Vladimir Tarasenko, Unrestricted Free Agent
The first splash the Rangers made this season was bringing in Tarasenko. New York brought in the winger, along with Niko Mikkola, in a trade with St. Louis, and Tarasenko immediately made an impact. On only his second shift as a Ranger, Tarasenko scored off a dish from his old friend Artemi Panarin.
Over his short tenure as a Ranger, Tarasenko had a huge impact. He provided New York with more offense and his shot was something that the Rangers did not have before he arrived. Tarasenko was also arguably New York’s best player in Games One and Two against the Devils.
He also provided another personality in the locker room; Rangers fans quickly fell in love with him and it was clear Tarasenko was happy to be here. If he is to come back, this has to be the primary reason.
It’s clear that the Rangers are in a cap crunch, and to get a primary scorer like Tarasenko, they will need to pay a decent amount of money. Many teams will want the Russian winger, as he slots into any team’s top six and top powerplay unit. There will be teams that give Tarasenko north of $4.5 million AAV if I had to guess.
Over the final half of the season, Tarasenko made it clear that he wants to sign for a cup-contending organization while also giving what was best for his family. He said there is not a bad word to be said about the Rangers. With all this good praise, can Chris Drury bring back Vladdy?
Prediction: This one is going to hurt. Even though Tarasenko was only here for a short amount, he felt like he was a Ranger for a few seasons. While Chris Drury and most Rangers fans would want him to stay, the current cap situation does not allow for it. Tarasenko will get a deal of $5-5.5 million annual value from another cup contender. Though a short time in New York, Vladdy will always be loved.
Patrick Kane, Unrestricted Free Agent
Kane and the Rangers were connected since the end of the 2021-2022 NHL season. With the winger reaching the end of his contract with the Blackhawks and Chicago being towards the bottom of the league, it was clear Kane was getting traded. Furthermore, he made it clear early on the Rangers were his preferred destination.
So, when Kane was finally traded for a second and fourth-round pick, not many were surprised.
But, the Showtime experiment in New York was tumultuous, to say the least.
Offensively, Kane impacted many games, and this was obvious. There were many games where he was one of New York’s best offensive players, and in his 19 games with the Blueshirts, Kane tallied five goals and seven assists.
Though, if Kane does not return, his time with the Rangers will be remembered for some of his flaws. First, as he admitted on the Rangers’ exit day, he was not 100 percent and was dealing with a hip issue that might require surgery. Second, in many crucial games, Kane looked lost and was one-dimensional. In three of the four losses against New Jersey, Kane did not tally a point, and after the series was over was a center of criticism.
What does the market look like for Kane? Though he is 34 years old, he is still a superstar and he is arguably the best American hockey player ever. If he gets surgery on his hip, he should be healthier next season. Will the Rangers make a move for him? Time will tell.
I think more Rangers fans would want Kane back than fans would admit. Though he is aging, he still provides offensive firepower and playoff experience, and while it did not pay off this year, Kane would accept another run with the Rangers.
But, would the Rangers want him back?
Prediction: The Rangers will make an offer for Kane, hoping he takes a pay cut to come back (similar to Tarasenko), but Kane will take his talents elsewhere. Some teams will pay him more for a short-term contract with a high annual value, and Kane’s Rangers tenure lasted 19 games.