We’re quickly approaching the end of August, and that means training camp is right around the corner. That also means it’s about time to dust off the roster projections machine and drum up some potential lineup combinations.
The New York Rangers had quite a busy offseason adding to their roster and continuing to create building blocks for the future. One key area the Rangers zeroed in on was improving their back end, and did so in a big way with the acquisitions of Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox through some savvy trades by general manager Jeff Gorton.
On the other side of the coin, the Rangers needed to make a difficult decision to shed a big contract to fit under the salary cap following the Trouba extension and signing of forward Artemi Panarin. Unfortunately, the axe fell on Kevin Shattenkirk, who was bought out of the final two years of his contract. With all of the offseason craziness behind us, let’s take a look at how the Rangers’ revamped defensive unit could shake out on opening night.
Brady Skjei - Jacob Trouba
This is by far the most obvious pairing that head coach David Quinn will roll out on opening night. The Rangers identified Trouba as a main target this summer and he will undoubtedly carry the load as their top defenseman. Trouba is an excellent two-way defenseman with great offensive instincts that should complement Brady Skjei very well.
Skjei’s biggest issue the last couple of years has been the lack of a steady partner, which Trouba should now solve. That means Skjei won’t necessarily have to be “the guy” on his pairing like in the past, but rather, the two can feed off of one another to create a nice balance. This pairing will likely be given top minutes, while also playing against the best opposing players on a nightly basis. Trouba is certainly jumping right into the spotlight on Broadway, so it will be interesting to see how he handles an elevated role and the pressure that comes along with it.
Marc Staal - Adam Fox
It’s almost guaranteed that Fox will start the year in New York. Gorton elected to trade for Fox rather than waiting until next summer for him to hit the open market. Fox is coming off of a recording-setting NCAA season at Harvard where he averaged over a point and a half per game as a defenseman (!).
As with any rookie, there will be some blemishes along the way and I think that’s where Quinn will lean on Marc Staal a bit. We all know by now that Staal isn’t nearly the player he used to be, but he’s still a veteran voice in the locker room and could help Fox transition to the NHL game. Not to mention, the Rangers have a nice balance of lefties and righties on their backend, so this will keep that balance intact.
Libor Hajek - Tony DeAngelo
This is where things start to get interesting. Libor Hajek had a very impressive — albeit short— stint with the Rangers last season before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Hajek will be in the mix for one of the final defensive spots this season, and could certainly make a case with a strong training camp and preseason.
On the right side of the ice would be Tony DeAngelo, who is also coming off of a productive season. DeAngelo appeared in 61 games for the Rangers last season and picked up four goals and 26 assists for 30 points. After bouncing around organizations and slipping down the lineup the last couple of years, DeAngelo appeared to finally find his niche in Quinn’s system. He still remains unsigned at the moment and that could change the dynamic of the lineup if the stalemate continues — although, it’s probably in the Rangers best interest to get something done soon and get 23-year-old on board before training camp kicks off.
How do you all see the Rangers defensive pairings shaking out this season? Anyone I omitted that you could see making the team on opening night instead? Let us know in the comments.