The Rangers seem like a tight knit group and they like to have players who "fit in" socially, along with being solid hockey players. The New York Rangers players had a Stanley Cup Finals run last year that wound up a few overtimes short, and the players know what was missing along with Rangers orgnizational leaders--size! The Rangers did a great job of using their speed to cover for their lack of size, but they clearly were worn down by the 4th round, whether it was from going 7 games twice or being in physical series. Through free agency, the Rangers lost their tallest player (but not toughest by far) in Brian Boyle, 2nd pairing dman in Anton Stralman, 3rd line career project who broke out on the Rangers in Benoit Pouliout, and bought out 3rd line center Brad Richards(who by all accounts will allegedly return next year to play with his ex-Rangers and ex-Tampa teammates).The Rangers have seemed to replace all the holes left by those departures and even landed more depth into the minors in case of injury or if players don't work out.
Ranger additions that seem to have the inside track to make the NHL roster as of now are J.T. Miller, free agent pickup and ex-Chicago Blackhawk #1 pick Kevin Hayes, and camp tryout Ryan Malone. Malone and Hayes are listed on some rosters as 6'4" and over 220lbs. J.T. Miller proved last year that he was an NHL player until an injury sidelined him in the playoffs and all reports in the local New York papers say that the Rangers coaches have told him how great a chance he has at being the replacement for Brad Richards. It would seem that Kevin Hayes size wise and skill level would be a great replacement for Pouliout on the Brassard and Zuccarello line. During an interview with Rangers head scout Gordie Clark and assistant G.M. Jeff Gorton on the Rangers website, both talked about Kevin Hayes as a center so if J.T. Miller doesn't pan out as a center, those two can easily flip flop. As far as Ryan Malone is concerned, he has a chip on his shoulder to prove he can still play the game of hockey after being bought out by Tampa after a DUI arrest and was sentenced to Community service and a substance abuse program. The Rangers have already brought in Tanner Glass for the tough guy role, but Malone can add some edge to the game himself. It would seem that the first 3 lines would just replace the players that left with Miller and Hayes making them Nash/Stepan/Kreider---Zuccarello/Brassard/Hayes---Hagelin/Miller/St.Louis---but the 4th line looks like a tossup after Dominic Moore as the center.
If you were to add Malone, Lee Stempniak, and Tanner Glass the Rangers would be up under the cap at around $350,000 along with Moore signing and Kostka as the extra dman. Players also pushing these players and looking to claim a spot on the Rangers are Lindberg, Lombardi, Kristo, Fast, and Haggerty. Haggerty would seem like a lock to start in the AHL because of the contract signed last season forcing the Rangers to "burn a year" and we all know how Slats hates that type of stuff as holdouts like Del Zotto and Brandon Dubinsky who were both moved after the first year of which you have to keep them, so to the minors he goes just to prove a point if nothing else. Lombardi was signed to a 2 year contract at $800,000 each that can be burried in the AHL at no penalty and will be a great callup for injuries. Danny Kristo is very interesting because of his performance in the AHL last season and his experiences of playing with Stepan, Kreider, and J. Moore in the Jr. Champioships with team USA when they won Gold. He seems to need more work in the defensive zone, but the preseason will show all weakness in his game. Jesper Fast would have seemed like a solid shot for the roster, but something may be up as he isn't present at the "optional team skates" so far.
On defense at the optional skates are 5 of the 6 that remain from last years club with the addition of Dan Boyle to replace Stralman. The Rangers have had interest in Dan Boyle for a few years and finally landed him instead of resigning Anton Stralman. It would seem like a huge upgrade as Boyle is always up over 20 minutes a night in San Jose and is reunited with great friend and new neighbor Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone from the Tampa days. The top 6 look like McDonagh/Girardi--Staal/Boyle--Klein/Moore. The 7th dman battle looks to be between Kostka, Hunwick , and Rangers prospects McIlrath and Allen who both had a cup of coffee last year with the big club. Brady Skjei will clearly be on the Rangers as soon as he chooses to turn pro.
Between the pipes is All-World Henrik Lundqvist, a past Vezina winner, Gold medal winner, and 3 time All-Star. He along with his teammates just fell short of being a Stanley Cup Champion and all focus is towards that goal this season. His backup could be a starter on many teams in Cam Talbot. The combination of these two by itself gives the Rangers a chance to win every game played.
The price of going far in the playoffs is that everyone notices how good your players are and the free agents sometimes go for the money. Some of the players played within the system well and it is to be seen if they will play as well on their new teams. The players brought in seem to be very good fits to the puzzle and the depth was also addressed with NHL talent and not having to rely on inexperienced NHL players, but now have players for depth at each position that have been "to the show". If the Rangers played their hand correct, the experienced NHL players will make it through waivers because of the AHL pricetag being very high, and all will wait for their turn when they get called up. The Rangers have a few young players that could have come up when needed, but it is clear that the Rangers are in the "ALL IN" mode and going for it again. The Rangers don't want to be a team like the one across the river and make 1 run at the playoffs in 4 years, and want to hit the ice and keep taking steps forward. The next step would be to WIN the Stanley Cup!! ALL IN is what they are!!
LET'S GO RANGERS!!!