February 29, 2024

Rangers retool by adding Wheeler, hiring Laviolette as coach

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2023-24 regular season, which begins in October. 10. Today, the New York Rangers:

Season 2022-23: 47-22-13, third in the Metropolitan Division; lost in the Eastern Conference First Round

Key arrival

Blake Wheeler, F: The 36-year-old right-winger signed a one-year deal on July 1. He became an unrestricted free agent because the Winnipeg Jets bought out the final year of his five-year contract. Wheeler had 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) in 72 games with the Jets last season. … Nick BoninoA: The 35-year-old signed a one-year contract on July 1 and is expected to be the fourth-line center. Bonino had 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 59 games with the San Jose Sharks last season before they sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a three-team trade that also involved the Montreal Canadiens. He did not have a point in three games with the Penguins and missed the final 18 games of the season due to a lacerated kidney. … Jonathan QuickG: The 37-year-old, three-time Stanley Cup champion signed a one-year contract July 1 to reserve Igor Shesterkin. Quick won the Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights last season as a backup Adin Hill. He did not play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but did play in 10 games with the Golden Knights after they acquired him in a trade, going 5-2-2 with a 3.13 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 10 games (nine starts). He was also 11-13-4 with a 3.50 GAA and .876 save percentage in 31 games (27 starts) with the Los Angeles Kings. … Tyler PitlickA: The 31-year-old signed a one-year deal on July 1. Pitlick had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 61 games with the St. Louis Blues last season. … Erik Gustafsson,d: The 31-year-old signed a one-year deal on July 1. He had 42 points (seven goals, 35 assists) in 70 games with the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs last season. … Peter Laviolette, coach: The 58-year-old was hired on June 13 to replace Gerard Gallant, who mutually agreed to join the Rangers on May 6 after two seasons. Laviolette coached the Capitals for the past three seasons. He is 752-503-150 with 25 ties in 21 NHL seasons as coach of the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators and Capitals. He won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and is one of four coaches to reach the Stanley Cup Final with three teams (Philadelphia in 2010, Nashville in 2017).

Video: Can Rangers’ young players take the next step?

Key events

Patrick Kane, F: He had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 19 regular season games and six points (one goal, five assists) in seven playoff games with the Rangers after they acquired him in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28. Kane is a free agent. … Vladimir Tarasenko, F: Tarasenko had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 31 regular-season games and four points (three goals, one assist) in seven playoff games with the Rangers, who acquired him in a trade with the Blues on Feb. 9. He is a free agent. … Jaroslav Halak, G: The backup for Shesterkin was 10-9-5 last season with a 2.72 GAA, a .903 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games (24 starts). He is an unrestricted free agent. … Niko Mikola,d: Signed a three-year contract with the Florida Panthers. Mikkola had three points (one goal, two assists) in 31 regular season games and two assists in seven playoff games with the Rangers last season. They got him in the Tarasenko trade. … Mote Tyler, F: He had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 24 regular-season games and no points in seven playoff games with the Rangers after they acquired him in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 19. Motte is a free agent. … Gerard Gallant, trainer: The Rangers led back-to-back 100-point seasons, when they went a combined 99-46-19. They made the playoffs every season.

On the cusp

Zac Jones, D: A third-round pick (No. 68) by the Rangers in the 2019 NHL Draft, the 22-year-old signed a two-year contract on June 16. Jones has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 38 games with New York over the past three seasons. He had 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 54 games with Hartford of the American Hockey League last season and will compete for a spot among the Rangers’ top six goaltenders. … Will Cuylle, F: The 21-year-old played four games for Rangers last season without a point. A second-round pick (No. 60) by New York in the 2020 NHL Draft, he led Hartford with 25 goals and was second with 45 points last season. Cuylle will likely be one of the first starters recalled from the AHL if he doesn’t make the Rangers’ final roster out of training camp. … Brennan Othmann, F: The Rangers’ first-round pick (No. 16) in the 2021 NHL Draft is turning pro this season. The 20-year-old is expected to start the season in Hartford. Othmann had 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) in 56 games with Flint and Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League last season. He won the OHL championship with Peterborough, finishing third in the league in postseason scoring with 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 23 games. He also represented Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships in 2022 and 2023, winning gold both times.

What they still need

Alexis Lafreniere to sign forward. The No. 1 pick is a free agent. 1 in the 2020 NHL Draft coming off his three-year, entry-level contract. The 21-year-old set NHL career highs in games played (81), assists (23), points (39), plus-minus (plus-10) and shots on goal (135) last season. On July 1, Rangers general manager Chris Drury denied an unconfirmed report that he was talking to GMs around the NHL about trading Lafreniere and said the hope is that “he’s a Ranger for a long, long time.”

They said it

“My message to everyone is to let us go to work, let’s go to work. I think we have very good pieces in place, but for me it is the work ethic that drives teams. The message to me with the players is that we are going to start working in the training camp and we are going to take it through the season, try to prepare ourselves for the playoffs and pressure.” — Peter Laviolette trainer

Video: Will Laviolette fit well with Rangers lineup

Fantasy focus

Wheeler brings a veteran presence to the Rangers and renews his individual fantasy value by playing in a top-six role on a line with either. Mika Zibanejad or Vincent Trocheck. Wheeler should be targeted as a fantasy rebounding candidate after back-to-back 90-point seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 with the Jets. — Anna Dua

Projected line

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Blake Wheeler

Artemi Panarin Vincent Trocheck — Kako cap

Alexis Lafreniere — Philippi Ketil – Jimmy Vesey

Barclay Goodrow – Nick Bonino — Tyler Pitlick

Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

K’Andre Miller — Jacob’s oven

Zac Jones — Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Jonathan Quick

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