2020-21 Cap: $81.5; NYR Current Cap Space: $23,091,867
2020 Draft Picks: 1st (Rd. 1), 22nd (Rd. 1), 72nd (Rd. 3), 92nd (Rd. 3, from Dallas, 2019 for Zuc), 103rd (Rd. 4), 134th (Rd. 5), 165th (Rd. 6), 196th (Rd. 7), 197th (Rd. 7, from Nashville, 2019 for Cody McLeod), 206th (Rd. 7, 2019 from Vancouver, for Marek Mazanec)
2020 Picks Traded Away: 41 (Rd. 2, to Carolina for Adam Fox)
RFAs: Ryan Strome, Brendan Lemieux, Phil Di Giuseppe, Tony DiAngelo, Alexandar Georgiev, Ryan Gropp, Gabriel Fontaine, Dawson Leedahl, Brandon Crawley, Darren Raddysh,
UFAs: Jesper Fast, Greg McKegg, Michael Haley, Steven Fogarty, Vinni Lettieri, Danny O’Regan, Boo Nieves, Matt Beleskey, Nick Ebert, J-F Berube
Needs by Position:
a) Forward—With the selection of Alexis LaFrenière, the Rangers are strongest at LW. With Panarin, Kreider and LaFrenière on the left side, it is one of the formidable top three lines on that side in the NHL.
On the right side, Kappo Kaako, Buchnevich and then who? The obvious choice is Vitali Kravtsov (who currently has eight points in 11 KHL games), but will he be able to adjust to a system where he is not the primary star. Kravtsov clearly has the talent to play a top six role on the right side, but at the present time, he is the most questionable of the Rangers’ top prospects. Jeff Gorton told us last week that the team is still trying to re-sign Jesper Fast, the team’s most important UFA this year. He seemed somewhat hopeful, but thinks that Fast may hit the free agent market. At 28, Fast is a bottom nine player, who is great on the PK and will definitely garner some really good offers. He is almost certainly looking for a long-term contract, and the question becomes whether or not giving Fast the length that he is looking for is in the team’s best interest. Sadly, the answer is likely no. If there can be a compromise on contract length, then the team should go for it, but otherwise, the team should not saddle themselves with a high salary for a lengthy period of time.
It is at center that the team is the weakest. Although Mikka Zibanejad has grown into true number one center and is signed long term, the 27-year-old RFA Ryan Strome has had only one season with a high rate of production. Assuming he is a true late developer, Strome’s 59 points in 70 games would definitely put him in the top six category, but for most of his career, Strome has posted less than 40 points. Signing him long term is definitely a risk. Either way, a two-way center should definitely be a top priority for the Rangers in the short and middle term. Filip Chytil, Morgan Barron, Karl Henrikkson, and Lias Anderson are all very talented and are natural centers. Right now, each one of them have drawbacks for playing a top six role on this team—drawbacks that can be turned around over time—but it is uncertain at this point whether any of them will be a top six center for any length of time on this team.
2) Defense–JD and Gorton admitted last week that with the loss of Marc Staal (and even before) there is at least one hole on D in the near term. It is not really a long-term problem, as the Rangers have K’Andre Miller possibly NHL-ready, Libor Hajek is ready but might not be quite a top four right now, and longer term Nils Lundkvist, Matthew Robertson, and Zach Jones coming along. Add to that, Tarmo Reunanen and Hunter Skinner, among others, and the once depleted defensive prospect depth is now solid.
3) Goaltending—It will be hard to see Henrik Lundqvist in another uniform this coming season, but the Rangers had to move on, if they wanted to move toward a Stanley Cup in two to three years. The number one spot between the pipes is definitely Igor Shesterkin’s to run with. Georgiev is an RFA and may also have the potential to be a number one. It is a great dilemma for a team to have. Behind them are Olof Lindbom, Tyler Wall, and Adam Huska—a very nice group.
What to Look For: There is no question that LaFrenière will be the number one selection. The question actually is what to do with the # 22 overall. Do the Rangers use the pick for the best available player or trade it as part of a package to get a center in his mid-20s who can fill a second to third line role? I think if the deal is there, they make it. Then New York does not have a pick until the third round. Expect mostly forwards, at least one netminder, and at least one deal for one or more minor league players (the Rangers have very few left in the AHL). As far as the team’s own UFAs go, the most likely to be signed is Steven Fogarty, a character guy who has played a major role in the locker room in Hartford.