Key Offseason Losses: Alex Auld, Olli Jokinen, Corey Potter, Jodi Shelley
Key Offseason Additions: Alexander Frolov, Martin Biron, Todd White, Derek Boogaard, Tim Kennedy
Last Season Ranking: 9th in East
The New York Rangers lost out on a postseason bid last year in the final game of the regular season. This year the team hopes to turn it all around and lock in a postseason appearance well before the end of the season with some key offseason additions.
Much of the team’s success will again depend on the health of Marian Gaborik. With 42 goals last season for 86 points in 76 games, Gaborik was a stud for the Rangers, but questions about his health continue to linger as Gaborik has had several injury-shortened seasons in his brief NHL career. Vinny Prospal, the team’s second highest scorer last season, will return for his second year with the Rangers. With 58 points last year, Prospal quietly puts together solid campaigns and will be expected to continue contributing on the top two lines. Recent trade acquisition Todd White will fight for a spot as a top-six forward and could be a great fit centering Gaborik on the first line. White is capable of anywhere between 50 and 70 points and will bring offensive depth and a veteran presence to the lineup.
Alexander Frolov may be the biggest name coming to the Big Apple this season. Frolov showed flashes of brilliance in Los Angeles but never really became a huge impact player. Frolov is capable of producing 70 or more points if he can work hard and keep his attitude in check.
The team will also look for center Brandon Dubinski to keep taking steps forward and become a huge part of the team’s offense. Young players like Tim Kennedy, Erik Christensen and Artem Anisimov will certainly get their chance to contribute as secondary scorers as well.
Marc Staal is considered by many to be the prolific defenseman of the organization but remains unsigned by the team. Assuming that Staal comes back, the Rangers will look for him to continue to lead the way on the blue line for the blue shirts. But at plus-11 last season, Staal had the best plus/minus of any New York defenseman while Michael Del Zotto had a team-worst minus-20. Still, Del Zotto tallied 37 points in 80 games last season. If he can be better in his own zone, Del Zotto could be a difference maker for the Rangers this year. Michael Rozsival is also capable of being much better than the 23 points and plus-3 he exhibited last year. The Rangers definitely need to play better defense this season if they intend to compete.
Henrik Lundquist was a workhorse last season for the Rangers where he played in 73 games, tallied 35 wins and had a 2.38 goals against average. In fact, Lundquist has started in 70 or more games in each of his past four NHL seasons and has never had a goals against average higher than 2.43. However, now that the team has a suitable backup goaltender in Martin Biron, expect Lundquist to work less – possibly in the range of 55-60 starts, but still exhibit the same level of top-notch play.
The Rangers made some good additions in the offseason and certainly added some depth on offense, but a lot of their success hinges on health and attitude. If Gaborik can stay healthy and if Frolov can ditch his prima donna attitude then the Rangers could really make some big strides this season. Todd White is a very versatile player and could turn a lot of heads if he gets time on the top line with Gaborik. Lundquist is constantly a stud in net for the Rangers but adding Biron into the mix will help keep Lundquist fresh and healthy for the postseason. But as a whole, the Rangers need to play much better defense this year in order to stay competitive in the East. A playoff spot isn’t out of the picture, but it’s a long season and there are still a lot of “ifs” for the Rangers this season.