the open market this summer is Jonathan Marchessault. The 2023 Conn Smythe winner won the NHL’s postseason MVP award last year after finishing the postseason tied for first with 13 goals and ranking second with 25 points.

Marchessault hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Las Vegas Golden Knights last season following his heroic postseason run. This season, the 33-year-old played in all 82 games for Las Vegas and tallied 69 points (42 goals and 27 assists). He’s shown no signs of slowing down and could be exactly what the Rangers are missing on their first line.

The buzz on Broadway this postseason surrounded the lack of production received by the Rangers’ top-six stars. Zibanejad, Kreider, and Artemi Panarin all struggled to produce consistently in the team’s final two postseason series. Adding Marchessault to the top six would give the Blueshirts a proven playoff performer and NHL champion to hopefully get them over the hump next postseason.

Tyler Toffoli is on the Blueshirts’ radar

Tyler Toffoli, Rangers
Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers reportedly have Winnipeg Jets winger Tyler Toffoli on their “radar” as they prepare for this summer’s free agency. NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman recently stated on an episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast that he “could see [Tyler] Toffoli being a guy that’s on the Rangers radar with the money they got (from Goodrow waive).”

Toffoli is a physical winger who could bring the strength and aggression that seemed to be lacking in the Blueshirts’ offensive attack during their postseason series against the Florida Panthers. The 32-year-old Jets forward totaled 55 points (33 goals and 22 assists) in 79 games played this season.

The Rangers need some consistent production from their first-line right wing, rather than rotating a group of forwards who are unable to match the level of intensity faced in the postseason. Toffoli (or any of the aforementioned targets) could bring the consistent scoring in the regular season and playoffs that the Rangers need to have a chance at earning their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

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