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Rangers will assess their situation at center in the offseason

The New York Rangers are in the process of drafting their plans for the offseason, including looking to rule on the fate of players who may become unrestricted freelancers after playing significant roles in their run to the end. in the Eastern Conference Final, as well as younger players who may be ready to take on greater responsibilities on the ice.

“We are currently analyzing things in depth by taking a look at the last season,” said general manager Chris Drury on Wednesday. We’re just getting started, but for sure we’ll do everything to improve and get back into the playoffs. »

The Rangers’ season ended with a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Conference Finals on June 11 at Amalie Arena. The biggest question at the start of the offseason for them concerns who will get the No. 2 center position behind Mika Zibanejad.

Ryan Strome has played this role for the past three seasons, when he was notably paired with the left winger Artemi Panarin. The Rangers acquired Andrew Copp from the Winnipeg Jets before the 2022 NHL trade deadline on March 21, and while Copp prefers to play center, he played right wing with the Rangers. that trio.

Strome and Copp could become unrestricted free agents, like forwards Kevin Rooney, Tyler Motte, Frank Vatrano and Greg McKeggas well as the defender justin brown.

Drury hasn’t quantified the chances of those players returning, saying he doesn’t speak publicly about contract negotiations.

Strome said on Monday he would prefer to sign a new contract with Rangers. He has 195 points (71 goals, 124 assists) in 263 games, including 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) in 74 games this season, since being signed in a trade with the Oilers in Edmonton, November 16, 2018.

“Ryan is a great person and a great player,” Drury said. It is clear that he has forged a good place for himself here. We are delighted to see that he wants to be here. We hold him in high regard, both on and off the ice. »

Copp said he will speak further with Drury and coach Gerard Gallant to find out more about his long-term role, mentioning that he would like to conclude a four or five-year agreement and adding that he likes the direction Rangers have taken. He said he feels the team’s job is unfinished after the elimination at the hands of the Lightning. He had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 16 games with New York, then 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“He fit perfectly in the lineup,” Drury said. He is a very versatile player. He can play on the wing and in the centre. It’s a good thing to have in any lineup. We are thrilled with the work he has come to do with us. We will determine the way forward quite early in the offseason. »

Filip Chytil also represents a candidate for the No. 2 center position after the 22-year-old had a solid run as a third-line center between Alexis Lafreniere20 years old, and Kaapo Kakko, 21 years old. This unit made up of young players was called the “Kid Line”.

Chytil has scored seven goals in 20 playoff games after scoring eight in 67 regular season games.

“‘Fil’ has clearly taken a big step,” Drury noted. He certainly showed us how much he is capable of raising his level of play.”

Drury said the same assessment of Lafrenière, the first choice of the 2020 NHL Draft who, next season, could be transferred to the right wing in order to evolve more regularly within one of the first two lines, him who played left wing in his first two seasons. Lafrenière had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the playoffs. He totaled 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 79 regular season games.

“If he ends up right in the top-6, I think we’re going to have a good team,” Drury said.

It’s possible that Kakko, who could become a restricted free agent, will play on the right wing in the top-6 when he starts next season even though he was dropped from the roster for Game 6 of the season. series against the Lightning. Drury said he had a good chat with Kakko before he returned home to Finland on Tuesday.

“He has my full confidence and the staff have confidence in what the future holds for him,” Drury said.

Kakko said Monday that being left out of the roster will serve as his motivation.

“I want to show that I’m better than that, that I deserve to be put in the lineup, that I’m a good player,” Kakko said. I’m going to be a better player when I come back here next season. »

Rangers must also determine if there is a place for forward Vitali Kravtsov, who signed a one-year contract on Monday after playing last season in the KHL. The player who was selected ninth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft was loaned to Traktor by the Rangers after he was not retained in the NHL roster following training camp. He had 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 19 KHL games.

“I think we never stopped thinking he’s a top player,” Drury said. We are delighted to have him back and be part of the group. »

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