The first wave of free agency has concluded for the New York Rangers and the team has been as busy as any other over the last few weeks.
Whether it’s bringing in a new core of free agents, resigning key young players, or the NHL Draft as a whole, life has been quite busy for general manager Chris Drury as he tries to end a near 30-year championship drought in New York. The Blueshirts began this offseason without a coach, plenty of roster holes, and minimal cap space to do much about it.
Despite that, New York continues to be in on key free agents across the NHL.
So while we reach the quiet period of the league’s offseason, let’s grade out the moves Drury and the Rangers have made over the last two months.
Head Coach Hiring
Hired Peter Laviolette as head coach: B+
A lot of people were not pleased with the team bringing in Laviolette after the disaster of an ending that was his time in Washington. That being said, there weren’t a lot of top head coaches available that have the experience or success Laviolette has had over the years. In his introductory press conference, Laviolette was a shining beacon of positivity that was a big change from recent coaches. While this grade won’t be fair until games are played, this was a move that looks better by the day throughout the offseason.
Drafted Gabe Perreault in 1st Round of NHL Draft: A
It’s interesting how the Rangers were able to bolster their prospect pool following the 2023 NHL Draft. Perreault was considered to be a top player in the draft that the team would have no chance of getting and yet he fell to them with the 23rd overall pick. He’s now arguably the top prospect the Blueshirts have in their pool. All in all, New York had a very successful draft – something they desperately needed after having minimal picks both this year, and in previous seasons.
K’Andre Miller Extension: B
Zac Jones Extension: C+
Fans may not agree, but Miller’s extension needed to happen. The 23-year-old defenseman had career highs in almost every single category this season and should only be getting better. The difficulty that arises in two years when his contract is over would have paled in comparison to what would have happened if New York tried to move him.
Jones is an interesting case though. The former third-round pick hasn’t been given a fair chance to compete at the NHL level by the previous coaching staff. That being said, while his two-year extension made a lot of sense, New York’s free-agent plans following his deal only made it a little more confusing. The Rangers need to start trusting their young players and that must start this season.
We’ll get to that later though.
Free Agent Signings
Blake Wheeler Signing: B+
Nick Bonino Signing: B
Tyler Pitlick Signing: C+
Erik Gustafsson: C
Jonathan Quick Signing: C
New York agreed to 10 free agent contracts so far this offseason. Of the 10, five arguably have the best chance of making the opening day roster in October. Blake Wheeler’s contract was an excellent value for a player over 30 that still can produce at a solid level. Nick Bonino is an excellent fourth-line with plenty of value. Both of these players will make the opening day roster and both are making around the league minimum this season.
After those two signings though it gets a little confusing.
Jonathan Quick isn’t the same player he was. He has recorded a save percentage lower than 90% in three of the last five seasons. While he does come cheap, New York may have been better off bringing back Jaroslav Halak or letting Dylan Garand get a few chances with the big-league club. Tyler Pitlick should compete early on the fourth line which is fine but the Erik Gustafsson signing was questionable. The Rangers needed some competent players to pair with Braden Schneider but this signing effectively blocks those like Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson to earn more playing time.
With the minimal cap space they had this offseason, the Rangers have done a good job adding value to the team without spending lucratively. That being said, have they done enough to beat out Carolina or New Jersey in the Metropolitan division?
That will be the question that hovers around the Rangers for the next few months.