The meat of the NHL offseason is in full swing, as unrestricted free agents (UFAs) are free to sign with other teams starting at 12:00 PM EDT today.
The New York Rangers do not have a ton of cap space for the upcoming few seasons, but that has not stopped the chatter across the media tying them to big-ticket free agents like Nazem Kadri. Still, they’d need to pull off quite a bit of maneuvering in order to make the salary cap situation work out.
There’s also the trade market to keep an eye on, as free agents find new homes and options for teams addressing their needs become more limited. Naturally, the Rangers have been linked, to varying degrees and with varying validity, to Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele, old friend J.T. Miller, and — quite controversially — Patrick Kane, among others. Only time will tell if the noise around the Rangers and these players amounts to anything of substance. After all, it’s the Rangers, so player agents will often leak them, a big-market team, as a leverage play if nothing else.
The Blueshirts will also be watching some of their own players leave via free agency. Andrew Copp will reportedly not be returning. Ryan Strome might still be in play, but the smart money is on him departing as well. Perhaps Tyler Motte and/or Frank Vatrano could return, although my sense is that the latter is less likely.
The Rangers could still look to the free-agent or trade markets for a new second-line center. For example, Carolina Hurricanes UFA-to-be Vincent Trocheck might be a bit more affordable than some of the other big names mentioned. Maybe the Rangers can replace Strome with his brother, Dylan, for a reasonable price as well. Another option (and the one I personally prefer) is to let Filip Chytil build on his excellent 2022 postseason and get a real shot at centering the second line. Then the Rangers could shop for a third-line center (and perhaps Dylan Strome could fit that slot as well), which would be less expensive both in terms of the salary cap as well as potential trade cost if that is the means of acquisition.
The club also needs a backup goalie after the departure of Alexandar Georgiev. Perhaps that could come from within, but it would not be surprising if New York looks into the free-agent pool for that need.
In any event, while the Rangers very well might not make a big splash in free agency, general manager Chris Drury will need to very carefully shape the roster so that the Rangers remain competitive without hamstringing their ability to keep their rising young stars in the fold long-term.
Please use this as your open thread as free agency gets underway, and enjoy seeing the transactions unfold!