The Rangers had to undergo a number of changes to their Cup run line-up, mostly out of necessity, more than an actual desire to move some pieces, although you could make the desire argument on a couple of bodies. There is a cap crunch going on at Madison Square Gardens and the changes may not be complete, just yet.
Going into the season, however, there will be a number of the key players in that playoff run returning, likely with some confidence boosts in the off-season, but with the depth being as flimsy as it is on paper at the moment, it may be difficult to carry that confidence on the shoulders of the team's bottom six, which may hurt the overall performance of the team.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Martin St. Louis||65||5.625||Ryan McDonagh||55||4.700||Henrik Lundqvist||80||8.500|
|Derek Stepan||65||3.075||Dan Boyle||35||4.500||Cameron Talbot||20||0.563|
|Rick Nash||50||7.800||Dan Girardi||30||5.500|
|Mats Zuccarello||50||3.500||Marc Staal||20||3.975|
|Chris Kreider||45||2.475||Kevin Klein||15||2.000|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||0.000|
|Kevin Hayes||35||0.900||Dylan McIlrath||10||0.703|
|J.T. Miller||25||0.894||Mike Kostka||10||0.650|
|Jesper Fast||20||0.805||Conor Allen||5||0.925|
First Round Picks
He played like the King and it got the Rangers to the playoffs and the only opening round potential on this team belongs to Henrik Lundqvist. I have the Rangers staying in the top third of the standings for the 2015 season and getting there will mean wins for the number one keeper in the Big Apple. The 32-year old keeper is now in the midst of the best hockey of his career and he'll be a good anchor for your hockey pool team, if he comes around for you.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Arguably the best player for the Rangers in the playoffs was blueliner Ryan McDonagh, as he gave a lot of people some things to look at when we go ahead and look towards the 2015 season and possibly back at it, when it comes time for the Norris Trophy voting session. McDonagh did finish with 43 points in 77 games for the Rangers last season, which was good in its own right, but his playoff performance, carrying the Rangers both offensively and defensively, may have made him into an elite player. On these merits, I believe he will have a breakout season and make that leap into being worthy of a much higher pick than the 10th round pick he was last year.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
A full season with Martin St. Louis on the wing will excite many of the Rangers forwards, as his play-making ability will be clutch, but he won't get the kind of points he had with his main trigger man in Tampa Bay. St. Louis worked well with Derek Stepan, but Stepan isn't the most natural of goal scorers, but his numbers should improve this season. Mats Zuccarello has emerged as a solid scoring option, while Rick Nash has started to see a decline in his rankings. The Rangers have some more scoring depth in Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin, both speedy wingers, both of whom could breakout at any point.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The big Summer signing for the Rangers was on the blueline, as the Sharks discarded veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, he was persuaded to sign in New York. Boyle has also seen a decline in his overall pool rankings and he is nowhere near the playmaker that he once was, but he does provide a good number two option for scoring behind McDonagh. The onus on Dan Girardi being the number two guy has now subsided and I think that will improve his game, since the opposition won't be on top of him quite as often as they would his teammates.
It was quite the debut season for back-up goalie, Cam Talbot, winning 12 games and earning 30 points in the number two spot, but it is really hard to gauge a back-up in the projections. Talbot is definitely worthy of being selected in the pool, if you're picking a goalie late, but I wouldn't get too excited to expect another 30-point campaign again.
Team To Pick From Late?
The Rangers have added a couple of names to their roster who could surprise, including the return of Matthew Lombardi and the unrestricted free agent add of Kevin Hayes. We haven't seen Lombardi in a year and we haven't seen anything of Hayes, but they could be real contributors and names that you can snag late. There are plenty of worthy candidates for your pool team and they could be available late.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The blueline still has some roster spots left open, at the time of this post, and the Rangers still have to sign John Moore to a new deal, which could be somewhat costly, given that he had a pretty good year in 2014. In total, the Rangers have four or five spots left to fill and only a shade under $5 million left to do it all in. With nearly $30 million already invested in the blueline and in the crease for the coming year, the remainder for quality depth is quite thin and this might cost the Rangers down the line.
The Rangers are free and clear to start camp without any bodies missing. Their defense of the Eastern Conference title will begin unfettered.