NHL Season Recap – New York Rangers

New York Rangers

2016-17 season: 48-28-6, 102 points

Beat Montreal 4-2 in the First Round

Lost to Ottawa 4-2 in the Conference Semifinals

Head Coach: Alain Vigneault (2013)
4th Place Metro Division General Manager: Jeff Gorton (2015)
5th Place Eastern Conference AHL Affiliate: Hartford Wolf Pack

ECHL Affiliate: Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Draft Position: 21st

Top Forwards

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
RW 29 Mats Zuccarello 80 59 15 44 15 51.9
LW 23 J.T. Miller 82 56 22 34 17 45.5
C 26 Derek Stepan 81 55 17 38 19 50.7
LW 25 Chris Kreider 75 53 28 25 6 54.5
RW 24 Kevin Hayes 76 49 17 32 10 43.9
RW 29 Michael Grabner 76 40 27 13 22 45.0
RW 32 Rick Nash 67 38 23 15 9 46.3
C 23 Mika Zibanejad 56 37 14 23 9 49.9
LW 23 Jimmy Vesey 80 27 16 11 -13 44.9
RW 25 Jesper Fast 68 21 6 15 6 47.6

Top Defensemen

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
D 27 Ryan McDonagh 77 42 6 36 20 46.7
D 22 Brady Skjei 80 39 5 34 11 50.6
D 29 Nick Holden 80 34 11 23 13 47.4
D 32 Dan Girardi 63 15 4 11 8 44.0
D 32 Kevin Klein 60 14 3 11 5 48.8

Top Goaltenders

POS Age Name Games Started W/L Record Shutouts GAA Save %
G 34 Henrik Lundqvist 55 31-20-4 2 2.74 .910
G 27 Antti Raanta 26 16-8-2 4 2.26 .922
G 25 Magnus Hellberg 1 1-0-0 0 1.52 .929

Trades Made During the Season

What They Acquired Team They Traded With In Exchange For
F Taylor Beck Edmonton Oilers F Justin Fontaine
F Daniel Catenacci Buffalo Sabres D Mat Bodie
D Brendan Smith Detroit Red Wings 2017 3rd RD Pick

2018 2nd RD Pick

D Steve Kampfer

Conditional 2018 7th RD Pick

Florida Panthers D Dylan McIlrath

Impending Free Agents

POS Age Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
D 28 Brendan Smith $2,750,000
LW 33 Tanner Glass $1,450,000
D 25 Tommy Hughes $632,500
G 26 Magnus Hellberg $625,000
LW 25 Marek Hrivik $600,000
D 29 Chris Summers $600,000
C 26 Chris Brown $575,000

Draft Needs

  • The Rangers have just five selections in this year’s draft but do have a first round pick for the first time since the 2012 draft.  The result of not having high draft picks, and not having many picks in general, has led to a stripped down farm system that doesn’t have a lot of depth, either quality or quantity.  This team needs a lot of help, especially on defense where their group at the NHL has become abysmal and there isn’t a lot of help in the minors to alleviate this problem. I think it would be smartest to use their first round pick on a defenseman since this is a draft with numerous talented prospects at the position.  After that, I think they should draft a center that they believe could develop into a depth NHLer in the future.  They currently don’t have a lot of talent at the position and it is a definite weakness for the team.

What I Said About Them Before the Season

  • This past offseason, I wrote about their issues on defense, which included paying $15.9 million to the trio of Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh, the first two who are no longer effective NHL defensemen.  I also covered the team winning the Jimmy Vesey “sweepstakes” and questioned his decision to sign with them since they didn’t appear to have room in their top six for him.  I also internally thought it was bizarre because the Rangers appear to be on the verge of not being competitive since the core of their roster is aging rapidly.  I projected that the Rangers could easily miss the playoffs this season as a result of their untalented roster and that if the team had a horrible start to the season, then a trade of Henrik Lundqvist could be in the works.

