The New York Rangers' season is over, and now it's time to consider a blueprint for a perfect offseason.
The Rangers should have a few goals this offseason:
- Re-sign restricted free agents
- Get some help on the power play
- Add more bottom-six depth
- Decide the fate of Brad Richards
The answers to these questions are not far off. A perfect offseason is not out of reach. In fact, the Rangers are not far off from being an elite team once again. Their issues are not unfixable.
Read on to find out what the Rangers can do to meet these goals and how that will help them get back to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers have three key cogs who will be restricted free agents. These players—Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh—all need to be re-signed.
Stepan had a breakout season, scoring 18 goals and adding 26 assists. He was probably the Rangers' most consistent player all season. He is a legitimate No. 1 center. Whatever he wants, the Rangers should give him. He's vitally important to the team's future.
Carl Hagelin established himself as a legitimate top-six winger. He had 10 goals and 14 assists this season, while using speed to create havoc on the forecheck. He should be used more on the power play, and he could easily reach 20 goals next season.
Ryan McDonagh is establishing himself as one of the premier defensemen in the NHL. He averaged almost 26 minutes in the playoffs. If the Rangers do not re-sign him quickly, plenty of teams will start snooping around. He's a stud and the Rangers need to lock him up. Simple as that.
If the Rangers lose any of these players, then any chances of making a deep playoff run are gone. All three are an essential part of the core going forward.
If the Rangers can lock these three players up, then their offseason will already be a success.
The Rangers' power play was awful this season. In the playoffs, they converted on just four of their 44 chances. Their failure to score on the man-advantage is a big reason they were eliminated.
One of the main problems is that they lacked a quarterback. They lacked someone who can set up the play, distribute the puck and take hard shots. They lacked someone who can facilitate to the elite talent.
One person to consider might be Mark Streit. At 35, he's not quite the same player he was. But he's still effective on the power play. He had 11 power-play points. The season before, the last full season he played, he had 23 power-play points.
Adding someone like Streit would do wonders for the power play. In addition, the Rangers could consider signing someone like Bryan Bickell, a hard-nosed, gritty forward who is not afraid to get dirty in front of the net. Too often the Rangers have lacked a net presence. Bickell, who has scored five goals in 11 playoff games with the Chicago Blackhawks, would provide that.
Even improving the power play a little bit would go a long way—the Rangers were beyond anemic in the postseason. Adding Streit, or someone like him, and a big body in front, like Bickell, would really help the power play. Had the Rangers converted on the power play five or six more times, then it's not a stretch to think they would still be playing.
But they didn't, and their inability to even get the puck in the zone led to their ultimate demise. Small fixes—a more competent quarterback and net presence—could make a huge difference.
The Rangers' top two lines are pretty much set for next season. They will include some combination of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, Derick Brassard, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider.
What the Rangers need, however, is depth in their bottom six. The Bruins' third and fourth lines just skated all over the Rangers. The Rangers need grit, energy and scoring ability.
In addition, the lack of depth and constant grit is a large reason why they were so inconsistent. Two seasons ago, the Rangers came within two games of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. They did that on the strength of their depth, their ability to hit, drop the gloves and provide grit and energy.
The Rangers didn't have that this season. In order to reach the Stanley Cup Final and beyond, the Blueshirts need to add more grit.
On the current roster, the Rangers will keep Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt and Derek Dorsett as bottom six forwards. They need, however, three more.
Who should they go for? A player like Matt Hendricks might be a start. The 31-year-old had only eight points, but he's a gritty player. He will hit, win faceoffs, kill penalties, drop the gloves and bring an energy and toughness the Rangers often lacked.
Another player might be Clarke MacArthur. The rugged winger had 20 points this season and can play in all situations, including the power play. He's a perfect third-line winger on a great team.
The Rangers would also be smart to bring back an old friend in Ruslan Fedotenko. The Rangers foolishly let him go after last season, and he brought his brand of energy and penalty-killing ability to the Flyers. He won't be expensive and can be penciled into the third line immediately.
Re-signing Ryane Clowe would be a good idea; however, they do need to evaluate his medical condition. Clowe played in just two playoff games with what many consider to be a concussion.
Signing any of these players would be a good idea. Signing all four would be fantastic.
It's a tough decision, but a necessary one—the Rangers need to buy out Brad Richards.
After struggling all season, the Rangers benched Richards for the last two playoff games. He scored just one playoff goal and had only 11 goals in the regular season.
He looked a step slower and was never able to make the passes he used to make. He carries a contract that will cause a cap hit of $6.6 million through 2020.
The Rangers can buy him out now with no penalty on the cap. Richards is a fantastic leader and has plenty of playoff experience. But he's not the same player he used to be. He's a liability on the ice and is not suited for a fourth-line role. If the Rangers want to make a deeper run in the postseason, then they need to replace Richards with players who can make meaningful contributions.
If the Rangers buy him out, they can use that money to buy some more help for the power play or more depth in the bottom six.