The Rangers Center Position
The New York Rangers have one of, if not the best, futures in the NHL. We as fans can ask the question, do the Rangers have a suitable Stanley Cup Contending center core? The Blueshirts have one of the best winger position pools in the NHL, and when they all develop they will be even better, but in today’s league centers are much more valuable than the wing position, besides a few game-changing wings.
The Rangers have some really good centers, but are they good enough to go deep in a playoff run? Mika Zibanejad is one of the best goal scorers in the league but needs to take a “next step” to compete with the best. The “next step”, will most likely come to this offseason given his progression rates and will be in the levels of guys like Sebastian Aho, Mark Scheifele, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and he may not have the same intangibles but same skill as John Tavares.
Ryan Strome has been a dream duo with Artemi Panarin, which alone is enough of a reason to keep him around. Strome is a good two-way center who is great at dishing the puck but will never be a go-to guy for the Rangers. Strome has a skillset with a ceiling of (20G 40A) and will only get to that with Panarin on his wing.
Filip Chytil is one of the brightest spots in the Rangers future. Chytil is fast with a big frame making him lethal in front of the net. Chris Krider and Filip Chytil, have a playstyle that resembles each other, but Chytil plays center giving him more value in the long run.
The last center in the pipeline is Brett Howden. Howden is a great penalty killer but will never be more than a 4th liner with the Rangers.
What Can The Rangers Do?
The Rangers have tons of assets, but they need to decide whether they hold on to their assets and most likely lose them, or how they need to facilitate them. With a fruitful prospect pool, most of their draft picks, and a good General Manager, the Rangers are ready to go after a great center solution. For the Rangers to let their prospect pool grow with no real center for the future would be highly risky. They would be much better off, trading off some of their assets for a center, or top 10 draft pick.
The Rangers can go for a true number one center, or try to do a system like Montreal where they run 3 really good lines with no real top line and rely on their top guys to do the most damage on the power-play. We most recently saw a team win like this with St’Louis back in 2019, with a roster that somewhat looks like the Rangers now and could be really close if the Rangers make the right moves this off-season.
The “3 Great Lines” Options
Philip Dannualt is a player like Zibanejad, but with Selke caliber defense but, you lose points. Zibanejad has 80+ point upside while Dannualt is more in the Strome range of 60 points, but gives you great defensive capability. That would give the Blueshirts a center core of Zibanejad, Strome, Dannualt, and Chytil. In reality, though Strome or Chytil would need to leave to make room for ice-time.
Sam Reinhart, is a player like Zibanejad but with less of an up-side in the point department, and not as good of defensive skills. Reinhart is not on Zibanejads level and never will be, he is more of a Strome-level player but Strome needs Panarin and Reinhart can produce on his own.
The “True Number One Center” Options
Jack Eichel, seems to always be talked about with Rangers fans these days, but the Rangers would need to give up a lot for that. Getting Eichel would shake up the whole roster, most likely breaking up the Strome-Panarin, duo, or, moving Zibanejad to the wing giving him even more goal-scoring chances.
Elias Pettersson is an upcoming RFA, and Vancouver, most likely will not be able to keep both Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Both those players are major NHL, award candidates and under the age of 24. Acquiring Pettersson would only require an offer sheet Vancouver could not match or they match it and leave Quinn Hughes open to be offered sheet too. Getting Pettersson would shake up the Rangers the same way getting Eichel would.
At the end of the day, only the Rangers can control the situation, and we as the fans will have to sit back and watch this off-season play out. With a new General Manager, and a bright future, only time will tell what this team will do.