It’s been an interesting offseason for the New York Rangers. After hiring a new coach, the Rangers battled a tight cap, and as a result, there hasn't been much turnover.
Still, the offseason has generated a handful of positives that have helped New Yorkers forget the tumultuous 2013 season.
Among them have been an overall change of philosophy, the re-signing of key restricted free agents and indications that some injured players may be on their way back to full strength.
Today we’ll divulge into the Rangers’ offseason happenings and take a look at exactly what Rangers fans have to look forward to after a somewhat slow offseason.
Glen Sather and Alain Vigneault.
Having to hire a new coach is never an easy thing. Players and fans grow accustomed to a particular approach and style of play.
But sometimes, a shakeup is needed.
John Tortorella took the Rangers as far as he could. His grinding, defensive style worked, but only to a certain point. His failure to implement a system that generated consistent offensive pressure and refusal to make necessary adjustments contributed to his inevitable downfall.
New boss Alain Vigneault will bring an entirely new approach. He allows his players a creative license, and because of that, talented players like Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello will flourish.
The Rangers should score more goals.
Not only is this good for the team and its success, but it’s also good for the fans. The Rangers under Tortorella were, most of the time, painful to watch. In 2011-12, when the team was winning, they were bearable.
But when they’re a slightly above-average outfit and still producing a boring product, you’re better off watching paint dry.
New Yorkers are in for a much more offensively stimulating season.
When Hockey Canada announced its 47-player preliminary Olympic roster on Monday afternoon, there was a surprise inclusion.
Marc Staal—who was struck in the eye by a shot in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5—obviously has the talent to make the short list, but the fact that he played just one game the rest of the season following his injury left fans unsettled. Would Staal be ready for next season?
Now, we don’t know for sure that he is or will be, but the fact that he’s been included in a very exclusive list to represent the greatest hockey nation in the world at the Olympics is probably a good sign.
The Rangers have played a large portion of the past two seasons without Staal, and in truth, they've fared well. But at the end of the day, he’s still probably their best defender when healthy. And, as everyone knows, there’s no such thing as too much defensive depth.
But maybe Hockey Canada knows something we don’t, seeing as there are a multitude of other defensemen—one being Dan Girardi—that Canada could have selected for the preliminary squad instead of Staal, considering his injury history.
Ryan McDonagh was one of five Rangers players heading for restricted free agency once the 2013 season concluded. He was clearly the organization’s top priority; he was the first player re-signed.
His $4.7 million-per-year contract is considered a bargain, but the best part of his deal is the term: six years.
McDonagh is going to be a stud in this league, if he isn’t already. His elite skating ability and inherent defensive instincts helped him stake his claim as the team’s top left-handed defenseman while Marc Staal battled injury.
And the term on his new deal ensures that his future development continues on Broadway. His hard work and talent helped the Rangers finish in the top five in goals against the past three seasons, but the organization hopes bigger and better things are on the horizon.
In the summer of 2012, the Rangers let a substantial amount of center depth slip away. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were traded to Columbus for Rick Nash. John Mitchell was allowed to test the free-agent market and eventually signed with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Rangers began the 2013 season with four NHL-ready centermen; Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Jeff Halpern. Not the strongest of groups, and it was one of the main reasons why the Blueshirts struggled for most of the season.
Eventually, Halpern was waived and Derick Brassard was brought in at the trade deadline. But the Rangers still needed a legitimate fourth-line center, seeing as Boyle had grown more effective on the wing.
Enter Dominic Moore, the first of three July 5 signings for the Rangers and probably the best of the lot. Moore returns to the Rangers after a six-year tour of the league. He’s solidified himself as a versatile, sandpaper-type pivot who can chip in on the scoresheet.
He gives the Rangers real center depth; a must when it comes to building a winning hockey team.
The organization has brought in a few depth players, like Moore, Benoit Pouliot, Aaron Johnson, Justin Falk and Danny Syvret, but in reality, only Moore and Pouliot are locks to make the team.
That's because the Rangers have a lot of young talent on the verge of making the big club.
Players like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath will all enter camp with the belief that if they turn heads, they could make the team.
This type of prospect competition will result in some tough decisions, but they’re decisions organizations don’t mind making. The Rangers’ prospect pool has been deep for some time now, and it seems every year they graduate a player to the big club. But I can’t remember as many talented youngsters in contention for spots before camp as there will be next year.
Obviously, they won’t all make it, but the roster still lacks pure offensive talent. Kreider and Miller will get serious consideration, but if a guy like Kristo or Fast prove they can pitch in at the NHL level, don’t think for a second the Rangers won’t utilize them.
This isn't the Tortorella era any longer; if Vigneault feels the team needs more scoring and one of the younger players can provide it, they’ll get their shot.