Rangers Report Cards: Grading the Right-Wingers

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WINNIPEG, CANADA – APRIL 24: Blake Wheeler, #26 of the Winnipeg Jets, celebrates his goal during action against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of Game Four of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 24, 2023, at Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)
WINNIPEG, CANADA – APRIL 24: Blake Wheeler, #26 of the Winnipeg Jets, celebrates his goal during action against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of Game Four of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 24, 2023, at Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images) /

Surprise!

We might as well talk about Blake Wheeler and Tyler Pitlick because they’re Rangers now and will be an essential part of the team’s right side this upcoming season.

Rangers Report cards: Blake Wheeler: B

Before you say anything, yes, Wheeler might be in the “Vintage” category at 36, but don’t let that fool you. He had a solid season when he wasn’t nursing his aches and pains. The guy scored 16 goals and notched 55 points in 65 games for the Winnipeg Jets.

Oh, and Wheeler’s face-off winning percentage hit a career-high of 51.59%. It’s like he’s the ninja of puck possession! Plus, he didn’t just play any ol’ team in the playoffs. Nope, he took on the Vegas Golden Knights like a champ. He scored two goals and had six points in just five games against those eventual Stanley Cup winners.

Yes, he’s only signed for one year at $800,000, with $300,000 available in bonus money nonetheless. However, more will be expected of him.

In his prime years, Wheeler went turbo through the neutral zone. It was like watching a racecar on skates. It was “Wheels up,” and no turning back. His top speed might be gone, but his puck-handling skills are still elite. His passing game? Oh, it’s better than a gourmet pizza delivery.

And don’t even get me started on his puck protection moves. He’s got the wall in his back pocket, buying time to serve up some spicy passes. He’ll be asked to continue that in a middle-six role on Broadway.

Rangers Report Cards: Tyler Pitlick: B

ST LOUIS, MO – FEBRUARY 25: Tyler Pitlick, #9 of the St. Louis Blues, skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Enterprise Center on February 25, 2023, in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO – FEBRUARY 25: Tyler Pitlick, #9 of the St. Louis Blues, skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Enterprise Center on February 25, 2023, in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Last season, Pitlick turned a tryout contract into a sure thing.
He was like the Hercules of the fourth line, pulling off seven goals and 16 points in 61 games with the ST Louis Blues. Talk about making an entrance, right? Sure, the 31-year-old bounced around the NHL like a pinball, as this will be his eighth team(Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and ST Louis).

That said, Pitlick has that reliable defender aura every team needs. Penalty kill? Oh, he’s got it down to an art form. And when it comes to the playoffs, he’s like that secret weapon you pull out at just the right moment.
Pitlick’s not a scorer. He’s a grinder, a master of the blue-collar game. He went from league minimum($750,000) to make $787,500 this upcoming season.  With 105 points across his 386 NHL games, he’s the kind of guy who’s all about the team’s success.