The Stanley Cup Finals are nearing a conclusion and so will begin the scramble of off-season affairs. The draft is just a few weeks away, and the Rangers will be as always, in improvement mode. The great thing for Ranger fans is that most of the improvements of late have come in the way of the draft and young free agent signings. I would expect more of the same for the Rangers, and I hope that they continue to invest in their own young players and system.
The draft will likely net the Rangers an impact prospect at #10 and whether or not that is a winger (Connolly, Niederreiter, Watson) or a defenseman (Forbort, Merrill, McIlrath) the Blueshirts will have another top shelf youngster to build upon. I wouldn't be surprised by a player that none of us expect as the Rangers scouting system can sometimes surprise everyone. Last years Kreider could be this years Nick Bjustad - another big U.S. forward.
I hope the commitment to young is the primary focus this summer as the Rangers spending in free agency has always provided atomic results. In the past the Rangers have signed the big names and had good results, but not the long term impact one would hope for. I think this off-season is critical for the Rangers to take the next step forward. The playoffs. The Rangers have enough pieces in place to at least contend for a playoff spot. Perhaps a more physical defense would help. Some people have been talking about Garnet Exelby, and I am for that addition. He's younger than some of the other defenseman hitting the market and he has always been a solid defensive player. He is a bit of a wild card though at not a true top 4 defender....so the Rangers may look for a more talented blueliner. Paul Martin and a healthy Willie Mitchell could be solid pickups. The defense last season in my opinon was too soft, so if the Rangers are to spend in free agency, I hope this area is addressed, foremost.
When you talk about the Rangers forwards you really need to look outside the current roster.
Clearly the Rangers need some wingers.
More after the jump
Mats Zuccarello-Aasen - could end up being on the first line next year.
Evgeny Grachev - will get a LONG look in camp this fall and I expect that Grachev will make the team, as the Rangers third line left wing.
Carl Hagelin - Hagelin has improved just about every aspect of his game - another wild card for the Rangers next season - a crowded left wing position is developing here.
Dane Byers - a solid two way peformer, Byers has leadership ability and scoring touch. Byers is a physical player too, so his stock could rise quickly. Another left wing.
Brodie Dupont - Dupont has always been a favorite of the Rangers coaches, and he is a blended winger - which gives him versatility, can take faceoffs and is defensively aware.
Brandon Prust - Prust was really great for the Rangers last year, in the brief showcase we had. I think that Prust should return and hopefully continue to improve as the Rangers potential 3rd line RW.- but he will likely be the 4th line guy.
Enver Lisin - Lisin is a great skater and has tremendous speed, but Lisin's big issue is he cannot score. He has rock hard hands - He doesn't have touch - and I don't think the Rangers can afford to retain him
PA Parenteau - I like PA's game, and I like his intensity, but again the Rangers need a more consistant presence up front, and as these forwards shake out, i just don't expect Parenteau to survive the cuts.
Aasen / Dubinsky / Gaborik
Avery / Drury / Callahan
Grachev / Anisimov / _____ = wild card at RW
Byers / Boyle / Prust
Christensen, Dupont, Hagelin will likely fight it out - I think Christensen would be good at RW. There won't be a ton of free agent options at right wing, Marek Svatos, Lee Stempniak - but I feel the Rangers could find internal options here.