The New York Rangers will no doubt be a different team next year between a few key departures and new free agents. Coach Alain Vigneault will preach the same strategies and game plans, but the personnel will be different. Here’s a rough projection of what New York’s lineup might look like come October.
First Line: LW Chris Kreider, C Derek Stepan, RW Rick Nash
After losing a number of players that were in the Rangers’ lineup on a nightly basis, the first line of Kreider, Stepan and Nash is the only one from last season that could still stay in tact if the three stay together. Keeping them together is what should happen because their strengths complement each other well. Kreider and Nash use their big bodies and speed to create space and Stepan is a great passer that can find them in that open space.
Second Line: LW Carl Hagelin, C Derick Brassard, RW Martin St. Louis
Hagelin and St. Louis spent some time together last season, and with Brad Richards being bought out, it gives Brassard the chance to move up a line. Brassard is good at working the puck below the goal line and combining that with St. Louis and Hagelin’s speed and creativity should equal scoring chances. The Rangers still have to sign Brassard to a new deal, but that should get done soon and these could be the two players that he ends up centering.
Third Line: LW Mats Zuccarello, C Matthew Lombardi, RW J.T. Miller
Zuccarello developed great chemistry with Brassard last season, but they may get split-up this season because of New York’s lack of depth at the center position. That leaves the newly acquired Lombardi to center “Zuc” and Miller. Miller is naturally a center, but might have to wait one more season before the blueshirts give him a chance in that position. Miller will still see the lineup, and a winger on the third line seems to be where he fits in.
Fourth Line: LW Tanner Glass, C Dominc Moore, RW Lee Stempniak
Glass and Stempniak are new faces on Broadway, and being centered by Moore seems to be the most logical choice for the fourth line. Glass can act as the fourth line enforcer and Stempniak should make decent contributions offensively. Also, Moore receiving two new line-mates won’t be a problem in terms of trying to develop chemistry. Moore is used to playing alongside new faces, as he’s played for nine different NHL teams in his career.
Defensive Pair No. 1: Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
This is no surprise. The two have been playing together for years and will continue to do so for seasons to come. There’s not much else to say, they’re unmistakably New York’s first pair.
Defensive Pair No. 2: Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
This is the most interesting pairing because Staal is strictly a defensive-minded player and Boyle is regarded as one of the more dangerous d-men on offense in the league. Both are very smart players, and shouldn’t take much time to get comfortable playing with one another.
Defensive Pairing No. 3: John Moore – Kevin Klein
Like the first pairing, these two played together last season and should again as long as the Rangers sign Moore to a new contract. It’s a very solid duo for a third pairing; they play smart and rarely make costly mistakes. They should develop even more chemistry in their first full season together and round out the Rangers’ defensive lineup.
It should go without saying that “King” Henrik Lundqvist will be the rock in goal once again, but it is important to note that backup Cam Talbot is back this season. Talbot played so well last season that there was speculation that other teams might try and trade for him, but he’s back in blue and that’s great news for Lundqvist and the Rangers.
It’s only a rough estimate and a few spots will change throughout the season. However, if New York doesn’t add any more players before the season starts, this could very well be the lineup that they begin with.