NHL Free Agency: 6 Problems the New York Rangers Need to Fix
The New York Rangers exceeded expectations in the 2011-12 season, only to fall short of their hopes in May. So far this off-season, the Rangers have made some questionable moves, but with the clearly-defined goal of adding toughness.
Now that the largest targets available, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, have been recruited by the Minnesota Wild, only a handful of impact players remain available. New York still has glaring needs to address in order to put the team over the top. and there are pieces remaining to help bring the Stanley Cup back to the "city that never sleeps."
It is no secret that the Rangers power play struggled throughout the season. Despite the addition of quarterback Brad Richards and the presence of offensive talents Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, goals were scarce.
The Rangers ranked 23rd in power play efficiency at only 15.7 percent last season with their leading PP scorer being Gaborik with 13. The best teams in the NHL succeed with stellar special teams. With the addition of a force such as Shea Weber, the Rangers would become even more dangerous.
A Sixth Defenseman
The Rangers have one of the best group of defensive pairings in the entire league if not the best. With a full off-season of work, a healthy Marc Staal will return to form as a premiere shutdown blue-liner. The gritty Dan Girardi developed in his partner's absence, giving New York a great pairing, whether they are kept together or not.
Enough can't be said about Ryan McDonagh and what he brings to the Rangers. His maturation has included stellar defense, physical play and a spark for joining the rush. Michael Del Zotto shook off his sophomore slump and put together a solid season. Despite some distractions negatively influencing his postseason play, look for MDZ to continue his solid play.
I like the return of Anton Stralman who I feel added more to last season's team than people realize. The only weakness is Stu Bickel. Bickel appeared hesitant at times and lacked the skill or speed to recover from mistakes. Adding an additional defense-man would upgrade this team to an incomparable level.
I am extremely disappointed by the loss of Brandon Prust. Prust added a different dimension to the team with his grit, intelligence and humor. However, I don't feel the Rangers nor Prust made the wrong move in their decision to part ways.
The void Prust's subtraction leaves on the penalty kill has yet to be filled in my opinion. While the Rangers have a variety of players who have performed well on the kill (Dubinsky, Callahan, Boyle), I do believe more is still needed. Taylor Pyatt has killed penalties solidly in his career, but it remains to be seen if he can ease into the hole Prust left.
An Emotional Leader
DO NOT make the mistake of reading this as a critique before reading the whole paragraph. I love the leadership the Rangers have on their roster. Ryan Callahan is exactly the right Captain for this team. He is physical, dedicated and leaves everything including his body on the ice every shift. Brad Richards is the finesse, quiet leader who leads by example and is also willing to do it all.
An additional leader can sometimes crowd a team's locker-room, but the addition of a veteran like Shane Doan will not do that. The Rangers have a physical leader in Callahan and a skill leader in Richards; now they need the emotional leader.
Doan is a player aching to win a Stanley Cup after years of regular seasons in Phoenix. When the Coyotes lost to the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, Doan was left in tears and anger. The typically quiet solider snapped about Dustin Brown's hit on Michael Rozsival. The Rangers could use Doan's emotion and desperation for the Stanley Cup in addition to the leadership they already have.
The Rangers have the same dilemma entering this off-season that they did last season even after the acquisition of Brad Richards - offense. A dynamic scorer is needed to maximize the potential of this team. A guy that is going to find the back of the net regardless. Gaborik is a dynamic scorer, but can be inconsistent for long stretches.
I believe a guy like Bobby Ryan is more of a fit for this team than Rick Nash. Both are young, powerful scorers who will change the landscape of any team. Ryan is 25, and hasn't totaled less than 57 points in his three years in the league. He will significantly boost the Rangers somewhat anemic offense.
This may be the least glaring need for the Rangers to improve given Biron's effectiveness in backing up Lundqvist this past season. Obviously all hopes of improving the second goal-tending position have passed given Biron's new contract, but it still remains an improvable position on the roster.
Biron performed well (12-6-2) last season, but looked significantly lacking in shootouts. He looked completely lost between the pipes with the game on-the-line. Biron is a well liked personality in the locker-room, but there were better options available this off-season.