After falling in the second round to the Carolina Hurricanes, the eventual Stanley Cup winners in Season 1, we’re back for our second season at the helm of the virtual New York Rangers. While the first year was relatively successful in terms of our young players growing, that tabled some important decisions for the offseason and resulted in some aggressive moves.
Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo remained the focal points for the second straight offseason, but the main difference this time around was one pulling ahead of the other in terms of priority. Strome had yet another breakout season leading the team with 85 points, while Tony DeAngelo had a decent season and finished second in scoring among defensemen on the team.
With all of that in mind, let’s begin the 2020-21 offseason.
Ryan Strome traded to Ottawa for Erik Gustafsson
Despite having a breakout season, leading the team in points, and fitting in nicely as the 2C, New York opted to move on from Ryan Strome. While this may seem like a rather surprising move, the lucrative contract that was needed to lock down Strome ended up being the deciding factor. Rather than paying the 27-year old $10 million per year over the course of four seasons, the decision was made to search for potential suitors via trade.
The Ottawa Senators were one of the very few teams interested and presented a pretty enticing offer. They sent 28-year old Erik Gustafsson to New York in exchange for Ryan Strome and a 2021 3rd-round pick. From a pure hockey standpoint, the deal makes plenty of sense for both parties. Ottawa gets the second line center they have been searching for, while New York gets Gustafsson on a team friendly $4.9 million contract to slot in on the top pairing for the next four years.
With Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko also coming off of their entry-level contracts following this upcoming season, tying up that much cap in one player didn’t make much sense for the long-term outlook.
Rangers agree to terms with their UFA’s and RFA’s
This was one of the busier offseasons in terms of handing out contracts to players that remained under team control. The only scheduled outgoing UFA was Pavel Buchnevich, who signed a three-year, $6 million deal to remain with the Blueshirts. While a ton of money was handed out, it was necessary to keep the growing core intact for the foreseeable future. The biggest steal of the offseason was Filip Chytil, who will only be paid $1.5 million annually over the next three seasons as the second line center.
- Julien Gauthier - 2 years, $1.5 million AAV
- Brett Howden - 2 years, $925,000 AAV
- Igor Shesterkin - 4 years, $6.25 million AAV
- Ryan Lindgren - 5 years, $4.4 million AAV
- Filip Chytil - 3 years, $1.5 million AAV
- Tony DeAngelo - 4 years, $5 million AAV
- Pavel Buchnevich - 3 years, $6 million AAV
Adam Lowry agrees to two-year deal in New York
With Ryan Strome packing his bags for Ottawa and Filip Chytil being promoted to 2C, there was suddenly an immediate need for a third line center. The Rangers took a dip into the free agent mark to address that need and added Adam Lowry on a two-year, $2.4 million contract. Lowry is fresh off of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Winnipeg Jets, and will be counted on to provide some depth scoring on the third line.
Finish: 3rd in the Metro
Following the massive offseason trade, the Rangers lineup looks more or less the same with the exception of the second line center. Filip Chytil should progress very nicely with his newly increased role between Artemiy Panarin and Kaapo Kakko. On the backend, the Rangers are setup very well for the next couple of seasons, with everyone but Adam Fox locked up on a long-term extension. The good news, though, is that there is plenty of cap space set aside to accommodate Fox when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Compared to our first season, the Rangers had a much better start to the season compiling a record of 19-9-6. As of the Christmas break, they held a four point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metro.
New York continued to ride their early season success and were able to turn that into an eight point division lead at the trade deadline. Artemiy Panarin led the team in points with 67 points in 64 total games played. The acquisition of Erik Gustafsson has paid off quite nicely as well with the 29-year old leading the way on defense with 42 points in 64 games.
Rangers acquire Jordan Martinook and Connor Carrick at the deadline
With the Rangers sitting atop of the Metropolitan Division, there was no sense in fixing something that wasn’t broken to begin with. As a result, depth pieces were the primary target at the deadline to account for any additional injuries along the way. The Rangers first trade saw them acquiring forward Jordan Martinook from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 4th-round pick. The second transaction of the afternoon involved sending prospect Hunter Skinner and a 2022 6th-round pick to the Calgary Flames for Connor Carrick.
Despite holding a pretty sizable lead on the division, a late-season losing streak sent the Rangers falling to third in the division behind the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
Around the League
- Anthony Mantha opted to pursue a new contract through free agency, and jumped on board with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings now have a pretty formidable attack with a top line of Anze Kopitar, Taylor Hall and Anthony Mantha.
- The Dallas Stars made a bold move weeks before the deadline and acquired J.T. Miller from the Vancouver Canucks. Dallas surrendered a 2022 1st-round pick, and a 2022 2nd-round pick to complete the transaction.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders had surprising seasons which had them finishing in the bottom two spots of the Eastern Conference. As a result, Pittsburgh fired their coach around the trade deadline in an attempt to spark the team.
Round 1 - Carolina Hurricanes
This is all too familiar territory for the Rangers with New York matching up against Carolina in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, Carolina absolutely obliterated the Rangers and only allowed five goals over a four game span. This time around, the young Rangers were looking to change the ending of the story.
The first game of the series was more of the same as Carolina’s offense completely took over the game as they beat New York 5-1. However, the Rangers responded very well in the second game and gave the Bunch of Jerks a taste of their own medicine. Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko led the way for the Rangers with four points apiece in Game 2. The next two games, though, weren’t anything to write home about as Carolina stormed out in front with a 3-1 series lead.
The Rangers were able to turn the tables once again and claw their way back into the series. A 6-3 win in Game 5 and a 6-2 win in Game 6 sent this series the length, with the Rangers looking to complete an improbable comeback. Unfortunately, their luck ran short once again as Carolina jumped out to an early 3-0 in Game 7. The Rangers were unable to overcome the early sizable deficit and were sent packing for the second straight season.
Team Leaders & Awards
Points leader: Artemiy Panarin (82 points). Another solid season for Panarin, who ended up 11 points ahead of second place on the team in scoring.
Goals leaders: Artemiy Panarin (31 goals). A clean sweep for the Breadman who also led the team in goals. Linemate Alexis Lafreniere wasn’t that far behind with 27 goals in 82 games.
Top Defenseman: Erik Gustafsson (52 points). Erik Gustafsson is proving to be quite the acquisition on the backend. Not only did he lead all defensemen in points on the roster, but also finished top-20 in scoring among defensemen in the entire NHL. Not a bad first year in New York.
Stanley Cup: Vegas Golden Knights
Another disappointing end to a season that had so much promise. The Carolina Hurricanes have been a thorn in our side throughout this sim so far as they eliminated the Rangers for the second consecutive season. Goal scoring hasn’t been much of a problem throughout the regular season, but once the playoffs hit, that’s where the scoring starts to taper off. Pavel Buchnevich has been pretty underwhelming on the top line, alongside Alexis Lafreniere and Mika Zibanejad. Maybe it’s time for a change of scenery in an attempt to bring more scoring to the top line?
We’ll see how it all plays out in Season 3.