The New York Rangers have already made some big changes since losing to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7. They fired Gerard Gallant after just two seasons and are looking for a new head coach to lead them to a Stanley Cup. However, the blame for the first-round exit is not all on the former head coach. The Rangers’ top players are also taking the blame because they did not show up in the games that they were waiting for this entire season.
The highest-paid players on the team are locked in for years to come and with No-Move Clauses in their contracts, they are the ones who decide if they are staying or going. Unless something drastic changes, the Rangers’ core players are sticking around whether the fans are happy or not. The question now is, do these players have what it takes to win it all or will they just be known as the group who couldn’t win the big one?
When talking about the Rangers’ core players, there are seven players who make up that group. They are Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and Igor Shesterkin. Out of the seven, five have NMCs in their contracts.
The only two who don’t are Fox and Shesterkin. We all know that Shesterkin is not to blame for the loss and we know that he will come back next season trying to be even better than this past season. The rest of these players are all taking some blame for their performances in the playoffs and they deserve it. They failed to show up when it mattered most and now, they have a long offseason to think about what went wrong and how can they improve for next season.
Let’s look at the two defensemen. Both Fox and Trouba are the highest paid blue liners on this team and both of them had up-and-down series. Fox was good for the most part, but his mistake that caused the first goal for the Devils in Game 7 has really turned people against him. Other than that, Fox has been what we all wanted him to be. He is the franchise defenseman the Rangers have been looking for since Brian Leetch retired. He was nominated for his second Norris Trophy and we should worry too much about his future with the Rangers.
However, Trouba is still not liked by this fanbase. Many believe that he is overpaid, which is a fair argument, and that he should be traded and the Rangers can find someone else who’s better with the money they clear from trading him. As mentioned earlier, he has a No-Move Clause so if he doesn’t want to go, he will stay in New York. Should he be making $8 million a season? No, but he does provide the physical presence that this team is lacking. And yes, they could find other players who play the same game for cheaper, but they are locked in with Trouba and the fans are going to have to deal with it.
When it comes to the forward group and the core players, that is where most of the blame is going. Particularly too Panarin and Zibanejad. They are the two highest-paid forwards and they led the team in regular season scoring. Zibanejad went from having 39 goals in the regular season to just one in the playoffs and Panarin went from 92 points to just two points in Game 1 and zero the rest of the way.
The big stars did not show up and it cost the Rangers this series. When you’re two most talented offensive players are held to just one goal combined, fans have the right to be angry. Many are looking for Panarin to be traded, but that is highly unlikely. He and Zibanejad are the core pieces of the forward group and while they did have a very disappointing post-season, they are still elite players in the NHL.. Do they have what it takes to win? That is a different question. These four core forwards are either over thirty years old or close to it. If the Rangers want to win, they need them to step up because time is running out.
Unless a major trade is made, the Rangers are locked in with these seven players. Their window to win a Stanley Cup is open until Shesterkin’s contract is up in two seasons. That is not much time to get it done, but they need to prove to the fanbase that they can get the job done and that they are worth the money that is being given. The loss is still fresh in everybody’s mind so the fans are going to be frustrated with this team. If the Rangers have any chance of winning it all, these seven players are going to be the catalyst for getting the job done.