The Capitals will be playing in the new East Division in 2021. We are looking at each division opponent leading up to the season.
New York Rangers
D Jack Johnson, F Alexis Lafreniere
In terms of a rebuild, it's hard to do better than the Rangers have. This team has done almost everything right in its effort to rebuild the team as a contender. They have loaded up on young talent, added incredibly talented veterans like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad and even won the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 giving them the chance to draft Lafreniere. That also happened in a year in which the Rangers will have just under $13 million in dead cap space due to buyouts. That's not like LTIR contracts that can be moved, that's dead cap space that will live on the Rangers' cap this season so adding Lafreniere is a big boost to a team that probably would not have been able to get one this season.
Now it's just a matter of waiting for it all to come together and...they're not there yet.
The Rangers were an exciting team to watch last season and looked like they might be able to make a late push to contend for a playoff spot. Ultimately, they didn't have to as New York was included in the postseason field after the season was paused due to the coronavirus. That's when this up-and-coming Rangers team everyone loved to watch was exposed by the Carolina Hurricanes. That brief series showed just how far New York still has to go.
The talent is certainly there on both ends of the ice. In addition to what is rapidly becoming a very deep offense, the Rangers also boast a lot of defensive talent with Jacob Trouba, Anthony Deangelo and Adam Fox.
The biggest change is in net where Henrik Lundqvist will no longer be in the crease. Instead, New York will turn to star prospect Igor Shesterkin as the starter with Alexandar Georgiev completing the tandem.
The Rangers remain ahead of schedule, they are good and getting better and the future looks very bright. What they are able to accomplish this season will depend on just how good their young players like Lafreniere, Kakko, Fox and Shesterkin can be.
Based on what we saw last year against Carolina in the play-in round, I think that shows there is still more work to be done before the Rangers are a legitimate playoff team. That is especially true given the division. I don't see who of the top contenders the Rangers could push out of the playoffs just yet.