A year ago, the New York Rangers were feared by every team in the NHL. Their style of play that featured body checks and young speed in front of netminder Henrik Lundqvist allowed them to punish their opponents. If they didn’t bring the intensity at the start, someone (Brandon Prust most likely) would drop the gloves and the Rangers came back to life. After this dismal locked out season, the Blueshirts have lost their identity and are in search of a new one that provides them with offense.
Where the Rangers started to go downhill was losing their toughest player, Prust, in the summer of 2012. He’s not the biggest guy in the league, however he had the most fights in the NHL during the 2011-2012 season. Prust would sacrifice his body in order for his team to gain some momentum and it worked. Unfortunately for the Rangers, he was an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after 2012 and was offered a $10 million contract from the Canadiens. A huge step up from his previous deal of $800,000, you can’t blame him for taking that deal. You also can’t blame New York for letting him go; Prust is not worth $10 million.
So, they lose Prust and get back on track in the 2012 offseason to acquire Rick Nash by trading Ranger role players, Dubinsky and Anisimov. After a disappointing season from the two, trading Dubinsky’s grit and Anisimov’s finesse it seemed like a fair deal. The Rangers would find out that trading Dubinsky would be losing his young grit that helped them thrive in their 2012 playoff run.
The Rangers needed Nash to put up points this season and he was successful this year with 42 points, second behind Derek Stepan. However, the original idea was for Nash to work alongside Gaborik and Richards. When the Rangers traded Gabby to Columbus to add more depth, it wasn’t enough to make a deep playoff run. Sather needed to make a move before the trade deadline in order for the Rangers to compete in the playoffs. I don’t think that move hurt them since Brassard and Dorsett gave fans an optimistic future but it wasn’t enough to make the Rangers true contenders.
Brad Richards is another story, he looked lost in almost every game he played this season including the power play. He couldn’t keep up with the pace of an NHL game and the bad news for Richards is the game isn’t getting any slower and he’s not getting any younger.
Richards was expected to be bought out to save the Rangers a risk of taking a massive cap hit and being stuck with another Chris Drury. He’s still eligible for a buyout after 2013-2014 so it is up to him to determine his future and work to a point where he starts putting points back on the board.
With the hiring of Alain Vigneault, Vancouver’s former head coach it provides the Blueshirts with a clean slate. Taking out Torts’ hard-hitting and constant forechecking system out of the organization, the Rangers will find a new way to utilize their talent. What Vigneault will bring to the table is a mystery but he may want to start with the extra man. Known as a tough coach as well, he as worked with pleanty of talent including the Sedin Twins and Robert Luongo
The Rangers have been busy this offseason, locking up Ryan McDonagh long term with a six-year deal and bringing back Carl Hagelin for another two. They still need to sign team point leader Derek Stepan, who will be essential for another winning season in New York. Also, the Rangers need to give Hank an extension, one of the best goalies in the world, and a fierce compeetitor. If the Rangers fail to make a run and the King is not signed, don’t be surprised if he tests the market hard.