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Is The NY Rangers Window Closing?
The Rangers have been exceeding expectations over the past few seasons. Last season the Rangers came out of the Eastern Conference to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals when people didn't expect them to make probably past the second round, especially when they were down 3-1 in the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers fell to the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the finals but this gave everybody the insight that they needed to project how the Rangers would do this season. They were expected to finish within the top four in the east but once again they exceeded expectations finishing with the best record in the NHL and winning the Presidents' Cup despite the slow start to the beginning of the season. They trade deadline was key for the Rangers as they were able to acquire Keith Yandle from the Phoenix Coyotes and was considered the missing piece for the Rangers to become a true championship contender.
But once again the Rangers fell short of their goal which was bringing the cup back to New York for the first time since 1994. Each series in the playoffs seemed much more difficult than what it was supposed to be and the Rangers fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. The Rangers were 7-0 all-time at home in game 7's and the Lightning put an end to that streak. Little did people know that the Rangers were dealing with certain injuries that could of held the team back from reaching back to back finals. Matt Zuccarello had a skull fracture so that will leave a question of whether or not he would return to playing hockey in the near future. Zuccarello was a key piece in the Rangers' success and a player of his caliber with his skill set is difficult to replace. Ryan McDonagh didn't see too much ice time and it was a concern to many fans but what people didn't know until after the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs is that Ryan had been playing with a broken foot since the Pittsburgh series. The outcome of the series could have been different if the Rangers had both of them healthy. Now the Rangers are forced to start over.
This offseason will be key for the Rangers as they hope for another chance of having the team repeat their performances but some big moves will be needed if they want to achieve that goal and are some of the views the Rangers will have this summer.
Can Henrik Remain As The King?
With another season wasted, it's another year Henrik Lundqvist gets older. The 33 year old is still arguably the best goaltender in hockey but one can wonder how much longer can he stay that way. Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers have been so good year after year and is a clear first ballot hall of famer but until the king gets that ring, his legacy is not fully solidified. The window is slowly closing for the Rangers to win a title with Lundqvist on their team. You wonder if playing at a high level is starting to take a toll on his body for fortunately for him he has Cam Talbot as his backup who played spectacular when Lundqvist went down with the vascular injury. Talbot is one who can give Lundqvist days off when needed and you can expect that to continue next season to keep the king fresh in the long run. We should expect Lundqvist to play at high level next season and remain as arguably the best goalie in hockey.
How Will Age Play As A Factor?
The Rangers are a relatively young team built on speed and defense so many don't expect age to be a problem. But two key players are getting up there in age are Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle. The two players, other than Henrik Lundqvist, are the only veterans on the team. They provide the leadership with their voice and their experience so it would be interesting to see if the Rangers have both of them back next season.
Martin St. Louis would now become an unrestricted free agent and has not yet made a decision on whether or not he would return to play again. St. Louis forced a trade between the Lightning and Rangers but now he watching his former team head to the finals and he is now pondering whether or not to return. St. Louis made about $5 million this past season so if he were to return to the Rangers then he would have to take a serious pay cut if he wants any hope of playing in New York again.
Dan Boyle has shown that he still has a lot in the tank and is under contract for one more year which could possibly be his last season before retiring. Boyle left a lot of money on the table to join the Rangers last offseason because he feels that this team has a chance to win it all in which the Rangers are close but not close enough. At least the Rangers will have one veteran for sure on the roster for next season as Boyle still has something to prove. This could be the final chance for Boyle and the Rangers to claim the cup.
Bringing Back Key Pieces
The main goal for the Rangers this offseason is to retain core players such as Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, and Jesper Fast. The four young stars are first in line to get a pay raise and clearly deserve one. The four players have contributed in all categories and there is no doubt that the Rangers wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for the effort that they receive from these players day in and day out. If the Rangers have any hope of repeating their success then signing these four players is a must. The Rangers don't need to make a big splash this offseason. A few signings of some veterans along with resigning some of their own key players will put them right back in the talks of competing for a Stanley Cup title.