In the 2021-22 NHL regular season, the New York Rangers were the fourth-best Eastern Conference team. Their 52-24-6 record was their best in eight years, and their second-best since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993-94, and that gave Blueshirts fans much reason for optimism they’d be even better this year.
Alas, that has not been the case. Their 11-9-4 mark puts them fifth in the Metropolitan Division, and since Nov. 1, they’re just 4-6-2. This has caused much consternation in Manhattan, with some speculating that coach Gerard Gallant could be dismissed before too long. But Rangers GM Chris Drury is more likely to make lineup changes before firing Gallant.
Indeed, Drury began the roster-reshaping process Nov. 23 when he dealt enforcer Ryan Reaves to Minnesota for a fifth-round draft pick, essentially a salary-dump move to position themselves for a larger trade later this season.
However, although whispers put Chicago Blackhawks superstar winger Patrick Kane squarely in the Rangers’ sights, they currently don’t have enough cap space (as per Cap Friendly) to acquire Kane. They’re projected to have nearly $6.7 million in space by the league’s March 3 trade deadline, but Kane may not be their only target.
In fact, if you look at their roster, you can make the argument their more pressing need is on the blueline.
The Rangers have a solid top-four group of D-men with star Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller all averaging more than 21:20 of ice time per game and Ryan Lindgren pulling up the rear at 17:52 per night. However, the dropoff after that is severe – Libor Hajek, Zac Jones and Braden Schneider are their options on the back end after that, and there are going to be better candidates than that available on the trade market.
It was reported last season that Drury had an interest in Arizona Coyotes D-man Jakob Chychrun. While the Rangers have sufficient asset depth in terms of both draft picks (they have all three of their first-round picks in the next three seasons, as well as Dallas’ in 2023) and young players – winger Kaapo Kakko might do well with a change of scenery – they may find it easier to do a deal for another Coyotes defender in Shayne Gostisbehere, or one of Anaheim’s three available D-men (John Klingberg, Dmitry Kulikov and Kevin Shattenkirk).
Improving their defense very well could make life easier for star goalie Igor Shesterkin, who hasn’t been able to steal games for the Rangers the way he did last season. And the way they can help him isn’t limited to defense – the Blueshirts could use more offense from their D-men, as only Fox, with 25 points, has more than eight points this season.
Klingberg and Shattenkirk definitely could help in that regard, and both of them are pure rental players, driving down the price they would command on the trade front.
Offense is something Kane would provide, but getting more points out of their defensemen would address an issue that was chief among the reasons the Rangers were eliminated in the 2022 playoffs.
They got off to a good start in the Eastern final against Tampa Bay, winning their first two games. But the Bolts won the next four, and the Rangers managed only five goals-for in that span. When the games mattered most, they couldn’t produce offense, and you have to know Drury hasn’t forgotten that troublesome trend.
The Rangers would make all sorts of headlines by landing Kane, but there will be much competition for his services. They can still add offense at a much cheaper cost by bolstering their blueline instead. The heat is now on Drury to make the type of moves that can help the Blueshirts both this season and down the road. Adding an offensively-capable D-man would do the trick.
- New York Rangers Could Improve Offense by Upgrading Defense
- Check all news and articles from the latest NHL updates.