Is the rebuild officially over?
Two years ago, management announced it was going into a rebuilding phase, and would be getting rid of old guys to acquire young guys and draft picks and restock the prospect pool. The tear-down part of the rebuild ended when Mats Zuccarello was dealt away at the 2019 trade deadline, and the construction part of the rebuild began when GM Jeff Gorton traded for Adam Fox a couple months later. Now that they’ve traded for Fox, Jacob Trouba, and Ryan Lindgren, drafted Kaapo Kakko, signed Artemi Panarin and reached the postseason, are they on the clock to start to challenge for the Stanley Cup already?
Lundqvist, or Georgiev?
Igor Shesterkin is the new No. 1 goalie, that much is clear. But who should be No. 2? Henrik Lundqvist had the chance to move on to try and win a Stanley Cup with another team when management announced it was entering a rebuild, but he opted to stay. Now, with a year – and an $8.5 million cap hit – left on his contract, can he stay as a backup? Or is it better to buy him out and hold on to 24-year-old Russian Alexandar Georgiev for that role? Cap-wise, it’s a no-brainer, but after all Lundqvist has meant to the organization, does management owe him one more chance to win a Cup with the Blueshirts?
Fast, Tony D, Strome – who to keep?
Restricted free agent Tony DeAngelo had a career year on the ice, seemed to grow up as a personality and earned himself a huge raise. But with Fox already here, and 2018 first-rounder Nils Lundkvist maybe a year away, could DeAngelo be expendable? Unrestricted free agent Jesper Fast has won the Player’s Player award five straight years, but with a tight salary cap, how much is a checking forward with limited offensive potential, worth? RFA Ryan Strome had great chemistry with Panarin, but as the No. 2 center, is he blocking Filip Chytil from ascending to a top six role? And is it time for the 20-year-old Chytil to move up?
Is it time to choose a captain?
The captaincy has been vacant since Ryan McDonagh was traded in the great 2018 roster purge. But with Mika Zibanejad taking a step up toward elite status this season, is it time to just make him the captain, already? Or, what about Chris Kreider, who left money on the table to sign a contract extension and stay with the Rangers? As much as the young guys look up to Kreider, maybe he should be the one? Or maybe this leadership by committee thing has worked well so far and there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken?
Is K’Andre ready?
K’Andre Miller, the 6-5 defenseman out of Wisconsin, had a chance to show off what he’s got during the two-week Phase 3 training camp and what he’s got looked pretty good. The assumption all along had been that the 2018 first-round pick would spend next season – or at least, start it – in the AHL. But if he’s ready to play with the big boys, is it worth moving a couple of veterans out of the way to open up room on the roster and ice time for Miller? Fox didn’t need an apprenticeship in the minor leagues before taking on a first-pair role this season, why would Miller?