Though the playoffs are very much up and running, Rangers fans are eagerly awaiting next season – whenever that may be.
Fresh off the adrenaline of being awarded the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, the future is looking tremendously bright for the Rangers. Projected to be taken with that pick is left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, who is being held to a similar pedestal as players like Sidney Crosby and Taylor Hall. It may be too early to determine that at this moment, but the Rangers are certainly going to get a game-changer in Lafreniere.
There are many decisions to be made – including the three-headed monster that is the Blueshirts’ goalie situation. General manager Jeff Gorton made it clear in an interview a couple of weeks ago that the Rangers would be entering the 2020-21 season (again, whenever that may be) with two goalies. Whether it’s a Lundqvist buyout or Georgiev trade, a significant decision will need to be made there.
Another tough decision is with the restricted free agents, specifically center Ryan Strome and defenseman Tony DeAngelo. With about $4 million in cap space (which is subject to change with any trades), it’s going to be a challenge to keep both of them. There are plenty of scenarios that could play out, and we have to trust Gorton to make the right call.
Nonetheless, the foundation is there. Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, Igor Shesterkin – a team similar to the 2019-20 roster will be returning this season. Then add Alexis Lafreniere to the list.
This Rangers team is still young, there’s no debating that. We entered this past season with tons of question marks and doubts. But we now know what this team is capable of – Zibanejad is a first-line center that can really score, Panarin is an MVP caliber player, Shesterkin is a number one goaltender.
Now how can we build on that with Lafreniere? Without the stress of carrying three complete goaltenders?
Since his hire in the 2018 offseason, David Quinn has coached 152 NHL games with a record of 69-64-19.
Not bad for a young, rebuilding team, and not bad for someone making their first coaching stint in the NHL.
However, with Lindy Ruff now on the other side of the Hudson, a team with more chemistry and experience, and the first overall pick, Quinn has the opportunity of a lifetime.
It was a bit alarming to watch the Rangers in their brief postseason stint in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Carolina Hurricanes. It did not look like the team we watched in February-March, winning effortlessly on the road and pulling for that second wildcard spot. Maybe it was the Shesterkin injury, or the all-too high expectations for a young team that had barely gotten a sniff of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the pandemic. David Quinn said it best: “We weren’t mentally tough in Toronto.”
The Rangers have proved what they are capable of doing this season: coming back from a 4-0 deficit, winning 9 straight on the road, pitching shutouts, and not once being shut out themselves.
The bright lights of Broadway are shining on David Quinn: next season is his opportunity to prove himself as the head coach of the New York Rangers.
It will be the true test to see if he can coach this group of young Rangers to be a playoff team.
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