Rangers 2023 line projections post development camp, free agency frenzy

Rangers line projections
FILE – Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) tries to controls the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 in Toronto. A handful of teams spent the eve of free agency clearing salary cap space with big money buyouts. The Winnipeg Jets put former captain Blake Wheeler on unconditional waivers to buy out the final year of his contract. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
AP Photos

The New York Rangers have certainly had a busy start to free agency since the calendar flipped to July. 

Close to 10 players have signed on with the Blueshirts for low cap hits, allowing the team to remain flexible over the next few months. With development camp and the NHL Draft concluded, it’s time to look at what the 2023-24 Rangers will look like heading into the new season. 

Rangers Forward Lines

1st Line: Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko

A lot of people may forget but at one point last season, the Kreider-Mika-Kakko line was graded as one of the best trios in the NHL. It would make sense for New York to give Kakko a fair chance at the top line again. Kreider and Zibanejad make a lot of sense being paired up again as long as both continue to put up solid seasons. 

It should be a monster year for Kakko though. 

New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) looks to pass while pressured by Buffalo Sabres left wing Victor Olofsson (71) and center Tyson Jost during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, March 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

2nd Line: Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Blake Wheeler

The second-line right-winger spot will be hotly contested over the next few weeks. Wheeler coming in provides some needed insurance, but if the Rangers were to make cap room for someone like Vladimir Tarasenko, it could alter how the lines actually work. 

Until that time though, Wheeler should fit in well with Vincent Trocheck’s line. His 55 points last season should show that he has plenty more in the tank as well. 

3rd Line: Alexis Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Jimmy Vesey

Lafreniere is expected to get more playing time and Chytil is coming off a career year. That being said, unless Peter Laviolette feels Chris Kreider is a better fit with Vincent Trocheck, it’s likely that New York will have ⅔ of the Kid Line together again. 

Having Jimmy Vesey on a third line isn’t a bad idea either, and much more manageable than last year’s team. 

Fourth Line: Will Cuylle – Nick Bonino – Barclay Goodrow

Goodrow’s status on the roster will remain in question as long as the Rangers look to find ways to improve their roster and cap situation. That being said, the Bonino signing was a smart move while Jason Pitlick could certainly get the start heading into the new season. 

It could also be the perfect time for a top Rangers prospect like Will Cuylle to earn a roster spot. This fourth line should go through plenty of changes throughout the year. 

Rangers Defensive Pairs

1st Pair: Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox

2nd Pair: K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba

3rd Pair: Zac Jones, Braden Schneider

Not much to change here. Lindgren shouldn’t be moved over Goodrow and Zac Jones should be given every opportunity to earn a starting role on the final defensive pairing. Outside of that, the Rangers will need improved play from Miller and Trouba. Both being healthy should play an important factor in 2023. 

Ben Harpur and Erik Gustaffson should provide plenty of competition as well as reserves. This defensive unit has a lot more depth than last season. 

Rangers Goalies

Igor Shesterkin, Jonathan Quick

Igor is Igor but if the Rangers are to succeed this year, they will need Jonathan Quick to be a lot better than he has been in recent years. The former Jennings Trophy winner has posted a save percentage lower than .900% in three of the last five seasons. 

Trust in Benoit Allaire to get the job done though. 

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