The New York Rangers have not had a very successful preseason thus far, and for that reason, fans have a lot of questions about the upcoming season.
Alain Vigneault is entering his rookie season with the Rangers, injuries have the potential to derail the Rangers plan for early success and there is still a lot of questions surrounding Brad Richards.
The Blueshirts open their season on October 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes, and here are five burning questions currently facing the franchise.
Richards has a lot of pressure on him for the upcoming season.
The topic of buying out Richards was a polarizing issue that had many different sides, but the Blueshirts ultimately decided to hold onto the 2003-04 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Richards has been an elite playmaker throughout his career, but his numbers have regressed since joining the Rangers. This season, Richards is pegged to be a third-line pivot, and fans will be anxious to see if he can return to being an 80-point player.
Lundqvist is in the final year of his contract.
For the first time since the 1990s, the Rangers are on the verge of losing a franchise player. With all due respect to Jaromir Jagr, he was in the start of his decline when he left the Blueshirts in 2008.
In 1997, Mark Messier signed with the Vancouver Canucks, and the loss was a tough blow for the franchise. Henrik Lundqvist is slated to become a free agent in July of 2014, and there are no guarantees that he will sign a contract extension before that point.
Although Lundqvist is an elite goaltender, the uncertainty of his future could impact his play, and the Rangers could struggle. The Rangers will go as far as their netminder takes them, and they will need him at the top of his game physically and mentally if they want to win a Stanley Cup this season.
What will happen with Kreider this season?
Chris Kreider has gotten an extended look on the Blueshirts’ first line thus far, but he hasn’t proved that he belongs to be in a prime-time role.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote that the Boxford, Mass. native could be the odd man out, and no one would be surprised if Kreider was left off the opening-night roster because of his performance to date.
Kreider is the franchise’s top prospect, and this could be a pivotal year for his development.
Each Ranger has a clean slate in Alain Vigneault’s eyes, and Kreider will need to take advantage of this. There is a possibility that the Blueshirts’ 2009 first-round pick starts his season in the AHL, and it will be intriguing to see how the ballad of Kreider plays out this season.
Callahan's void from the roster could hurt the Rangers.
Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan are not expected to be ready for the start of the season, and by default, the Rangers will be without two of their top-six forwards. Losing one top-six forward is usually taxing enough for a team, and the pain will be doubled for the Blueshirts at the start of the season.
Marek Hrivik, Jesper Fast and other youngsters will have a chance to earn a roster spot, but can they fill the void left by Nos. 24 and 62? The Rangers have an abundance of depth, but it is very hard to replace players of Hagelin and Callahan’s caliber.
Over the past few seasons, Ryan McDonagh has transformed into one of the NHL’s top young blueliners. He is one of the best skaters in the NHL, a great positional player and solid offensive instincts.
McDonagh has been viewed primarily as a shutdown defender, but will the 24-year-old break out offensively in a system that encourages blueliners to join the rush?
As displayed in the video above, McDonagh has some wicked skills, but can he channel that for an entire season under AV? McDonagh told Steve Zipay of Newsday that he is excited for the upcoming season, and fans are equally excited to see what the budding blueliner is capable of.