Key Offseason Additions: Brad Richards, Mike Rupp
Key Offseason Losses: Vinny Prospal, Bryan McCabe, Matt Gilroy, Todd White
Last Season Ranking: 8th in the East
Offense: Brad Richards was talked about, rumored about and speculated about right up until the moment the New York Rangers announced that they signed Richards to a multi-year deal. Now the only question remaining is whether Richards can live up to the hype on Broadway.
The Rangers now have two legitimate superstars in Richards and Marion Gaborik. Both are capable of producing at better than a point-per-game clip during the season and could create one of the most dominant top lines in the NHL if they play together, but the issue for Gaborik remains health. Gaborik only played in 62 games last season and was largely a disappointment when he did make it onto the ice, often times going long stretches without a goal. There’s no reason why Gaborik shouldn’t have a bounce back year, but health will always be a concern.
Luckily the Rangers sport some very good secondary scoring in Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan (pictured), Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. Each of those players scored 40 or more points last season and only Anisimov missed out on scoring 20 or more goals. Callahan managed to finish third on the team in scoring with 48 points, including 23 goals, despite missing 22 games. These are all young players that will look to keep improving into this season.
Mike Rupp and Sean Avery should be fun to watch this season. Avery is one of the best antagonizers in the league and Rupp certainly gives the Rangers more of an edge and makes them tougher to play against. His willingness to drop the gloves keeps opponents honest on the ice.
With Richards now on board, the Rangers boast solid offensive depth and a forward lineup capable of matching any other team on any given night.
Defense: The Rangers finished 5th last season in goals allowed per game with an average of 2.38. What’s even more impressive is that the team doesn’t have an arguably legitimate “superstar” on the blue line. New York’s defense isn’t flashy, but they are good and they play it well as a team.
Marc Staal is about the closest the team has to a superstar defender after making his first NHL All-Star Game appearance last season. At 24-years-old, Staal leads the team’s defensive corps along with teammate Dan Girardi, who led the blue line in scoring last season with 31 points. Incredibly, these two seem to keep getting better every year.
Look for Michael Sauer to play a much more prominent role on defense for the team this season. In his first full year in the NHL last year, Sauer led the team with a plus-20 through 76 games. Expect Sauer to compete hard for more prominent minutes as he continues to develop.
Goaltending: Last season, Henrik Lundqvist played in the fewest games of his career since his rookie year. That’s not so much a knock against Lundqvist’s play as it is against New York’s ability to get a solid number two goalie. The team may have finally found that number two in Martin Biron, who they signed last summer to a two-year deal.
Biron posted career highs in goals against average (2.13) and save percentage (.923) before missing the remainder of the season after suffering a broken collarbone in February. Coming back healthy, Biron will likely help alleviate Lundqvist of his heavy workload.
Still, Lundqvist remains one of the top goalies in the game and when things get dicey, coach John Tortorella doesn’t hesitate to put Lundqvist between the pipes and know he’ll give a strong performance.
HWB Playoff Prediction: Playoff bound.