Rangers look to tweak roster as playoffs loom

Rangers center Tyler Motte shoots the puck against New Jersey Devils.
Rangers center Tyler Motte shoots the puck against New Jersey Devils.
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are skating into the final stretch of the season in solid playoff position, but the Blue Shirts are still trying to fine tune their top-heavy roster. 

Through 66 games, the team from Madison Square Garden is third in the Metropolitan Division at a 42-19-5 record, which puts them a single point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and 4 points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes.

With just 16 games remaining, the team will almost certainly see postseason action — but recent struggles have exposed some of the Rangers’ biggest roster flaws. 

The team relies on their star players for scoring nearly as much as any other team in the NHL, with the team’s top four point-getters accounting for 50% of the teams production this year. 

Artemi Panarin (75), Mika Zibanejad (68), Adam Fox (64), and Chris Kreider (62) have collectively scored 97 goals and recorded 172 assists for a total of 269 points, out of the Rangers team-wide 539. 

Combined with goalie Igor Shesterkin, who boasts the highest save percentage in the NHL among net-minders with more than 5 games played, the team’s top-heavy formula has worked for the Blue Shirts thus far. 

[READ ALSO: Rangers, Islanders goalies dominate the net]

Recent struggles, though, have shown the perils of lacking roster-depth, with the team dropping 4 out of their last 10 games.

The team attempted to address some of the holes in their lineups at the NHL trade deadline, with the acquisitions of Frank Vatrano from Florida Panthers, before also getting Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte in separate trades.

Still, the team’s second and third units have failed to match the team’s stat leaders, and head coach Gerard Gallant is now struggling to fit his pieces together with just over a month remaining before the playoffs. 

Copp, who has scored a goal and assisted on 4 others through his first 3 games, has been struggling to find a permanent position, saying he’s a “center who can play the wing,” and the roster has led him towards playing outside. 

“I was better on the wing than at center,” he told reporters. “So if it’s going well there’s no need to break that up.”

Motte, who came to New York from the Vancouver Canucks, also noted the struggles in finding his place in the lineup, telling reporters that the Rangers’ versatility had made it difficult to adjust to the new team. 

“You’re gonna be playing with different guys every night depending on situations and things,” Motte said. “But I feel as though if I play my game, I’m gonna be able to blend in with whoever I’m with.”

As Rangers are looking to integrate their new lineups, and to improve the play of the second and third lines, they’ll face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, before heading to Detroit for a contest against the Red Wings on Wednesday.