Success/Failure

  • Success – Compared to the expectations I had for them before the season, I consider this season to be a success.  However, they are also a salary cap team with high expectations, so them getting eliminated in the second round of the playoffs is a letdown.  That being said, they made the playoffs as a wild card team but got the easier matchup in the first round by playing the Montreal Canadiens than had they finished second or third in the metro division.  Despite this, the Rangers were not a very good team overall but rather rode high percentages into the playoffs.  They had a top ten powerplay success rate, the second best shooting percentage, and had a .912 save percentage this season, which equates to the sixth highest PDO in the league. This high shooting percentage had a lot to do with having taken the ninth fewest shots in the league which makes sense when you consider they only had two players who scored 25 or more goals.  In fact, they only had four players who scored more than 20 goals and no players who reached 60 points on the season.  Their leader in points, Mats Zuccarello’s 59 points, placed him in a tie for 43rd most points in the league.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if the Rangers had many skaters in the 50 point range, but they only had four players reach that mark.  Their high save percentage actually wasn’t the result of starter Henrik Lundqvist’s play as he was actually quite mediocre this season, compiling just a .910 save percentage and a 2.74 GAA.  Backup netminder, Antti Raanta, was amazing in 26 starts this season and stopped 92% of the shots he faced.  Lundqvist was better in the playoffs, but he still has to be better than he was this season in order for the Rangers to be more successful.  Where the Rangers had the most problems was at driving play as they had just a 49.1 CF%, which ranked 21st in the league.  That is a very big problem and I think a lot of it is due to the team’s lackluster defense, which is a unit that is older and unable to be overhauled due to the long-term contracts they gave to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.  Their defensemen struggled greatly to clear the puck out of their defensive zone and were not always the best at moving the puck up ice to forwards.  When they were able to get the puck to forwards, they were able to drive the play quite a bit since their forwards are generally a fast group that can give opposing defenses problems.  The last thing I want to touch on was the decision of head coach Alain Vigneault to start Tanner Glass over Pavel Buchnevich at various points in the playoffs.  Buchnevich is the type of player the Rangers need to be starting since he is fast and very skilled while Glass is slow and plays a heavy type of game.

Offseason Needs

  • The biggest need for the Rangers this offseason is addressing their defense group and it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that they are going to be the landing spot for free agent Kevin Shattenkirk.  He is from New York and the Rangers have the money available to sign him to a hefty deal.  My issue with this idea is that I don’t think Shattenkirk is as good of a defensemen as he will be paid for this offseason.  He has said that he expects to be a number one defenseman on his new team and I don’t think he’s good enough to get that kind of ice time and he would be in that role with the Rangers either way.  I also think that if Shattenkirk wants to go to a team where he can be a number one and compete for the Stanley Cup for a long time, then the Rangers aren’t the best team for that.  Even in the state of New York or in the NYC area, the Devils and Sabres are both in better situations long-term and he’d be able to be a number one defenseman on both teams.  Finally, I think that the Rangers believing he is their savior is a mistake because they have more problems than just needing an overpaid defenseman. They should also be careful to not overspend on the free agent market and be stuck with an expensive contract for too long of a time period.  Beyond Shattenkirk, other defensemen on the free agent market who would be more affordable include Michael Stone, Trevor Daley, Kris Russell, and they could even re-sign Brendan Smith who was good for them after acquiring him at the trade deadline.  After addressing their defense, the Rangers have Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast as RFAs this summer and both were pivotal parts of their roster this season.  Not being able to re-sign either of these players would hurt them going forward.  I also think that there is a chance that the Rangers lose someone of value in the Expansion Draft, particularly backup goaltender Antti Raanta if Vegas wants the possibility of winning in their inaugural season.  Losing him would hurt the Rangers, especially considering how often they had to turn to him when Lundqvist was struggling throughout the regular season.  I do think that there is a chance that the Rangers attempt to convince Vegas to take one of their bigger contracts on defense, such as Kevin Klein or Dan Girardi, but Girardi would need to waive his NMC first. I think a big need for the Rangers is a true first line center who is better than Derek Stepan. Acquiring a player for this role would fill a hole down the middle as well as increase their offensive output, which has been a problem for the team in recent seasons.  The problem is that first line centers don’t grow on trees and trading for one won’t be cheap.  I think that they could be serious contenders for Colorado’s Matt Duchene if he is moved but I don’t know if New York has the assets available to make that trade happen.  It would take at least defenseman Brady Skjei, forward J.T. Miller, an additional young player or prospect, plus a first round pick and I’m not certain giving up all of that would be worth it.  Regardless, I question whether the Rangers can be a better team next season than they were this year and think that their window to win continues to close this offseason.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, NHL.com, hockeydb.com, capfriendly.com, tsn.ca, and eliteprospects.com*

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