4 suggestions for Rangers this offseason, including helping out Igor Shesterkin
If you are a dreamer, you can peer out of the wreckage of the disappointing end to this Rangers season and perhaps believe that even a major setback can have value. In the short-term future, obviously not as the Blueshirts’ summer break started after just one round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But what if getting bounced by those vibrant, speedy Devils is the necessary, albeit painful, fuel to the bigger things that so many thought were coming this year?
Maybe that’s too optimistic in our current someone-must-be-scapegoated sports climate. But it’s happened before -- right, Tampa Bay Lightning?
In 2018-19, the Lightning were coming off a Conference Final appearance the previous year and had a 128-point season. Then they got swept in the first round by Columbus. But they won the Stanley Cup each of the next two seasons and went to a third straight final last year. Not bad, eh?
It’s not a perfect comparison. What is in sports? But it’s worth noting that the sting of failure one year does not have to torpedo the future of a talented team.
“It’s never a straight line to success. It gets bumpy,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba told reporters Wednesday on the team’s exit-interview day. “There’s ups and downs. I think we’re going to figure it out here.”
That remains to be seen, of course. But using these feelings of regret is the first in our list of four suggestions for the Rangers this offseason. Heck, maybe marinating in them helps turn the 30th anniversary season of their last Stanley Cup into something wonderful.
Here are three other ideas:
The Devils are not going anywhere, so they are not just a past problem for the Rangers, but a future one, too. Their speed advantage over the Rangers in the first round was glaring and it must be matched. Or at least slowed. Cap space will cast a shadow over the Blueshirts’ entire offseason, but maybe by injecting their own prospects into the mix they can add speed or at least using low-salaried players could open up some cash to buy it. Can winger Brennan Othmann, the 16th pick in the 2021 draft, make the leap to contributor? Are there other young players who can offer, at the very least, jump?
Sandpaper or scoring?
The Rangers added skill at the trade deadline in Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, who are both now unrestricted free agents. But one of the baseline debates about the team was whether it had enough grit. After Game 7, it seemed like former head coach Gerard Gallant was wondering, too, noting that the Rangers only scored two goals in their four losses to the Devils.
“I love to have talent,” the coach said. “But you have to have work ethic and more forecheck and stuff like that. We just didn’t get it done.” With talented scorers already locked on the roster, perhaps the Rangers need to seek players who thrive in grunt work. Could they do a deal with restricted free agent Alexis Lafreniere and then suggest he further tap into the edge he found in the playoffs last year?
Take care of their best player
No, Igor Shesterkin did not match his Vezina-winning season from last year. But he had a 2.48 goals-against average (10th in the NHL), a .916 save percentage (10th) and 37 wins (third) and then was mostly brilliant in the playoffs (1.96 GAA). That series would have been lopsided without some of his work. So the Rangers have to find ways to play better in front of Shesterkin. That surely means a deal with restricted free agent K’Andre Miller, the top-four defenseman who has more growing to do, as well as targeting a replacement for Niko Mikkola, an unrestricted free agent who likely lands elsewhere, and other defensive upgrades.