Did the NY Rangers do enough this summer to put the Eastern Conference on further notice?

After winning the Presidents’ Trophy and making a deep playoff run this past season, the NY Rangers still needed to make a few additions.
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Overall, the NY Rangers had a rather boring free agency throughout the first two days of July when most of the action was taking place. Sam Carrick was their only notable signing, and he was one of those lucky enough to see his team play in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Carrick appeared in just 10 games in the playoffs and finished with one point, but he averaged over three hits per game and was a strong asset in winning faceoffs, in which he snagged a 53.3 percent faceoff-win percentage. No, Carrick won’t turn many heads, but he’s a necessary player to insert on the fourth line, where he can give the Rangers more scoring chances by helping them gain puck possession. 

New York did lose a couple of notable names like Alex Wennberg and Erik Gustafsson, but the other two - Nikolas Brouillard and Mac Hollowell - are barely worth mentioning. Overall, this team would be bringing an identical group onto the ice next season if they don’t trade Jacob Trouba or Kaapo Kakko at some point. 

But even if they do, and maybe that’s the case by the time you read this, you can’t help but think the Rangers would get a respectable return, especially for Trouba. Yet, regardless of what happens with Trouba and Kakko, Blueshirts fans should be more than excited that one key asset is coming to town, and that’s Reilly Smith. 

NY Rangers didn’t need to do much to remain one of the East’s premier teams

Overall, the Rangers got an impeccable deal for Smith, sending only a conditional fifth-rounder for 2025 and a 2027 second-rounder to Pittsburgh. This isn’t bad for a player who has a Stanley Cup on his resume and can put up top or middle-six minutes, depending on where the Rangers decide to insert him. 

While Smith scored just 13 times for a Penguins team that never found its offensive prowess for long stretches, he put up 26 goals and 56 points during his final season with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2022-23. But the real story involving Smith is the way he performs in the playoffs, as he has recorded an outstanding 79 points and 26 goals in 106 postseason contests, so if you break those numbers down, you’re looking at 0.745 points per playoff game. 

We all know the Rangers needed to do something after they stalled during the latter portion of the postseason this past year, but they also didn’t need to do anything drastic. So, adding Sam Carrick was a good move, and one that will bring even more of an edge to the Blueshirts. But acquiring Smith and knowing what he can do in the playoffs sealed the deal, and the Eastern Conference’s best teams should be leery of the Rangers. 

Now, let’s answer the question proposed in the headline of this article: While teams like the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers more than positioned themselves to be among the East’s elite teams for another year, the Rangers did their share to keep pace. So yeah, they put the Eastern Conference on further notice, at least on paper, in 2024-25. 

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