The New York Rangers Aren’t a True Cup Contender…Yet

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 15: The New York Rangers celebrate a goal by Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers (R) during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on January 15, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division and are one of the best teams in the NHL point wise. Despite that they still don’t feel like a real Cup contender yet. When you look at the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes they all depth that the Rangers just don’t have in their forward group or on their back end.

The top end talent in the Rangers forward and defensive group is apparent and in the playoffs the Rangers will have the edge in goaltending on anyone they faced not named Tampa Bay. As Rangers fans however, we know all too well that having an elite all-world goaltender isn’t enough to bring home the hardware. Igor Shesterkin has played at a Vezina and Hart caliber level this season, while healthy, but the Rangers can’t just rely on stellar goaltending to get them deep into the postseason.

Through previous articles I’ve pointed out names that I thought Chris Drury could go after at the trade deadline to help put this team over the top. Two of them notably being Joe Pavelski and Reilly Smith who both names have heated up on the trade radars. With Pavelski, the concept of a trade is becoming an even more attractive target as the Stars are starting their slide and the Rangers continue their ascension up the standings. Pavelski will help not only stabilize the Rangers top six but it should help bring more clarity to the Rangers bottom six which will definitely become an issue come playoff time. As we’ve seen with Tampa Bay going back to back their depth players played a vital role in the club’s championships. Smith would bring the familiarity of playing in Gerard Gallant’s system and has enjoyed his best career success under him.

The third line has become a bit of a concern because even though they can generate some quality looks it’s not as effective as some fans would have hoped before the season. Julien Gauthier has been fantastic at helping to drive the play but his lack of finishing ability is something that will come back to haunt the team as they advance in the playoffs. Filip Chytil has shown he is not the center the club needs and is much more suited for a winger role or trade piece at this point in his career. After signing a “show me” contract, it hasn’t clicked fully in his 5th season. Dryden Hunt was solid to start on the second line with Panarin and Strome but as time has moved on many can seen that Hunt isn’t suited for a top six role even though his game can compliment what Strome and Panarin bring to the table.

If the Rangers can add a top six wing at the deadline it will help to spread the clubs offense more and help stabilize the center role as both Morgan Barron and Barclay Goodrow have been large upgrades over Chytil in that spot.

There also needs to be an improvement made to the third pair. While they’ve searched most of the season thus far to find the most optimal pairing, Patrik Nemeth still leaves a lot to be desired. Braden Schneider has come in and through two games played very simple effective hockey and has largely looked to fit in comfortably so far. If Schneider is able to maintain his comfort level and avoid the big mistakes we usually see from young blueliners then he could be a huge in house addition.

It would still be optimal though for Drury to head out and find an upgrade on Nemeth to use in a third pair role with Schneider. One player Drury could target who would be a nice cheap add would be Carson Soucy from Seattle. The idea of adding another player like Jakob Chychrun to the top 4 would be the most ideal but costly. A move in that manner is likely costing you Chytil, K’Andre Miller and picks/or prospects.

While this team is very good, they’re still not a Cup contender unless Drury finds a way to tweak the top six and or make a solid third line addition. There doesn’t necessarily need to be major flashy adds unless the right deal falls into Drury’s lap. One thing for sure is that Drury needs to be active this deadline if the expectation is for the team to take a deep run this season.

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