The New York Rangers made a handful of offseason moves this offseason following a crushing defeat to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs. Due to certain big-name players becoming too expensive to keep around, the Blueshirts had to look elsewhere to fill their lineup.
But the focus this offseason was not just on the acquisition of new players. The Blueshirts will also have an entirely new look behind the bench as well.
3. Blake Wheeler can replace Rangers’ top-six losses
The Rangers had to get creative this offseason while figuring out how to fill the voids left behind by Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane’s departures. With Kaapo Kakko likely taking a slot on the first line, the Rangers signed Blake Wheeler to fill in on the second.
Despite his 37th birthday arriving before the 2023-2024 season begins, the Rangers still expect an elite showing from Wheeler. Last year, Wheeler managed to tally 55 points in 72 games, proving that his age hasn’t completely hindered his abilities. It may not be as high a point total as he’s scored in the past, but 55 points is still a respectable number in the NHL.
“It’s exciting to see a player like Blake Wheeler pick our group,” Chris Kreider said last week in the locker room of the Terry Conners Ice Rink, where the Shoulder Check Showcase charity event was hosted to benefit the #HT40 Foundation. “A guy who’s in a position where he’s had a ton of success, he’s an incredible player, he’s had an outstanding career. And he looks at our group and says, ‘Yeah, they’re right there and I want to win a Cup.’ That’s quite the vote of confidence.via NY Post
Playing alongside superstar Artemi Panarin should also help Wheeler improve his game. The only risk that comes with combining the two is their lack of defensive awareness, but some proper coaching should help them adjust. Wheeler will certainly be a welcome addition to the Rangers, and this acquisition by the Blueshirts should positively influence the success of the team.
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2. Nick Bonino provides depth and experience to the Rangers
The Rangers’ offseason focused mainly on improving their bottom six. Many veteran players were signed to one-year deals, but Nick Bonino will absolutely have the biggest impact on the team.
The bottom six was one of the most inconsistent pieces of the Blueshirts’ offense. In some games, they looked like a top-six unit, while in other matchups their impact was nonexistent.
Bonino having a strong locker room presence with multiple Stanley Cup rings to his name is exactly what the Rangers needed.
Bonino won’t be a massive point producer, especially when playing on the fourth line. However, his ability to lead and mentor younger players will prove this acquisition to be worthwhile.
1. New coaching staff can get the Rangers back on track
Perhaps the most important offseason acquisition this year came in the form of a head coach rather than a player. Gerard Gallant was fired shortly after New York was booted from the playoffs. GM Chris Drury then set out on a quest to track down the perfect replacement.
After weeks of searching, the Blueshirts eventually hired Peter Laviolette to be the 37th head coach in franchise history. This acquisition has the potential to completely revitalize New York’s locker room, putting in a new system that can fix many consistent errors. The Rangers’ biggest weakness is their 5v5 play, which only contributed 180 goals last season. Laviolette and his staff will have an opportunity to fix this weakness.
The Laviolette hiring may be the Rangers’ best acquisition this offseason. Players and their skills can only take a team so far without proper strategy and guidance. If the Rangers are to redeem themselves this upcoming season and hoist the Stanley Cup, Laviolette will be the catalyst to making that dream come true.