As of today, the 2024 Rangers offseason has not been good

Disclaimer: There’s still 3 months before the 2024-2025 NHL season begins. But if all remains the same, and the 2024 Rangers offseason ends with just Reilly Smith and Sam Carrick, it’s not hard to say it wasn’t a good offseason. Both Smith and Carrick are upgrades on Blake Wheeler and Barclay Goodrow, respectively, but the Rangers still haven’t addressed their biggest issue: The blue line.

The 2024 Rangers offseason began with hope. Barclay Goodrow was waived, signaling the front office recognized some concerns with roster construction. Goodrow had a terrible regular season before shooting 40% in the playoffs, potentially masking the on-ice issues. The good news is Chris Drury wasn’t fooled. That freed up $3.6 million, replaced by Carrick’s $1 million. A far better value and bang for your proverbial buck.

Smith will replace Wheeler and/or Kaapo Kakko as the third forward with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Saying Smith is a better offensive option than both isn’t a hard sell. But convincing many that he’s the right fit is much more challenging. This is a position the Rangers have been chasing since Drury’s first summer as GM, and while the 2024 Rangers offseason didn’t make a big splash, there’s hope Smith is a good enough fit that, coupled with a bounce back year for Zibanejad, brings balance to the top six.

2024 Rangers offseason hasn’t addressed the biggest need

The popular narrative that the 2024 Rangers offseason needed to address the winger spot that Reilly Smith now occupies. It was the most glaring need, but perhaps not the most needed roster move. Zibanejad’s offensive struggles at 5v5 cast a big shadow over what was otherwise a very strong season from the Rangers. That was the flaw we saw, but there were underlying issues beyond that line.

The playoff series against both Carolina and Florida highlighted the true 2024 Rangers offseason need: Fixing the blue line and their inability to get out of the defensive zone cleanly. Zac Jones for Erik Gustafsson is a start, but returning both Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba, which seems like a possibility, is not the way many thought this would go.

It sounds like an extension for Lindgren is going to happen, but it won’t be a long term extension. That is at least one bullet dodged, but it doesn’t address the need for more guys that can move the puck up the ice. Florida won mostly because they were able to limit their own defensive zone time by quickly and efficiently moving the puck up the ice. Of course there were other aspects like a tenacious and effective forecheck, but that quick first pass was a strength.

Notice Florida didn’t go out signing big guys who play tough. Instead they added puck movers like Nate Schmidt and Adam Boqvist to the blue line. This is a team that just won the Stanley Cup. It’s a fair argument that they already have those “mean” pieces in place, something the Rangers don’t necessarily have, but they clearly see a need to make moves for more puck movers, and not another “mean” body.

Still plenty of time

As has been the message for a while, the 2024 Rangers offseason has just begun. It’s July 9. While it doesn’t look great, and thus far it hasn’t been, the incremental movements at 2RW and 4C do matter. They move the needle, just not as much as many had hoped.

Lindgren’s arbitration filing opens a buyout window for Jacob Trouba. That’s one step in addressing the need for a puck mover. There are plenty of rumors about a Kaapo Kakko trade, which may be another piece. We simply won’t know. Remember, the Rick Nash trade didn’t happen until the end of July.

Aside: We all know that if Trouba is bought out, he’s signing with the Isles or Devils, right?

Even if everything remains status quo for the season opener, there’s still 5 months of hockey before the trade deadline. The Steve Larmer / Nick Kypreos for Darren Turcotte / James Patrick trade didn’t happen until November.

Things happen outside of June, July, February, and March. The 2024 Rangers offseason may be very underwhelming thus far, but they made necessary incremental improvements while waiting out the Trouba situation and waiting for the right moves.

Perhaps this is again rose colored glasses, at least for the regular season. This team is good enough to make the playoffs. As currently constructed, I don’t think they can beat out teams like Florida and Dallas, but that’s why they play through the season. We will see what happens.

It’s ok to be underwhelmed by the 2024 Rangers offseason, but still be optimistic about their chances. That grey area does exist.

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