The New York Rangers are 13 games over .500 and sit in third place in the Metro division. While disappointing at times, the overall skill of the team has shown out when it matters most and has placed them within striking distance of a championship.
New York isn’t perfect though. The team has struggled on the powerplay at times, they’ve had lapses in concentration and don’t have a lot of cap space for the young core that is blossoming at the right time.
So while the Rangers are on their week-long break into All-Star Weekend, let’s look at the five main questions surrounding the team.
1. Who fits in at right-wing for the Rangers’ top line?
Whether it’s Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow, or Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers have a major need at right-wing for the top line. Vesey and Goodrow have been serviceable at times, but they aren’t first-line players.
Whether it’s a trade for Patrick Kane or another top liner, the Rangers need to solve their top six woes. They can’t keep mixing and matching with the current roster because we’ve seen that trio was not good enough when the Bostons or New Jerseys of the league square up.
New York needs to find an answer there.
2. Is the kid line staying together for good?
Speaking of Kaapo Kakko. He and the “Kid Line” trio have been phenomenal together all season. There is no excuse or reason for the Rangers to move away from their most productive line of the year. Chytil, Lafreniere, and Kakko will have contract issues heading into the offseason, but as the Rangers continue to push for a championship, they need to keep this trio together.
3. How far can Ben Harpur and Braden Schneider work as the third defensive pairing?
Ben Harpur has been a pleasant surprise for New York this season. Pairing with Braden Schneider, Harpur has been quiet since coming to the team in December and that’s exactly what you want from a third-line defender.
Harpur isn’t going to put up offensive production, but what he does on the defensive end has helped the Rangers go 9-2-2 in the month of January. The further these two go together without major issues, the better the Rangers will be and the less they have to spend at the trade deadline.
4. Is a big trade even needed at the deadline?
New York has been drawn to names like Patrick Kane, Timo Meier, and Vladimir Tarasenko throughout the last month before the trade deadline. All three forwards would be upgrades at the right wing in the top line and could propel the Rangers shoot past Jersey and even Carolina.
But is a trade necessary? The Blueshirts are 13 games over .500 and beginning to play their best hockey over the last month.
This team could use an extra scorer to put them over the top though that would separate them from the rest of the Eastern Conference.
5. Can New York’s offense keep up with Jersey and Carolina?
If the Rangers stay pact at the deadline, is this team good enough to beat Carolina and New Jersey to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals? That is the question that will ultimately decide what the Rangers do at the deadline, but also for the rest of the season.
New York has beaten Carolina already this year but has lost two of three to the Devils to this point. How the remainder of the season looks for the Blueshirts both pre and post deadline will determine how strong they look heading into the playoffs.