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
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.
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