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Rangers Rebuild Turns to Year Three

Are the playoffs a possibility in 2020?

The New York Rangers are getting younger and that is a good thing. The only way to rebuild their franchise is to do it from the ground-up and the Rangers are in position to continue to do so come training camp.

Coach Quinn can encourage their young defensemen to compete with each other for a starting job for next season. For too long, the Rangers players have had job-security. Brendan Smith, Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal are going to be facing competition now as the pipeline brings to training camp the hungry, young defenseman who were drafted and acquired in trades since the Rangers started their rebuild by trading Rick Nash at the end of a failed 2017-18 season. Likewise, on offense the Rangers traded Kevin Hayes for Brendan Lemieux, which did add some much-needed toughness to the team.

I had a nightmare that the Rangers’ head coach David Quinn left the Rangers and was coaching another team and my dad explained to me the Rangers and Quinn could not agree on a new contract. David Quinn is turning this team around with his no-nonsense approach to developing young players that he succeeded with in college. The results are clear. Last season, Pavel Buchnevich finally performed up to his talent level. He got the most he could out of Ryan Strome who scored 18 goals. I believe Quinn is key to the Rangers rebuild. The Rangers need to give him time to finish the job he started. 

The big target this offseason is Artemi Panarin, who amassed 87 points and helped the Columbus Blue Jackets make another playoff run, however, I see this as the wrong move. Panarin has been on some successful teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Jackets and has not experienced anything but winning hockey games. Why bring the young Russian superstar to a losing team, where he will be under a microscope if he doesn’t perform right away? Secondly, Panarin will demand superstar cash. Mathews signed a five-year contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, where he earns $11.6 million per-year. The Rangers are committed to drafting well, and have nine picks in the upcoming 2019 NHL draft. Several of the Rangers top forwards’ contracts will expire in coming years. If they get Panarin, they may have to break up their core, including Mika Zibanejad, who led the Rangers in scoring last year. Is that a smart move? That is the question the Rangers have to be asking themselves before they start pursuing Panarin. Taking on that big contract would eat up the Rangers cap and keep them from signing veterans who can help the Rangers young players this season. John Carlson and Jack Johnson are just two of several free agent defensemen available this offseason.

On Defense, The Rangers already have a young core of righthanded small defensemen, Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo and recently acquired Adam Fox. Unless Fox really impresses in training camp, he may start the season in Hartford. That may be the best scenario for Fox to develop under, because he will get to compete with another NHL hopefuls Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek.

General Manager Jeff Gorton announced yesterday the Rangers agreed to terms with defenseman Tarmo Reunanen. The 21-year-old has been compared to fellow Fin Miro Heiskanen, both players scored 30 points in a single season in the Finnish league. The Finnish defender scored 25 points for Lukko in the Finnish League. At 6’ 178-lbs he needs to get much stronger before he can play in the NHL.

K’Andre Miller is another young d-man in the pipeline, who is playing well in college and with another year under his belt, Miller should be ready before he dons the red, white and blue sweater.

The Rangers have nine draft picks in this year’s draft. They have a shot to get one of the two best players in the draft with the #2 pick which many feels will be either rising superstars like Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko. The Broadway Blueshirts need to continue to improve their young players and draft well. That is the only way to succeed in the long term.

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