It’s been a bumpy ride. After beginning the season with an 18-4-1 record through the first 23 games, the New York Rangers have been supremely average since early December, going 12-12-2 in the 26 games since. This raises the question of what can be expected from the team going forward, and should club General Manager Chris Drury use his biggest trade chips to improve come trade deadline time?
Since the beginning of play on December 5th, the Rangers are tied with the Calgary Flames for 16th in goals for per game at 3.12. The 5-on-5 offense hasn’t been any better, ranking T-16th in the league (with Carolina) as well with 50 goals. Defensively, they post the same goals against per game, 3.12, which also sits in the middle of the pack.
In that same span, Igor Shesterkin’s save percentage is .884, which ranks 38th of the 41 goaltenders who have played at least 10 games. The club’s issues with defending the rush are well documented. Shesterkin’s high-glove weakness are beginning to become more and more evident. It has not been one single concern regarding the Blueshirts, rather a multitude of inconsistencies and syndromes that have resulted in the mediocre on-ice performance.
Yes, they are coming off a decisive 7-2 victory over the near bottom of the league Ottawa Senators.
The overall performance hasn’t been as convincing. About a month ago, I had suggested Rangers brass address the center issue at the trade deadline by doing whatever they could to acquire the upcoming unrestricted free agent Elias Lindholm in Calgary. Now I am changing that tone.
The center depth remains an issue. Mika Zibanejad has 17 points in 48 games at 5-on-5 this season.. The Rangers recently announced that Filip Chytil will be shut down for the season following his recent injury setback.
Jonny Brodzinski and Barclay Goodow are currently rolling as the 3rd and 4th line centers, respectively. They combine for 16 points in 77 total games this season.
Vincent Trocheck cannot account for the entire offense at 5-on-5 down the middle.
So Rangers brass have likely reached an impasse. Does the team try to address its issues offensively and defensively at the deadline while hoping both Shesterkin and Zibanejad (among others) can regain their form? Or would it be more responsible to hang on to their first round draft pick along with top prospects like Brennan Othmann and Gabriel Perreault?
A common trend in the league has been the teams that spend the most at the deadline have not been the ones to go deep. Club’s that are making major moves tend to be flawed and are looking for bandaids to cover the holes.
Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s not worth spending major assets to try to improve a team that has been at NHL .500 points percentage for well over a month. Should a sensible trade come along where the team can address their weakness at the center position (or right wing and left defense), then of course, pull the trigger. Young, quality players don’t become available often.
However, if they intend to make moves to acquire veteran pieces or big name pending free agents to try and mask the flaws, it would be smarter to save the quality pieces they possess.