It’s been five days since the Carolina Hurricanes swept the New York Rangers in three games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The same offense that thrilled and captivated us during the 2019-20 regular season managed four goals in three games. The Rangers, who entered the season as a young and inherently flawed team, looked inexperienced, incomplete, and out-coached against Carolina.
It’s difficult to know how to feel about the 2019-20 Rangers especially because most of us are still wrapping our heads around playoff hockey in August. In the second year of David Quinn’s tenure as head coach, the Rangers finished with a record of 37-28-5 before the pandemic derailed the world of sports. The team had a rocky start in October, posting a record of 4-5-1 that was quickly forgotten after a 9-4-2 November.
The four big storylines heading into the season were: big ticket free agent Artemiy Panarin, the arrival of 2nd overall pick Kaapo Kakko and top goaltending prospect Igor Shesterkin, and the acquisition and extension of Jacob Trouba. Panarin had a Hart-caliber season, finishing with 95 points in 69 games, Kakko underwhelmed, Shesterkin looks worthy of Lundqvist’s crown, and Trouba had a rough year for someone taking up $8 million in cap space.
Of course, all of that amounts to the tip of the iceberg. The Rangers dealt Brady Skjei to the Hurricanes at the deadline for a 1st round pick in the 2020 Draft, Lias Andersson went through an odyssey that has put his future with the Rangers and the NHL into serious doubt, and popular scapegoat and assistant coach Lindy Ruff left the team prior to the playoffs to become the head coach of the New Jersey Devils.
Rangers Team Rankings
5-on-5 data is score and venue adjusted
- 26th in 5v5 xGF% (47.1)
- 10th in 5v5 GF% (51.13)
- 11th in goal differential (+12)
- 26th in 5v5 SCF% (47.38)
- 12th in 5v5 save percentage (.919)
- 28th in 5v5 CF% (46.81)
- 23rd in 5v5 CF60 (53.69)
- 29th in 5v5 CA60 (60.99)
- 7th ranked power play (22.9)
- 23rd ranked penalty kill (77.4)
With the 2019-20 campaign over the Rangers are now staring down several major decisions, none bigger than the future of the face of the franchise.
Have we seen Henrik Lundqvist’s last game as a Ranger? If so, will his departure — however that may transpire — serve as the catalyst for raised expectations across the board? In all likelihood, greater expectations would be waiting for Quinn and company regardless of Lundqvist’s fate. The main phase of the rebuild is over. What else is there to sell that wouldn’t translate to a lateral move? These are Panarin’s Rangers.
The flat cap of $81.5 million over the next few years gives us plenty to debate and ruminate about after tonight’s lottery. Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux and Alexandar Georgiev are all restricted free agents. Strome and DeAngelo are both coming off of career years and are due for big raises. The $7,494,444 of dead cap space — $6,083,333 of which is attached to the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout — on the Rangers’ books in 2020-21 will cast a shadow over the discussions about Strome, DeAngelo, Georgiev, Jesper Fast, and Lundqvist.
The good news for the Rangers is that the organization is defined by its potential. Shesterkin and Adam Fox look sensational, Filip Chytil is coming along nicely, it’s too early to hit the panic button on Kakko, and there are potentially two more first round picks from the 2020 Draft about to join the prospect pool.
Tonight we find out more about when the Rangers are picking. We find out if a ping pong ball will bring the team a first overall pick for the first time in half a century. Regardless of what that ball tells us, Gorton, Quinn, and the Rangers have a lot of work ahead of them. The 2019-20 season made that abundantly clear.
Salary cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.com. Hockey data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com.