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Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams?

This week, CSN is taking a look at each team’s offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

RELATED: CAPITALS' 2017-18 SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Team: New York Rangers

2016-17 Results: 48-28-6 (102 points, fourth in the division). Defeated Montreal in the first round before losing to Ottawa in the second.

Notable acquisitions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Ondrej Pavelec, C David Desharnais, D Anthony DeAngelo and assistant coach Lindy Ruff.

Notable departures: F Derek Stepan, G Antti Raanta, F Oscar Lindberg, D Dan Girardi, D Kevin Klein and F Tanner Glass.

When they will play the Caps: At Washington Dec. 8, at New York Dec. 27, at New York March 26 and at Washington March 28.

MORE CAPITALS: RANKING THE CAPITALS MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

2017-18 Rangers Analysis:

Following their second-round loss to the Senators, this much had become clear about the Rangers: in order to return to contender status they needed an offseason refresh on the backend.

So GM Jeff Gorton got to work.

He signed hometown standout Kevin Shattenkirk, the top prize on the free agent market, to a team-friendly deal. He re-upped late-season addition Brendan Smith. He also bought out longtime Ranger Dan Girardi, while 32-year-old Kevin Klein retired from the NHL.

As a result, the Rangers will enter camp next month with a revamped—and improved—blue line that’ll boast Ryan McDonagh, Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Smith in the top 4.

The third pair? There’s options, including 10-year vet Marc Staal, Nick Holden and 2014 first rounder Anthony DeAngelo, acquired in the June trade that sent top line center Derek Stepan to Arizona. (The Stepan deal, which also sent valuable backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for DeAngelo and a first round pick, cleared much needed cap space, some of which was used to sign Shattenkirk.)

Up front, the Rangers’ offense (fourth best last season at 3.09 goals per game) figures to miss Stepan and his 55 points, but the group still looks awfully potent with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad shouldering the scoring load.

In all, New York returns nine of its top 10 point-getters from a year ago, while adding power play wiz Shattenkirk.

Over the past six seasons, the Rangers have advanced to the conference final three times and the Stanley Cup final once. With the renovation on defense, might this be the year Henrik Lundqvist and Co. finish the job?

2017-18 Rangers Season prediction: 

Speaking of Lundqvist, I suspect he holds the key to unlocking New York’s full potential.

He’s been the Rangers’ rock for past decade, but you can’t gloss over the fact that he’s 35 years-old, has logged some hard miles and is coming off the worst season regular season of his career, during which he posted a .910 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average. He’s also returning from a sprained knee that he suffered while backstopping Sweden to the gold medal at the World Championships in May.

In a recent interview with NHL.com, Lundqvist said he doesn’t expect the knee to give him any trouble. But he also acknowledged the need to be more consistent, saying of last season, “The highs were as high as any other year. The lows were a little too low.”

Was it a blip? Or is King Henrik slowing down? The answer, right now, is not clear.

If Lundqvist bounces back, though, I like the retooled Rangers’ chances challenging for the division title…and, perhaps, a much bigger prize, as well.

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Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz

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Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz

Despite winning a Stanley Cup less than two weeks ago, the Capitals found themselves without a head coach on Monday with the stunning news of Barry Trotz’s resignation.

At Wednesday’s breakdown day, Trotz told the media he wanted to be back in Washington. General manager Brian MacLellan said he wanted Trotz back. But both alluded to possible issues that had to be sorted out in any contract negotiations.

Obviously, those issues were not resolved.

“[Trotz’s] representative wants to take advantage of Barry’s experience and Stanley Cup win and is trying to negotiate a deal that compensates him as one of the better coaches in the league, a top four or five coach,” MacLellan said in a press conference with the media on Monday. “He’s looking for that kind of contract.”

But if you think money was the main sticking point between the two sides, that’s not the case. Money was a factor, but there was a bigger factor that held up negotiations, according to MacLellan.

“I think the five-year term is probably a sticking point,” he said. “We have a coach that's been here four years. You do another five, that's nine years. There's not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It's a long time and it's a lot of money to be committing to that, to a coach.”

Of the head coaches currently employed in the NHL, only Joel Quenneville has been the head coach of his current team, the Chicago Blackhawks, for over nine years.

Trotz’s contract included a clause that would extend his deal a further two years if the team won the Stanley Cup. While the team was comfortable with that clause and did engage in talks on renegotiating the contract after the season, they were not willing to sign him to a deal as expensive or, more critically, for as long as Trotz sought.

“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years," MacLellan said. "Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t.”

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Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory

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Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory

 Barry Trotz resigned as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced Monday, less than a week after the team's Stanley Cup championship parade. 

In part of a statement via Trotz's agent, the departing coach said:

After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

As shocking as the news may be to fans who are still celebrating the team’s first Stanley Cup championship, Trotz isn’t the first coach to not return to a team following a title.

He joins a handful of hockey coaches who have made similar moves for differing reasons, including:

— Scotty Bowman (1978-79 Montreal Canadiens)

— Bob Johnson (1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins)

— Mike Keenan (1993-94 New York Rangers)

— Scotty Bowman (2001-02 Detroit Red Wings)

But this isn’t exclusive to hockey.

Multiple coaches in other sports have also called it quits after raising their respective trophies, and here are some of the notable ones.

Most recently, Zinedine Zidane caught everyone by surprise when he resigned as Real Madrid’s manager five days after leading the team to a third straight UEFA Champions League title.

After the Chicago Bulls’ 1998 NBA championship — also Michael Jordan’s final season in the Windy City — Phil Jackson resigned and took a year off before returning to coaching.

In 1990, Bill Parcells won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants and didn’t return, while Dick Vermeil did the same thing with the then-St. Louis Rams in 1999.

Jimmy Johnson led the Dallas Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons before parting ways with the team.

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