NEW YORK, NY – As the temperatures push higher and higher let’s keep cool with some ice hockey talk. NHL Free Agency came and went and the Rangers made some modest improvements – but not the types of changes that will get them over the hump. It will be a tough couple of seasons for teams like #NYR, who are right up against the salary cap. With the changes due to pandemic revenue losses, the salary cap is still in the low $80-millions, instead of in the low $90-million range. This is definitely hamstringing teams like the the Blueshirts, who are entering their cup-run window.
They did make a splash signing centre Vincent Trocheck to a seven year deal. Trocheck will basically be a direct replacement for Ryan Strome, who signed with the Anaheim Ducks. Trocheck is an improvement over Strome all around and he definitely helps in the face-off department. Face-offs have been an issue for the Rangers for the last few seasons and Trocheck will improve abysmal stats on the draw. The former Hurricane won over 54% of face-offs last season and is over 52% for his career. In some games last season the Rangers hovered around 40% from the dots. That hurt their stellar power play and it could have been even better if they could win a face-off. Too often the Blueshirts would lose the first draw and have to start the man advantage from 200 feet away. Trocheck should help in that department.
On the back end, the Rangers said goodbye to Aleksandar Georgiev, sending the backup netminder to Colorado for a host of mid and late-round draft picks in the coming seasons. To replace him, the rangers signed Jaroslav Halak and Louis Domingue. Domingue signed a two-way deal and should spend most of his time in Hartford. Halak will be the backup for Vezina-winner Igor Shesterkin next season.
There was a lot of buzz around the Rangers potentially signing Evgeni Malkin or trading for Patrick Kane or JT Miller. At the end of the day none of those things happened. Kane could definitely still be a late season rental at the deadline if the Rangers are looking to add on to make a Cup run. They just need to be smart with their remaining cap space to make that happen.
The Rangers have improved, but not by much. I think that is okay for a team that finished the regular season with 110 points and was six wins away from a Stanley Cup. Any improvement might get the Broadway Blues over the hump but the competition has also gotten stronger. We’ve got a few months until the regular season starts and we’ll start hearing about how some of the kids are doing at the World Junior Championships next month and at the training camps to follow.
That’s it for me today. Stay cool out there and come back tomorrow for Mister Cool, Aristotle “Mugsy” Sakellaridis.