Between the recent 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers development camp, and the start of free agency, the team’s executives have had their attention pulled in many different directions. It is unclear if they are still dealing; however, winger Kaapo Kakko has yet to agree to an offer, and an extension for forward Tyler Motte may still be in the works.
Despite the decisions that are up in the air, the Rangers inked a few contracts since the free agency window opened on July 13. Of course, the headlining move was Vincent Trocheck’s seven-year contract and replacing backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev with Jaroslav Halak.
The Rangers also said goodbye to eight additional players: Justin Braun, Greg McKegg, Kevin Rooney, Ryan Strome, Keith Kinkaid, Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp, and Patrik Nemeth. Even though they made it to the Eastern Conference Final, the series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning exposed many of the team’s weaknesses. As such, this is a perfect time for the organization to reconsider their carefully stockpiled youth.
With the lengthy list of non-returning players and the pressure to perform better this upcoming season, general manager Chris Drury and his colleagues will use the offseason to bolster the roster for 2022-23 and beyond. The Rangers surely are not as busy as other teams as they are limited by cap space, but here are some recent signings.
With their earliest draft selection this year, the Blueshirts used the 63rd-overall pick to add forward Adam Sykora to their pipeline. The 17-year-old skated most recently with HK Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga, where he played 46 games and recorded 10 goals and seven assists. He also participated in 19 playoff games, where he recorded five points – two goals and three assists.
By all accounts, Sykora comes with a lot of praise, as he is credited for his intensity, puck-handling, and shot-blocking. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed. In fact, the lack of big-bodied players is nothing new to the organization. As the sport favors speed more than ever, the Rangers were well-equipped to keep up with this trend. Most of their bigger players play on the blue line, so the addition of another smaller forward is not a concern.
Sykora’s signed a three-year entry-level contract, and he will likely spend two more seasons developing his game before he is ready to join the Rangers or land within their system. The winger will join the seemingly bottomless group of wingers within the organization and will have to continue his hard work to stand out.
The team’s subtractions impacted the Rangers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Louis Domingue will likely fill the role left open by Kinkaid’s departure. He famously claimed the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net for most of Round 1 of the series against the Rangers after starter Tristan Jarry’s late regular-season injury prevented his services, and backup Casey DeSmith suffered an injury later in Game 1.
From then on, it was the Domingue show as the Rangers struggled to find the back of the net. Of course, any Rangers fan would be delighted to tell you that the team overcame a 3-1 series deficit, Domingue, and the rest of the Penguins to advance to Round 2. Now the Rangers have him on their side and know firsthand that he can perform.
Before he was a Penguin, Domingue began his NHL career with the Arizona Coyotes during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons. After that, he played two seasons for the Tampa Bay Lightning and one season each with the New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames.
In 142 career games, Domingue has a 59-60-10 record, a 3.04 goals-against average (GAA), and a .905 save percentage (SV%). During the series against the Rangers, he posted a 3.65 GAA and a .898 SV% in six playoff games and faced 187 shots. The netminder’s contract with the Rangers is a two-year deal.
Again, it is unlikely he will see much time up with the Rangers, and the move was to replace depth. However, he proved he could hold his own, and if the Rangers’ defense core keeps improving on schedule, his workload will lighten.
The Rangers were among some notable teams in the market for center depth. So, signing Ryan Carpenter was a predictable move but an unsuspecting name. He began his career with the San Jose Sharks, signed as a free agent on Mar. 26, 2014.
The 31-year-old began the 2017-18 season with the Sharks before he was placed on waivers and nabbed by the Vegas Golden Knights in Dec. 2017. In Vegas, he played under current Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant, who extended him ample opportunity, as he finished the Golden Knights’ inaugural season with nine goals and five assists. He then assisted on five goals in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games for 19 points.
In Carpenter’s next season as a Golden Knight, he scored 18 points – five goals and 13 assists – in 68 games. After his second season in Vegas, he became a free agent and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2019. He finished the season in Calgary, where he picked up an assist. In 308 career games, Carpenter has tallied 26 goals and 43 assists for a total of 69 points. His new contract with the Rangers runs at the league-minimum rate of $750,000 for one year.
This contract is a fair “prove yourself” deal, and Carpenter and Gallant’s familiarity should help in this situation. It is no secret the Rangers struggle in the faceoff dot, and depending on how he is used, he may be able to alleviate some of their woes. His career faceoff percentage (FO%) is just below 50% but has not dropped below 43% of late. Without the largest sample size, his career average is 48.2 FO%. Gallant is known for maximizing the skillset of his roster, and New York may be a solid environment for Carpenter to succeed in his role.
Unfortunately, fans are going to have to wait to see how this new roster performs and how the new lines take shape. It was impossible to keep the departed players in New York, and every department lost someone, so it may be time to put the youth to the test while these depth additions provide support.
Rachel is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. She can be followed on Twitter @RachelNHL.