Emerging Storylines for New York Rangers' 2014 Postseason/Offseason

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIMarch 31, 2014

Emerging Storylines for New York Rangers' 2014 Postseason/Offseason

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    Matt Slocum

    It appears the New York Rangers will make the 2014 postseason. Barring a complete collapse, it seems unlikely that the Rangers will blow a seven-point lead over the ninth-place Washington Capitals.

    So what are some of the emerging storylines for the Rangers' upcoming 2014 postseason experience? And since we're always looking toward the future here, what are some of the topics that are sure to bubble up over the summer?

    Let's take look at the Rangers' big storylines heading into the postseason and the hopefully distant offseason.

How Many Minutes Can Ryan McDonagh Play Without Falling Apart?

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    That title is only somewhat sarcastic. Given how well McDonagh has played since the Olympic break, the Rangers will need him to stay healthy in order to advance in the playoffs. 

    Just how good has he been? 

    “He’s been a force out there,” head coach Alain Vigneault told Katie Strang of ESPNNewYork.com. “He’s got to be getting some consideration for the Norris.” 

    Since the Olympic Break, McDonagh has averaged just under 29 minutes per game. He's scored six goals and seven assists. Two of those goals have come while shorthanded, and he has three game-winning goals, all while remaining plus-nine. 

    “He’s been lights-out all year,” Marc Staal told Strang. “It seems like everything he touches turns to gold right now.”

    Quite simply, without McDonagh, the Rangers are toast. He is the best defenseman they have had since Brian Leetch.

    But there has to be some concern about his workload. Given that he will likely play 30 or more minutes a game in the playoffs and that he had a heavy workload at the Olympics, the Rangers have to be concerned whether or not he can handle it physically.

    That said, he's only 24 and in great shape, so it shouldn't be too much of a concern.

    What Rangers fans are seeing is the growth and development of the league's next great defenseman. Luckily for them, he's signed through 2019, as per CapGeek.

What to Do with Marty St. Louis?

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    It seems pretty clear that once Martin St. Louis scores one goal, more will follow.

    After all, it's not like he's been playing poorly. If goals didn't matter, you would notice that he's been one of the Rangers' most effective forwards.

    But of course, goals matter. They are perhaps the sole reason the team acquired St. Louis. The Rangers need him to score goals. He hasn't.

    Oh, he's gotten chances. He has 27 shots in 14 games, some of them absolutely glorious chances. He's been robbed numerous times by goaltenders.

    It's obvious this is weighing on him. It would be weird if it didn't. But it's like any other slump: He just needs one to get going.

    You can't bench him, if only because there's no one to replace him with. He still remains an offensive threat. He just needs one.

    It's obviously disappointing, especially since Ryan Callahan has nine points in 13 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including five goals (although, it should be noted, Callahan is converting on scoring chances at a rate that is significantly higher than his career average). 

    I do think St. Louis will come around. Will it be in time for the playoffs?

    The Rangers can only hope.

Should the Rangers Extend Anton Stralman?

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported in early March that Anton Stralman was offered, and subsequently declined, a contract extension from the Rangers:

    The Post has learned Anton Stralman rejected the Rangers’ offer prior to the Olympics for an extension believed in the three-year, $9 million range, which is somewhat shocking. The Blueshirts, who have righty Kevin Klein on the third pair at $2.9 million, will take another go at it after the season. If they succeed in extending Stralman, that would seem to throw a detour into Dylan McIlrath’s path to Broadway.

    I'm not sure why he declined, since it seems unlikely that he will receive a contract exceeding that amount of money anywhere else.

    According to CapGeek, here are some notable defenders who have a cap hit of around $3 million a year:

    • Kevin Klein
    • P.K. Subban
    • Dennis Seidenberg
    • Jonathan Ericsson

    Obviously, Subban is set to make much more this offseason, but the point remains. Stralman is not, in my opinion, worth $3 million a year. I'm surprised the Rangers offered that much, and I'm even more surprised Stralman didn't accept.

    And I think Klein has been better than Stralman, even if Klein is still relegated to third-pairing duties.

    If Stralman comes to his senses and either agrees to a deal at $3 million a year or—preferably—less, then the Rangers should extend him. If he wants more? Let him go. The Rangers have a number of prospects in the system who could potentially take over in a few years, whether it's Dylan McIlrath, Conor Allen or Brady Skjei.

Has Brad Richards Earned the Right to Not Be Bought Out?

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    Entering the season, most Rangers fans considered this would be Brad Richards' last on Broadway. Fans thought that after one more season, the Rangers would get his almost $7 million cap hit off the books.

    It made sense, too. He was a mess last year, recording just 34 points. He was benched for the final two postseason games.

    But this year has been a different story. Besides just looking better on the ice, he's producing more. Richards has 18 goals and 31 assists.

    It's a very difficult decision. If they don't buy him out this offseason, they're stuck with him until 2020, as per CapGeek. By then, Richards will be 39. This season has been much better, but it's hard to know what he'll be like in three years, let alone six.

    The prudent decision is to buy him out, even though he's played so well. Odds are low that he'll be able to replicate this type of season for the remainder of his contract. The Rangers could then spend that money on, say, Paul Statsny this offseason.

    Will they actually do it? Tough to tell. If it were me, though, I would cut ties.