The New York Rangers have made significant roster changes since their last game of the 2020-21 season back in May. The team right now has more experience, depth, and most importantly of all, grit. The question is, do these changes help the Rangers not only make the playoffs but also help them get through the playoffs. As we saw in the postseason, having depth and added toughness goes a long way if you want to win it all.
For example, look at the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions: the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 2019 they were historically swept by the second wildcard Columbus Blue Jackets, as the Lightning had no edge to their game, they only had skill. Meanwhile Columbus had some skill (Panarin, Werenski, Dubois, Atkinson) but they also had the edge to compete and it showed. So the Lightning that offseason addressed their bottom 6 in signings like Patrick Maroon, trades in Barclay Goodrow from San Jose and Blake Coleman from New Jersey, and the rest is history as they went back to back.
Now, lets look at each and every move made by new GM and President Chris Drury and see how much better the Rangers can be in the 2021-22 season.
The Firing of David Quinn
Only 4 days after the Rangers season finale against the Boston Bruins, Drury made his first big move as GM of the Rangers, by firing third-year head coach, David Quinn as he looked to bolster the Rangers into a playoff team. However, that was not the only reason Quinn was fired, as it was believed that there was a disconnect between him and the Rangers’ top players in Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, and now former Ranger Pavel Buchnevich.
“But more consequential than that, it has also been clear that the high-end players have had little if any interest in changing their approach in order to accommodate the coach…. it must be equally infuriating for, say, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich to hear the coach publicly complain about it after nearly every game, including victories.”Larry Brooks, NY Post, May 3rd, 2021
There were also criticisms on Quinn following the firing, as per Larry Brooks, He would over-coach players and it came to a point where he started worrying what others thought of him. It was also evident that Quinn had a tough time properly developing these young players coming into the NHL as we would see often lines that would make you go “what is this guy doing…”. It was never a one-time thing either, as Quinn would shuffle lines way too much and would often play these high-value young prospects with players that would not help them succeed at all. For instance when he played Filip Chytil with Cody McLeod for some games, or when he played Lias Andersson with former Ranger defenseman/forward Brendan Smith and enforcer Micheal Haley, or when he’d play Kaapo Kakko with the likes of Brett Howden and Brendan Lemieux. There were even points in this past season where it would look like Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko would be finding their groove in the top 6 and Quinn would bump them down to replace them with veterans.
So when Quinn was fired, it was a huge sigh of relief for Ranger fans around the world as this would then start the search for Chris Drury to get an experienced head coach that can lead the Rangers into the end of their rebuild and into the playoffs.
Gerard Gallant the 36th Head Coach in Rangers History
On June 14th, 2021, the Rangers announced that former Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant will take over as their new coach, and this was seen as a great step in the right direction for the Rangers if they were looking to head into the playoffs this coming season. Gallant is seen as a players coach who also gets the best out of each and every one of his players, as he shows your role in the lineup and what your mission to do is every time you step onto the ice and this is key for the Rangers. With the Gallant hiring, you can expect the Rangers to be aggressive on the forecheck and use their high-end skill more to their advantage especially with Lafreniere, Kakko, and Kravtsov will be getting consistent top-six ice time and not being moved up and down the lineup.
The Rangers have made many signings and a couple trades so far in the offseason, let’s review them and see how it could potentially help the team.
- Ryan Lindgren resigned 3×3 – A
Chris Drury’s first contract given was bridging top pair defensive-defenseman, Ryan Lindgren. He showed this season that he is the perfect defensive partner for Norris winning defenseman Adam Fox, he also brings the edge to his game, where he will do anything to win, and it showed because it would not be a Rangers game if you did not see Lindgren bleed during some point of the game. Jokes aside, Lindgren was eighth in EVD (even strength defense) among defensemen in 2020-21 via Evolving-Hockey, which shows he was one of the best defensive-defensemen in the league under an average defensive David Quinn team that ranked 15th in xGA/60, while also playing with that grit which is very helpful come playoff time.
- Trading Brett Howden & Acquiring Barclay Goodrow – A+
Amid the NHL Seattle Kraken roster freeze, the New York Rangers traded Brett Howden to the Vegas Golden Knights for a fourth-round pick and defenseman Nick DeSimone, this by itself was a great move as Brett Howden just seemed lost during his three years with the Rangers, there would be some points where he’d make a good play but overall he was invisible on the ice and was overplayed by Quinn, so acquiring a fourth-round pick pretty much for him is great. However, the bigger part of this was Drury trading a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Lightning for negotiating rights for pending UFA Barclay Goodrow, who is the perfect player for what the Rangers are trying to accomplish. Goodrow brings grit to the table, doesn’t have too much skill but can play both center and wing while also being a good piece to the penalty kill. Goodrow was a key part in Tampa’s cup win as he, Coleman, and Gourde formed the best third-line in the league as they were a true 200ft line that could also chip in offensively.
