This summer (especially before the start of free agency and the NHL Draft) we'll be doing a segment called "Summer Questions" which is basically the biggest questions the New York Rangers are facing as they enter this summer. In many ways this summer is one of the most important summers this team has faced in a long time; with the team on the edge of continuing to contend for the Stanley Cup or drowning in a pool of their own mistakes.
Every time the Rangers are eliminated from the playoffs other fanbases love to dance on their graves and talk about how terrible they are. Honestly, it's par for the course and the consequence of being an Original Six team who plays in an enormous market and has been very successful the past few years.
This year, a lot of people seem to be fixating on the Rangers lack of high-end prospects (true) and how terrible that is for an aging team (not really true).
Let's start here: How many high-end prospects do the Rangers have in their system? If you asked me, my answer would be one: Pavel Buchnevich.
I think the Rangers have two other prospects (Adam Tambellini and Brady Skjei) who you should be excited about, but I wouldn't put them near Buchnevich's level.
Normally that would be a problem. While it's expected for a successful team to not have the highest tier of prospects (traditionally because they're drafting towards the end of each round) the Rangers have taken this experiment a step further and are currently entering their third consecutive year without a first round draft selection. That experiment continues until 2017 unless something changes.
It's not really a problem for the Rangers, though, mainly because the pipeline is somewhat barren because of who they've already brought up. Kevin Hayes (23), J.T. Miller (22) and Jesper Fast (23) all had surprise impacts this year and all came from the Rangers' farm system (in Hayes case he took the express train to Broadway, but you see my point).
That doesn't even include the core which is made up of Chris Kreider (24), Derek Stepan (24), Ryan McDonagh (25), Mats Zuccarello (27), Derick Brassard (27) and Carl Hagelin (26). Take into consideration Keith Yandle (28) and Marc Staal (28) and you realize the Rangers really aren't that old at all.
The Rangers average age (and I'm using these players to compute this) is 27.5 years, but that number is skewed thanks to Martin St. Louis (39) and Dan Boyle (38). Assuming the Rangers don't bring back St. Louis, their average age drops to 26.9.
The Rangers have done a really good job at replacing more expensive talent with cheaper in-the-system players the past few years. Even now (with Buchnevich in the KHL for another year and Tambellini not expected to make an NHL impact next year) the Rangers have Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Bourque who might be fighting for roster spots next year. Skjei might make the NHL next year and Dylan McIlrath might have an outside chance as well depending on some potential movement within the Rangers defensive corps.
So, yes, the Rangers lack true game-breaking prospects within the system. Some of that has to do with the younger players who are already playing a role for the Rangers, while some of it does have to do with how successful the Rangers have been.
Either way, the Rangers aren't exactly an old team anyway, so while you'd love to have them it's not the be all end all for the Rangers right now.