According to Mike Hume at ESPN, the Rangers have a three-year window to bring a championship back to New York for the first time since 1994, and it begins in October.
Hume states the signing of Brad Richards and the re-signing of restricted free agents like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle give the Rangers the stability needed to win a cup for the next several seasons before several key players hit the market in 2014, including Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist.
The Richards signing is the obvious reason for optimism, but Hume also states the maturation of several home-grown players, including forward Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan, as well as defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer, being a year older and thus a year more experienced. Stepan will be looked at to play a bigger role this year after his fantastic 21-goal season as a rookie last season.The Rangers are now strong down the center with Richards, Anismov and Stepan on the top three scoring lines, as well as Boyle anchoring the fourth-line. With Richards penciled in to shatter 50 points alongside Gaborik, both Anisimov and Stepan are expected to break the benchmark as well, which would give the Rangers three centers over the century mark. Last season, only nine teams in the NHL had two centers who broke 50 points.
You known what you’re going to get out of the backend with the Rangers. Since 2007-08, the Blueshirts have finished in the top-10 goals against. No one on the blue line brings much in terms of offense, but they keep pucks out of the net. The young defense, coupled with Lundqvist in net, who set career highs with a .923 save percentage and 11 shutouts, will make the Rangers one of the more difficult teams to score against this season.
Hume said the biggest obstacle for the Rangers before booking a trip down the Canyon of Heroes will be the competition they will face from their Eastern Conference foes. The Washington Capitals greatly improved by adding veteran role players as well as Tomas Vokoun in net. The Penguins should be a lot better if Sidney Crosby and Evegny Malkin can return to form after season-ending injuries last year. The Tampa Bay Lightning should be a strong team again, as well as defending champions the Boston Bruins.
Hume makes strong points without really going out on limbs like other Ranger fans do. Everything he presents is very realistic and expected this season. Richards will help the Rangers down the center as well as on the power play, both of which should help put more pucks in the net.
The defense will virtually be the same as last year, if not better with the addition of Tim Erixon and the possible return of Michael Del Zotto, and if Lundqvist can be Lundqvist, this team should be a tough matchup for anyone on any given night.
They have a great mix of scorers and gritty role players, as well as a nice blend of youth and experience. There’s no reason Rangers fans across the country should not be setting their hopes fairly high for this squad.