The Boston Bruins made quick work of the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference semifinal, eliminating the Blueshirts in five games.

For the Rangers, it was a miserable end to a disappointing season. A team which began the year considered a Stanley Cup contender never played up to lofty expectations.

Acquiring Rick Nash last summer was supposed to bolster their offense, yet the return to Columbus adversely affected their depth and character. Over the final month of the regular season, there was genuine concern over the Rangers missing the playoffs.

Shipping unhappy Marian Gaborik to Columbus for Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett, and acquiring Ryane Clowe from San Jose, addressed the depth issues, but essentially, the Rangers were the same team they were a year ago.

Goaltending, of course, was never an issue with the superb Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. Their defense, anchored by blueliners Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto, remained solid.

An eye injury to Staal in early-March, however, robbed the Rangers of their best all-round blueliner. He returned for one game against the Washington Capitals and missed the remainder of the postseason. His absence was a significant blow.

Offense, the very thing the Nash trade was supposed to address, was once again the Rangers Achilles heel.

They were middle of the pack during the regular season (15th overall in goals-per-game) but ranked in the bottom third (23rd overall) on the power-play. The offense struggled in the playoffs (10th overall through two rounds,  second-worst among the conference semifinalists), while their power-play ranked second-worst of all 16 playoff clubs, even through two rounds. They also ranked 12th of sixteen clubs in shots-per-game. 

Their best forwards – Nash, Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan – were kept off the scoresheet more often than not. Only Brassard, who led his teammates by a wide margin with 12 points in as many games, was a consistent offensive threat.

The decline of Richards, a proven playoff performer with only 1 point in 10 playoff games, attracted considerable attention, especially when he was a healthy scratch for the Rangers final two games against the Bruins.

Richards struggles has put his future with the Rangers in question, as more than a few observers believe GM Glen Sather could use his remaining compliance buyout to dump the 33-year-old and free up valuable cap space to bolster the lineup.

Head coach John Tortorella also faces a questionable future, as his abrasive style may be wearing thin with his players after five seasons.

Sather has never shied away from making bold off-season moves to improve his roster via trade or free agency. He could decide this season’s results were less the result of a shortened season and more to do with a need for a coaching change and more offensive punch.

He also has several notable free agents to re-sign or replace. Stepan, Hagelin, McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello are restricted free agents, while Clowe is their notable unrestricted free agent. With over $51 million invested in 18 players, Sather will have over $13.5 million in cap space to re-sign those players.

Retaining his RFAs alone could eat up most, if not all, of that cap space, potentially making a Richards buyout a priority if cap space cannot be free up by trade.

The Rangers made a major move last summer by acquiring Rick Nash to bolster their offense. Don’t be surprised if Sather is busy again this summer.

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7 Responses to What Next for the NY Rangers?

  1. Paul in Ohio says:

    Hmmmmmm…… So, everybody called the Nash trade a loss for the Blue Jackets. Yet, they became a better team and the Rangers – who supposedly “won” the trade – basically stayed the same. Yep. Good trade……. For Columbus.

  2. chaas says:

    I’m not a fan of it but glen sather, arguably the worst gm with tenure in the league, will peobably keep his job by firing tortorella and buying out richards.

    Tortorellas nonsense is getting old, particularly with the media. I’m sick of him for that alone. He drove off gaborik with his abrasive style. And to have overused richards the way he did all season held a lot of players back, and destroyed the power play. Neither really deserve a spot on next years roster.

  3. Vinnie says:

    I don’t know but I like Torts and feel like he puts this hard ass act on to deflect attention from struggling players onto himself. He is notorious for going after Larry Brooks which is quite alright with me. I feel like scratching Richards was a hard decision for him given their history together and his comments explaining the decision were genuine. If nothing else he seems like an honest coach that expects an honest effort and I do think there are some on that team that feel his wrath because that effort isn’t there. Sather should be going not Torts in my opinion but that likely will not happen.

    • Eric says:

      Really Torts puts on an act to cover for his players, calling out Carl Haiglin in the national press was protecting him. Torts the powerplay genius needs to go now!

  4. BCLeafsFan says:

    If Tortorella was trying to put the attention on himself and away from the players, he succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. He certainly threw a few guys under the bus. His turn now. Alain Vigneault would do a good job in New York.

  5. Dabroons says:

    Nice job of giving zero credit to the Broons, who played without THREE of their top six defensemen.

    Yes, Paul, I was one of those who said that the Rags gave up way too little to get Nash. And I was very wrong!

  6. Nick Badgio says:

    I think Torts will be fired.

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