"Time takes it all, whether you want it to, or not."
This is a team that came within six wins of hoisting hockey's ultimate hardware in 2012, and for a few good reasons:
They have one of the top coaches in John Tortorella.
They have one of the top player development pipelines in the game, ranked 11th out of 30 teams by Hockey's Future.
All that's just fine.
But here's the bottom line: if the Rangers don't win the Stanley Cup in the next two years, there are five reasons why they may be walking The Green Mile themselves.
Read on to find out what they are.
After the 2013-2014 season, here are the Rangers who could skate away as unrestricted free agents:
And not in a good way.
But wait, here's some more about the core:
This is why it's critically important for Rangers general manager Glen Sather to handle the NHL Salary Cap with extreme care. That means no four-year contracts to Shane Doan, or any other mercenaries at the tail end of their career, looking for their proverbial pots of gold.
Heading into his fourth full season as the team's bench boss, he's been able to install a system predicated on puck pressure in all three zones. And he's been able to instill a team-wide work ethic and iron-clad accountability that's helped the Rangers forge their "blue collar" identity.
However, if for some reason a player doesn't deliver the way Torts expects him to, well, let's just say that he'll be raked over the coals, while losing precious ice time.
This type of coaching can wear heavily on players. And if the Rangers don't get to the top of the mountain in the next two years playing this way, the team could tune him out.
Coincidentally, Tortorella's contract expires after the 2013-2014 season.
However, teams like the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals could close the gap rather quickly with all the young talent they have. Plus, the Pens, Devils and Flyers will always make it tough for the Blueshirts, no matter where they are in the standings.
By the end of the 2013-2014 season, Brad Richards, the Rangers' No. 1 center, will have 13 full NHL seasons under his belt. That's a lot of mileage on those wheels, folks. Plus, the rigors of playing Stanley Cup playoff hockey will undoubtedly take an additional toll.
Keep in mind, the 32-year-old Richards is signed through 2019-2020.
Before he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent, the Rangers may very well offer him a lucrative, long-term deal.
But there's always the chance he'll say no.
So rather than have him play out the string on Broadway and lose him for nothing as a UFA, the Rangers may opt to send him packing. And if they do, you can bet the house that Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford would be willing to make an offer.
Seems like a familiar Staal-related scenario, doesn't it?
Remember, the Pittsburgh Penguins did this with Marc's brother, Jordan, as they dealt him to the 'Canes with one year left on his contract.
Staal-ing tactics, indeed.