- Goodrow Signs a 6 x 3.6 Contract – C-
Following the trade that brought Barclay Goodrow to the big apple, Chris Drury gave him a head scratching six-year, $3.6 million contract with a modified 15 team no-trade clause in all six years. This is a very expensive contract to pay for a third-line player, however like stated before, Goodrow is a player that teams need and the Rangers locking him up is huge nonetheless.
- Buchenvich to the Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2022 2nd – C
The Rangers acquired gritty bottom-six forward, Sammy Blais and a second-round pick for pending RFA Pavel Buchnevich. At first glance this trade seems really terrible, but it is not as bad as it seems. A few days after the trade happened Buch was given a very deserving 4 x 5.8 contract with the St. Louis Blues as he proved he was a top line contributor that can play a 200ft game, which the Rangers can definitely afford now but most likely not in the future. It would be very tough for the team to afford a $5.8M cap-hit when they have to re-sign budding star goaltender Igor Shesterkin, and sign players like Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere. The Rangers simply could not afford it and Buchnevich was the man out, this also gives someone like 2018, ninth-overall pick Vitali Kravtsov a chance to play. All in all, the move had to be done sadly enough, but the Rangers did walk away with a gritty forward in Blais, who will most definitely help the Rangers main goal of the offseason which was becoming tougher to play against.
- Signing Patrick Nemeth to a 3 year, $2.5M cap-hit – B-
For Drury’s first-ever free agency signing, he signed Patrick Nemeth to a three-year contract worth $2.5M annually with an eight-team no-trade clause. This signing helps stabilize the Rangers third-pair and gives Nils Lundkvist a chance to come into the league and thrive as he will have a trustworthy defensive partner to help accommodate him. With Nemeth you cannot expect anything offensively, however, he is a solid shutdown defensemen that can use his body to make defensive plays, and overall this is a good signing for the New York Rangers.
- The Rest of the Signings – B
The Rangers followed the Nemeth signing with depth signings in Jarred Tinordi, Greg McKegg, and Dryden Hunt. Tinoridi is a big defenseman who is known to throw the gloves down and fight the opposing teams tough guys, most notoriously for Ranger fans, Tom Wilson. Tinoridi will most likely be the seventh defenseman anyways, this signing just brings more depth at defense and help pushes someone like Libor Hajek out of the lineup. The next signing was bringing back fan favorite Greg McKegg to a one-year, two-way deal, once again another depth move by Drury as he brings back speedy centre to the team which gives the Rangers more options at the fourth-line centre position if need be. The last signing of free agency for the Rangers is an underrated one, as Drury signs Dryden Hunt to a 2 year deal worth $762.5K annually. Hunt is not the biggest guy in the world as he is 6’0″, 192lbs, but he plays like a big powerforward. He likes to throw the body around and is very good on the forecheck. Most notably though, in 78 games from 2018-21, he has a 3.4 EVD which only ranks him 94th among all forwards in the NHL, but on the Rangers that would rank him 1st among all forwards who are on the team.
- Reaves Joins the Rangers – C+
Finally, the Rangers made the least surprising move of the offseason when they traded a 2022 third-round draft pick for bruising enforcer Ryan Reaves who has some familiarity with Gallant during his time in Vegas. With this acquisition the Rangers have a forward that can drop the gloves with the other teams big guys, however Reaves does seem to be on the decline as he is 35 years old, and with how he plays his body can start breaking down on him. Its also worthy to note that a couple years ago Reaves once said to a team interested in him, “I’m the solution to your Tom Wilson problem”, which only adds to why the Rangers acquired him.
Is Drury Done?
This Rangers offseason so far has been one of seeing improvements to the team, your casual fans won’t see it, but the Rangers had to sacrifice their youth and skill to become harder to play against and they accomplished that goal. But, lets not act like the Rangers have no skill now, they still have a ton of skill with Panarin, Kakko, Zibanejad, Lafreniere, Kravtsov, Chytil, and Fox, and with the hiring of Gerard Gallant he will be able to set each and every players roles on the ice for he can get the most out of each and every player. Now, with the Rangers main goal in improving their bottom 6 out of the way, is first year GM and President Chris Drury done? Well, simple answer is no, Friedman says on 31 thoughts on August 2nd, “I don’t think Chris Drury is done by any stretch of the imagination.” So, what else can Drury be up to… well the most obvious response is trying to grab Jack Eichel from the Sabres, but can we also see other moves such as Reilly Smith or Jonathan Marchessault from Vegas reunite with Gallant. It’s gonna be very interesting to see what Drury does, he does like to keep things close to his chest too, so we’ll just have to wait and see if he has anything else up his sleeve.