Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and for sports fans that usually means that college football is about to start, NFL training camp is winding down, the baseball season is entering the final stretch and for hockey fans, well the puck’s about to drop again on the ice. That’s right, the sweltering summer is about to give way to NHL teams hitting the ice once again for the upcoming 2022-23 season. The New York Rangers were so close to the Stanley Cup but alas no cigar -again. Last season the Rangers simply wanted to taste the postseason again and with their recent success, it would be a failure to aim for anything less than the Stanley Cup finals this year.
The Rangers will have to rely heavily on Shesterkin in 2022-23.
When you have the best goalie in the NHL, it’s easy to overly rely on your netminder to keep you on the plus side in the W/L column. Igor Shesterkin rightly earned the Vezina Trophy last season and with a stellar 36-13-4 record, a .935 SV percentage and a 2.02 GAA average, it’s no surprise that Shesterkin was the overwhelming favorite to receive this award. Let’s be real, Igor Shesterkin is good, really good and may someday be remembered as one of the greats of the game. At 26 years old, Shesterkin hopefully has years to go in his career and will have many other Vezina Trophy years ahead of him. That being said, the Rangers were able to advance as deeply in the playoffs primarily because they had Shesterkin protecting the pipes. However, one goaltender cannot carry a team far into the postseason and GM Chris Drury wisely signed backup goalie Jaroslav Halak to help take some of the pressure off of Shesterkin; the big problem here is how many games can the Rangers count on getting out of the 37 year old Halak this year?
Sammy Blais never got to show off what he could do to help the Rangers last year.
Knee injuries are a terrible reminder of the downside of professional sports as players can be lost for the season at any time. This nightmare scenario played out for forward Sammy Blais early on last season after only 14 games with Blais and Devils defenseman P.K. Subban getting tangled up and Blais tearing his ACL and losing essentially the entire season. Blais came over from the St. Louis Blues and GM Chris Drury had high hopes for the young Canadian forward but alas the knee injury means we will have to wait until this year to see what Blais can do for the Rangers. Apparently the Rangers front office believes in Blais enough by giving him a one-year deal worth $1.525 million dollars – an extra bump from last year’s salary. Blais is widely regarded and in his short showing with the Rangers last year, he had four assists and displayed good puck handling skills. With a clean bill of health and a contract extension, Blais should be ready to have a breakout season in 2022-23.
Vincent Trocheck needs to provide a solid second line performance for the Blueshirts.
GM Chris Drury apparently liked what he saw in Carolina Hurricanes forward Vincent Trocheck enough to bring him over to New York on a seven-year contract worth $5.625 million dollars a year. That’s a lot of money to invest in Trocheck as a appears to be a second line center this season for the Rangers. Trocheck did register 21 goals and a total of 51 points for the Hurricanes last year but more importantly he brings a solid relationship with Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant with him as Gallant was his head coach in their days with the Florida Panthers together. This could be a make-or-break season for Trocheck and if he’s shows he’s worth the money, this may turn out to be a very wise investment as the Rangers set their eyes on a Stanley Cup finals push this season.