How long can the Rangers stay competitive for? Longer than you think.
Every offseason a writer pens an article saying the upcoming season will be the New York Rangers’ last stand. Considering Henrik Lundqvist’s demi-god status does not include reverse aging, it’s an understandable practice.
That being said, every offseason writers have been proven wrong. That hasn’t stopped them from writing the same articles over again, nor will it stop them in the future. However, the Rangers must not be taken for granted as a team set up excellently for the present and future.
New York’s window is not closing. If anything, it’s opening wider than ever before.
The Kids Are Alright
The New York Rangers’ opening night lineup for the 2017-18 season is projected to include only four players 30 years old or older. Seven players will be between the ages of 26-29, and ten players will be 25 years old or younger.
Everyone believes the Carolina Hurricanes are a team of the future, but Carolina’s opening roster projects to have four players 30 or older, six players between 26-29 y.o., 11 players 25 y.o. or younger
Rangers aren’t far off, huh? The majority of the Rangers’ roster is entering their prime or already in it. The only players exiting their prime are Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash. Lundqvist is an all-world goaltender, while Nash has one year remaining on his contract.
New York’s forward corps consist of only four players above the age of 26 years old. Among the most important forwards, Pavel Buchnevich, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, and Mika Zibanejad are still developing. That group doesn’t include recent draft picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, a pair of players expected to reach the NHL sooner rather than later.
Between those players, you could fill a top six ready to compete in the NHL.
On defense, New York’s top pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk should be among the tops in the NHL. Brady Skjei finished third in even strength assists by any NHL defensemen, and Brendan Smith brings a sorely needed defensive defenseman brand of hockey to the game.
Though Nick Holden or Marc Staal could butcher New York’s chances, the Rangers boast Alexei Bereglazov, Sean Day, Ryan Graves, and Neal Pionk as up and coming defensemen.
Finding A New King
Of course the most concerning part of the Rangers’ future will be replacing Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is a future Hall of Famer, and expecting any new goalie to replicate his success would be foolish.
However, the Rangers are phenomenal at developing goaltenders. New York boasts a bevy of goaltending prospects led by one of the tops in the entire league, Igor Shestyorkin. Shestyorkin’s KHL numbers point towards success in the NHL, and it’s difficult not to be excited about the team’s future between the pipes.
Regardless, this season should begin the trend of no longer relying on Lundqvist to carry the team. New York’s defense is fixed for the present and future, with the present dead-weight being dropped, and the future pieces appearing stronger than ever.
The forward group consists of additional strong prospects, while the present crop remains among the deepest in the league.
Make no mistake about it, the Rangers are not going away any time soon.