Our New York Rangers 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
The New York Rangers finished 7th in the Metro Division last year with a 37-28-5 record and 79 points. To sum up the season, they scored a lot of goals and let a lot of goals in. They were 5th in the entire NHL for goals for, with 234; however, they were amongst the league worst with 24th place in the league for goals against with 222. The blueshirts scored an average of 3.33 goals per game, and let in 3.14 goals per game. This team could definitely score.
In my preview of the 2019-2020 season I pointed out that the team was bottom 10 in the league for both goals for and goals against. So at least they fixed one of those problems right? The injection of Artemi Panarin into the lineup proved to be monumental for the offense. I was a little hesitant to say it would be worth the $11.64 million per season cap hit, but the breadman did have 95 points in 69 games along with some MVP discussion. He had the largest point share on the team, contributing greatly to the offense of the squad. Of his 95 points, he had 32 goals and 63 assists, and 4 GWGs. He did all this playing predominantly with Jesper Fast and Ryan Strome. No knock on those two, but this is a guy who played with Patrick Kane. I grew up being told the mark of a great player is one that makes those around him better, and in this case Panarin certainly uplifted his linemates. Ryan Strome especially benefited, as the two had some immediate chemistry. He had himself a season, and a career high 59 points in 70 games. He also got a nice contract after the season too. He better be buying the breadman some dinner for that one. Mika Zibanejad had a career season too, with 75 points in only 57 games. While Zibanejad and Panarin played together some and on the powerplay, they spent most of their time 5on5 apart. Mika played with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Having the two talented forwards on two separate lines provided the team with a potent 1-2 punch of scoring.
The offensive talents of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad amongst others made this team very exciting to watch. They did have their struggles though. Number 2 draft pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft, Kaapo Kakko had some growing pains during his rookie season. He ended up with 23 points in 66 games and a -26. He played most with fellow young players Brett Howden and Filip Chytil, who all struggled defensively.
Jacob Trouba made his debut this season for the team this season, fresh off signing a seven year $8 million per season deal. He played alright, but lost his powerplay spot to Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox. Without the powerplay points he saw a definite downtick in production, and with Fox looking like the guy the team might want to hang on to, Trouba’s contract looks worse and worse. Fox is still on his entry level contract, and if the team wants to keep him when it expires, they may have to look at moving Trouba.
Another struggle for the team was goaltending, or rather what to do with Henrik Lundqvist. In 2018-2019 we began to see the decline in the King’s play, and it was very evident this last season that he definitely is regressing in level of play. In 26 starts, Lundqvist had a 10-12-3 record, and a .905 save percentage with a 3.16 GAA. The team had an unusual three goalie system, and it looked like the writing was on the wall for Lundqvist. Two Russian goaltenders, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin were phasing him out. Georgiev played more games, more wins and had a better stat line. Hyped up goalie prospect Shesterkin made the jump to the NHL and played outstanding in the games he played. This all culminated with Henrik Lundqvist being bought out of the remaining two years on his contract in the off season. Lundqvist was a staple of the team for so long and it’ll be strange to not see him out there. I would say there would be a huge locker room impact, but this team is full of so many young players that have played only a handful or no seasons yet in New York, so I don’t think it will be as significant as it may have been even a season ago.
At the deadline General Manager Jeff Gorton moved out Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first round pick. In the offseason, he traded Marc Staal and his $5.7 million dollar contract to the Red Wings for future considerations. This moves, together with the Lundqvist buyout allowed Gorton to re-sign the players he needed to like Ryan Strom, Tony DeAngelo, Alexander Georgiev and Brendan Lemieux.
For two years in a row the lottery gods have smiled upon the Rangers. They moved up for Kakko and they moved up to number 1 overall for Lafreniere this season. It seems a little unfair they ended up with the first overall pick, considering they got a shot at the first round in this years playoffs and had a winning record. I would have preferred to see a team like Detroit or Ottawa win, but that’s just me I guess.
Since the Rangers bought out Lundqvist they will be spending $12.9 million on contract buyouts this season. Dan Girardi, Ryan Spooner, Kevin “redemption arc completionist and Stanley Cup Champion” Shattenkirk and Henrik Lundqvist are all on the books. For 2021-2022 that figure does drop to only $4 million though. Which will be perfect considering how many contracts will be up on the team.
- Alexis Lafreniere
- Jack Johnson
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Marc Staal
- Lias Andersson
- Greg McKegg
- Jesper Fast
New York Rangers Roster Preview
The team will still have that 1-2 punch of Panarin and Zibanejad. I’m guessing they stay on separate even strength lines, but work together on the number one powerplay unit again. Kreider, Zibanejad and Buchnevich formed a line last year and should stay together. Panarin and Strome need a new linemate. Number one pick in the 2020 draft Alexis Lafreniere will get every opportunity to play on that line. It was recently announced that Alexis would not be released to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship, so will stay with the Rangers. I think it’s safe to say it is his spot to lose. If Lafreniere has immediate chemistry with any of the top six, it really brings a whole new threat to the lineup. If this team can score even more goals, they may be able to win a few more games. Kaapo Kakko may rotate in if he plays well.
The bottom six of this team is very young and I’m worried about the defensive zone play. They will have Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Brett Howden available for third line duties. Howden is the old man of the line at 22 years old. The fourth line is also looking a little suspect with the options being Brendan Lemeiux, Julien Gauthier, Kevin Rooney, Colin Blackwell and Phillip Di Giuseppe.
Again I believe this roster will score a lot of goals, but this forward group is not one I have a lot of faith to play responsively in the defensive zone.
All the defensive woes this team has were solved by bringing in Jack Johnson for a one year deal… obviously not. I don’t understand this addition. Johnson was not great in Pittsburgh. The Rangers have a lot of talented young defenseman on the team that need to develop their game. The team would be better off bringing in someone they could model their game after, or play their strengths off of. Think about someone like Marc Methot for Erik Karlsson, or Chris Tanev for Quinn Hughes. I’d love to see the Rangers pick up a guy like Travis Hamonic for that role. Instead they signed Johnson, I get it the cap is limited, but I believe this doesn’t help anything on the team. Brendan Smith isn’t that guy either. He’s had his own issues being in and out of the lineup for effort reasons, and sometimes he plays forward. I don’t think he’s a particularly shining example for any of the young defenseman either.
Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren were real bright spots for the team as young defensemen who jumped in and were counted on a lot. These two actually played together and provided the most consistent D pairing on the team. I think they are both pieces the team will want to hang on to for years to come.
Jacob Trouba will look to bounce back after a bit of a down year and to live up to his contract. When he’s not deleting his social media accounts Tony DeAngelo can be an effective offensive defenseman. He split time with Fox on the powerplay unit and if he doesn’t turn his defensive side of his game around I could see the team moving him to a contender for a pick or prospect. If it comes down to him or Fox I think the choice is pretty easy. The younger, talented defenseman who isn’t alienating fans online.
With Marc Staal and Brady Skjei leaving there’s room in the lineup for Libor Hajek, who filled in after Skjei was traded. They also have K’Andre Miller waiting to make his debut. If they need a bit more maturity in the lineup they can slot in jouneyman defenseman Anthony Bitetto.
I don’t think this defensive lineup will be reducing the amount of scoring opportunities going against the team this season.
With Lundqvist now gone. The tandem will be Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. This should be a great tandem for the club. Shesterkin is one of the most highly touted goaltending prospects and in the games we saw him, he did not disappoint. He posted a .932 save percentage and a 2.52 GAA in 12 games. Georgiev was counted on to be the starter last season and showed he’s competent too. Both of these young goaltenders should split time this season and provide some solid netminding for the Rangers. With the forward and defense group the Rangers have, it’s likely that they will really need these guys to be great.
New York Rangers 2020-2021 Prediction
5th-7th East Division
This team should improve in terms of goaltending and offensive production which may earn them a few extra wins. Though he defensive lapses in the lineup have not been addressed in any way. The Rangers will be an exciting, young, high scoring team to watch with the offensive talents of Panarin, Zibanejad and Lafreniere bon display but their bottom six forwards and blueline make me skeptical of how successful this team can be.
That concludes our New York Rangers 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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