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With the Regular Season Over, It’s Onward and Upward for the New York Rangers

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I struggled to come up with a way to open this story, and typed out a few things, deleted them, and proceeded to state at the white space in the Chorus editor. The New York Rangers’ 2018-19 campaign was one of the more interesting ones I’ve witnessed since writing about the team, and I’d be lying if I said I was sad for this one to be over.

It featured a number of ups and downs, and in recent weeks dragged on as the team fell further and further down the standings before ultimately climbing up a bit. With the season concluding with a 4-3 overtime victory vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, there will be no more complaints about lineups and healthy scratches. None about tanking, loser points, draft positioning, or stupid Twitter arguments about any of the above.

In other words, the discussions regarding the on-ice is over for the most part, although we will have report cards on the players and coaches to reflect on the season that was. We will look back on players who took steps forward this season such as Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, Alexandar Georgiev, and others whose performance should have fans excited about next season. Simply stated, the season is over, and from here it is onward and upward as the Rangers enter an exciting offseason that has the potential to alter the franchise in a positive way.

On Tuesday, the Rangers’ first draft pick position will be revealed after the ping pong balls are pulled at the draft lottery.

NHL Holds News Conference And Draft Pick Lottery Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for NHLI

Blueshirt Banter will have more about the draft, the players, and the picks the Rangers hold in the coming days, and we will launch our annual prospect rankings sometime in May. It would have been great for the team to have finished a little bit lower, but the Rangers’ first pick will certainly help bolster their prospect pool. I think that is something that needs to be said, because it is easy to get caught up in what could have been and have that cloud your mind. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and it is something I will try and be more mindful of going forward.

The Rangers will also be hiring a team president to replace Glen Sather, and the move could ultimately become the most important transaction of the rebuild which got underway when management released “the letter” on February 8, 2018.

I will have more thoughts on the importance of the hire and the challenges they will face upon taking up residence at Four Penn Plaza, so stay tuned for that.

Coming soon to an arena near you.

The Rangers should also receive some reinforcement from Europe as prospects such as Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shestyorkin, and Yegor Rykov, among others, will be KHL free agents who are eligible to come to North America to sign and initial their entry-level contracts. Each player has the potential to factor into the Rangers’ 2019-20 roster in a big way, and there’s reason to be excited about each.

Once the playoffs are over and the picks have been made at the draft, the Rangers will enter free agency with roughly $20 million in cap space when you account for cap growth. This number doesn’t include potential departures via trade or buyout, nor does it include players like Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo, and so on getting new contracts.

Owner James Dolan was public in saying that the Rangers would be looking to try and add some impact players, but then again we will have to wait and see who is hired as team president.

With all of this said, the common denominator is that there’s a lot to be excited about this offseason. The only major story line last season involved the Rangers hiring a new coach, and this year is certainly going to be busier. Although there’s a lot to be excited about, it is important to qualify that by saying that there is also a lot more at stake.

The Rangers are at a pivot point in which they will have to start making decisions on who is going to be part of the core going forward. This may mean the team makes some difficult trades, but when are rebuilding, what is in the long-term best interests of the franchise has to be considered and prioritized. The Rangers have a really good opportunity to set a course that results in deep playoff runs in the near future, and that’s something that should invigorate the fan base.

This year was a tough one, but there’s reason to believe that next year can be slightly better, and that 2020-21 will be even better than that. At the very least, next year’s lineup should feature at least a few new players who make tuning into the games, or attending live at MSG or on the road, a little more enjoyable.

This week I saw the trailer for Joker which will star Joaquin Phoenix as the titular master of mayhem. After watching that, I thought about Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight and went down the rabbit hole a bit. I come back to a line from that movie which goes, “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.” I am fairly certain that I’ve used this line before in the context of the Rangers, but it is worth mentioning again.

As tough as this season was, change is coming. The scope and magnitude of that is unknown, but even the most pessimistic of fans should have a sliver of optimism.

With all of that said, I would like to thank every member of the Blueshirt Banter community who followed the team this season. Whether it was a game thread, a opinion piece, a recap or whatever; it is clear that the community is very passionate and vocal. The site wouldn’t be what it is without the readers, and we are very grateful for your support during a difficult season. We are excited to generate some interesting offseason content covering a variety of topics, and we hope you find it interesting and worthwhile.