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Season preview: New York Rangers

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Season preview: New York Rangers

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: New York Rangers

2014-15 record: 53-22-7, 1st in the Metropolitan

How they finished: Lost in seven games to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals

Coach: Alain Vigneault (3rd season)

Notable additions: LW Viktor Stalberg, C Jarret Stoll, RW Emerson Etem, G Antti Raanta

Notable subtractions: D Matt Hunwick, C James Sheppard, RW Martin St. Louis, LW Carl Hagelin, G Cam Talbot

RELATED: LW lock: Ovechkin missing only one thing on his resume

Schedule against the Capitals: Tue. Nov. 3 at New York, Sun. Dec. 20 at New York, Sat. Jan. 9 at New York, Sun. Jan. 17 at Washington, Fr. Mar. 4 at Washington

Outlook: The biggest question for the New York Rangers is whether or not their championship window has closed. They have been all in for the last few years and have one conference championship to show for it, but the Rangers paid a high price to stay on top of the East.

Here is the way things go in the NHL. Teams draft young talent, build a roster and when those players get old they replace them with young draft picks again. That may be difficult for the Rangers considering they haven't had a first round draft pick since 2012.

That doesn't mean the Rangers do not have any exciting prospects -- Oscar Lindberg looks ready for the NHL this season -- but it does mean that some lean years are ahead for the Blueshirts. When the decline starts, they will have no way to stop it from turning into an all-out free fall.

That inevitable decline may start as early as this year.

New York's best player is Rick Nash, who is unreliable in the playoffs and at 31, may soon become unreliable in the regular season as well.

Henrik Lundqvist is now 33 and isn't getting any younger. Last year, the Rangers had Cam Talbot who did a fantastic job stepping in for Lundqvist, but New York traded Talbot in the offseason. This year, the Rangers will have Antti Raanta as their backup, a goalie who has only 39 NHL games to his name.

Having said that, this team won the Presidents' Trophy last year for a reason. A declining Lundqvist is still better than many of the NHL's other starters. If he continues to play well, the Rangers aren't going anywhere.

Defensively this team is very deep. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will remain one of the best shutdown pairings in the NHL. Keith Yandle struggled after being traded to New York at the deadline last year, but he should be better with a training camp to adjust to his surroundings. When you have a player like Yandle on the third defensive pair, that means you've got some good players in that top four.

Mats Zuccarello is expected to be ready for training camp after a puck to the head knocked him out of the playoffs last season and Jarret Stoll may prove to be a free agent steal as red flags made it a buyers market for the veteran center.

Expectations: After winning the East in 2014 and the Presidents' Trophy in 2015, it feels like the rest of the conference is starting to catch up to the Rangers. With an aging Nash, Lundqvist and the retirement of Martin St. Louis, this New York team looks like they may have peaked.

Even if you are a fan of the Stoll pickup, he is 33 and will most likely play on the third line. He's not going to be the tipping point that leads the Rangers to a Stanley Cup.

You can't hate on this roster too much given how much success they have had the past few years. This is still (largely) the same roster that won the Presidents' Trophy last season, but with division rivals like Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus all getting better, it feels like the gap between the Rangers and the rest of the East is now gone. The Rangers don't have the prospects to reload this roster.

The decline that will see the Rangers fall to the basement is going to begin this year. It won't keep them out of the playoffs, but unless Lundqvist can carry the Rangers, their days of Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference dominance are over.

MORE CAPS: What can the Caps expect from Oshie, Williams at right wing?

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Metropolitan Division 
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Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
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Washington Capitals 8/30

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Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

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Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

Washington made a number of cuts Saturday morning to trim their roster down to 43 players

On Saturday night, they cut it down to 41 as the team announced goalies Parker Milner and Adam Morrison were assigned to AHL Hershey.

Milner and Morrison’s departure leaves Washington with four goalies on the current roster in Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.

The trade of Philipp Grubauer left the backup role in Washington a matter of some question heading into the season, but the team’s top four was never really in doubt. Saturday’s move to send Milner and Morrison to the AHL only confirms what we already knew.

With Hershey’s training camp set to start on Monday, the Bears will obviously need two goalies which explains why the move was made now. 

This will likely only be a temporary move, however, as Vanecek and Samsonov are likely to be Hershey’s goalies heading into the regular season. For now, keeping them on the Capitals roster allows them to continue practicing against better competition and will allow them the opportunity for more work in the preseason.

The Capitals still have another three preseason games left to play, the next of which will take place on Tuesday in St. Louis. 

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Capitals make another round of cuts sending several players to Hershey

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USA Today Sports

Capitals make another round of cuts sending several players to Hershey

With Hershey Bears training camp set to start on Monday, the Caps have sent a number of players to the AHL in the latest round of roster cuts. Mathias Bau, Hampus Gustafsson, Beck Malenstyn, Mason Mitchell, Brian Pinho, Kristofers Bindulis, Tobias Geisser have all been returned to Hershey. Grant Besse, who was on an AHL contract, has been returned as well. Mark Simpson has been released from his tryout agreement.

Of the players returned, there are no major surprises. The Caps only have room to add a fourth line center and possibly one or two extra forwards as well as a backup goalie and none of the players listed were in serious contention for taking one of those spots.

The moves cut Washington’s roster down to 43. The maximum roster allowed in-season is 23 players, provided the salaries fit under the $79.5 million salary cap ceiling.

The latest round of cuts still leave up for grabs the fourth line center job as Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Jayson Megna still remain on the current roster.

After playing four preseason games, the Caps have three more contests remaining before the start of the season. With plenty of prospects still on the roster, you can expect several of those players to be in the lineup for Tuesday’s game in St. Louis.

“For me, it's really important, really important for the overall direction of our organization to have our young players playing games,” head coach Todd Reirden said Friday. “We have to have them playing games. We can easily put out almost our entire roster to play [Friday’s] game, but that is not where we're at. We're about developing players within our organization, seeing where they're at, gauging the success that maybe they've already had in terms of their careers and seeing whether they're ready for this step or not.

“For the first four games you go through for sure a trial and error and you get to really gauge where your prospects are at. I've always felt strongly about that with young players and given them an opportunity to either stay or leave. It is in their hands. They're making the decisions for me.”

 

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