Despite Heartbreak, Here’s How Rangers Can Win the Stanley Cup Next Year

The Rangers, who amassed the most points in the regular season in the NHL this year, suffered a heart breaking loss to the Florida Panthers in the East Conference finals. The Stanley Cup drought will stretch to at least to 31 years. But our Public Eye columnist thinks with a few tweaks and power free agent signing, they have the foundation for a Stanley Cup next year.

| 04 Jun 2024 | 02:46

I really believed this year. I was planning on welcoming the Stanley Cup-winning Rangers to the Canyon of Heroes to celebrate the team capturing the Stanley Cup.

But the Rangers fell short, as the Florida Panthers defeated the Blueshirts in six competitive games to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the Finals against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Rangers had won the National Hockey League’s Presidents’ Cup, symbolic of having the most points in the league during the regular season, with 114.

But the Rangers failed to muster enough offense versus the tough-checking Panthers. The Rangers had fielded a potent power play during the regular season. But the only scored one man-advantage goal in 15 tries against Florida. The team’s inept power play reminded fans how the Rangers had been an ordinary team at even strength.

Even though frustrated fans invariably feel the sky is falling when their heroes come up short in the postseason, the Rangers only need to make one move to ensure that the team will again be in Stanley Cup contention next season.

The Rangers need to sign unrestricted free against Sam Reinhart of the Florida Panthers.

Reinhart, 28, scored 57 goals during the regular season and led the NHL with 27 power-play scores. His addition would strengthen the already-strong Rangers’ power play and he would also help the team score more goals when it is skating five on five against the opposition.

Plus, by adding Reinhart, the Rangers would weaken Florida considerably, a team which jsut made it to the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season. The most efficient way for the Rangers to thwart their chief rival would be to scoop up Florida’s best offensive player.

The Rangers would need to create space under the NHL’s salary cap. This would be a challenge, but a doable one.

It might even entail parting with beloved Rangers stars in the off-season. Mika Zibanejad, 31, and Chris Kreider, 33, were huge disappointments during the Panthers’ series. Neither scored a goal after contributing mightily to the Rangers’ success during the regular season in the first two play rounds. And now that the series is over, some Rangers beat writers and fans are suggesting that the franchise would be wise to part with these two players while they still have value.

In pro sports, the watchword is to unload players one year early instead making a move of one year too late. Ranger fans would be distressed to see the likes of Kreider–the team’s longest tenured player–and Mika leave. But if their exits mean that the team could sign the younger Reinhart, the fans could live with the decision.

Plus, it seems clear that the Rangers’ 2020 No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft, winger Alexis Lafraniere, is a budding star at the ripe old age of 22. Ranger fans have been waiting somewhat impatiently for him to reach his potential. He has accomplished this feat. Look for him to make the all-star team next season.

The Rangers also need to bolster their defensive corps. Adam Fox is a highly productive player and only 26 years old. He appeared to be injured during the Florida season, limiting his explosiveness and physical play. I wouldn’t be surprised if news will leak out that Fox was hampered during the Panthers series. If so, this goes a long way to explaining his play against the Panthers as well as the team’s suddenly feeble power play.

Plus, K’Andre Miller has the potential to become a star and Braden Schneider showed that he belongs. But the team may want to shake up the defense elsewhere, even pondering dealing team captain Jacob Trouba, who had a disappointing series against the Panthers.

One area where the Rangers can happily stay pat is in goal. Igor Shesterkin is one of the best and most consistent goalies in the NHL. Jonathan Quick, his veteran backup, is steady and reliable.

And the Rangers should be happy to have Peter Laviolette returning as the head coach. Laviolette earned his players’ respect with his cam, in-control demeanor.