Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.
32-36-8, 78 points (7th in the Metropolitan Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
It was understood going into this past season in the Big Apple that by the end of it, the New York Rangers would be on the outside looking in.
A sell-off during the end of the 2017-18 season pointed to a re-build that would likely take a couple of seasons to fully mature.
And thus, the on-ice product for the Rangers was much less about winning games as it was about putting some of their young guns in positions to grow.
Alexandar Georgiev, for instance, was given 30 starts between the pipes as the Rangers let Henrik Lundqvist‘s heir-apparent get well-acquainted with the No. 1 spot he will one day own.
He showed well on a poor team, with the 23-year-old posting a respectable .914 save percentage.
Others, too, were given a chance to develop. The likes of Pavel Buchnevich, 24, Tony DeAngelo, 23, Filip Chytil, 19, and Lias Andersson, 20, saw significant action.
Everything was following the simple stream that is a slow rebuilding process. Well, at least until June.
In June, the Rangers found out they’d be picking second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft after moving up four spots from the six-best odds at the draft lottery. Welcome, Kaapo Kakko.
They’d acquire the rights to Jacob Trouba (and eventually sign the blue line stalwart to a seven-year deal.)
And then July 1 came and Artemi Panarin was handed $81 million over the next seven years.
The rebuild that was rolling along at a typical methodical pace suddenly slammed into sixth gear. The Rangers now added a bona fide superstar forward, a potential superstar forward and a top-pairing defenseman to the mix.
General manager Jeff Gorton wasn’t messing around, announcing his intentions to the rest of the league with his wallet open wide.
So now, the Rangers have smashed the fast-forward button. There’s no talk anymore about another growing season. Instead, the narrative has shifted to a team that could compete for a playoff spot at minimum, especially if Lundqvist can bounce back and retain his crown as ‘King’ in one final hurrah in his storied career.
The Rangers have kept pace with the New Jersey Devils and their own aggressive summer. The Metro is quite the division — perhaps the best in hockey — and the Rangers should be right back in the mix in 2019-20.
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck