Alexis Lafrenière, Blake Wheeler, Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers, New York Rangers Season Preview

New York Rangers 2023-24 Roster Predictions: Post-Free Agency

The New York Rangers were not expected to be major players during free agency and mostly signed players to one-year contracts because of their cap situation. The new additions are anticipated to play a supporting role in 2023-24 to round out a solid roster.

Here’s a look at some predictions for the opening-night lineup.

Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals
Head coach Peter Laviolette, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forwards

Line 1: Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadKaapo Kakko

Line 2: Artemi PanarinVincent TrocheckBlake Wheeler

Line 3: Alexis LafreniereFilip ChytilBarclay Goodrow

Line 4: Jimmy VeseyNick BoninoTyler Pitlick

Defense

Pairing 1: Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

Pairing 2: K’Andre MillerJacob Trouba

Pairing 3: Erik GustafssonBraden Schneider

Goaltenders

Starter: Igor Shesterkin

Backup: Jonathan Quick

Kakko and Lafreniere Can Earn More Playing Time Under Laviolette

With an opening on the right wing, Kakko has an opportunity to impress new head coach Peter Laviolette during training camp to earn a spot in the top six at the start of the season. Assuming unrestricted free agents Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane sign elsewhere, Kakko could blossom by playing consistent minutes with some of the club’s top forwards such as Zibanejad, Kreider, or Panarin.


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During the 2023 IIHF World Championship, where he played for Team Finland, Kakko commented on the expanded offensive role he received: “Over here I feel like I’m getting power-play time, more ice time than I got over there (with the Rangers). If he earns a spot in the Rangers’ top six this season, he should see minutes on the man advantage.

Related: New York Rangers 2023-24 Roster Predictions: Pre-Draft Edition

Unless Lafreniere is moved to the right-wing position, he will remain behind both Kreider and Panarin on the left side. Lafreniere, like Kakko, is another young forward with a chance to break out in Laviolette’s first year behind the bench.

After Signing Miller, the Rangers Need to Sign Lafreniere

The Rangers signed restricted free agent K’Andre Miller to a two-year deal on July 11. The club is now working on a deal with Lafreniere, which is expected to be another two-year contract, according to Mollie Walker of the New York Post (from ‘Rangers agree to two-year deal with emerging defenseman K’Andre Miller,’ New York Post, 7/11/23).

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Walker noted that the Rangers may agree to a two-year deal with Lafreniere with an average annual value between $2.5 to $2.7 million. According to PuckPedia, New York has $3,053,418 remaining in available cap space with the 21 players on the active roster.

Wheeler Represents Rangers’ Top Addition in Free Agency

Blake Wheeler was the Rangers’ top signing at the start of free agency. General manager (GM) Chris Drury commented on the addition of the former Winnipeg Jets captain, stating, “Lots to like with Blake Wheeler – his experience, his leadership, his size. He does a lot of everything for a big veteran winger that we think can move up and down our lineup.”

Wheeler is expected to compete for a spot on the top three lines during training camp. He has finished with less than 20 goals in each of the last three seasons, but he has finished with 31, 43, and 39 assists, respectively, during that span.

THW Free Agency Coverage Header

Due to the lack of cap space and with several core players signed with no movement clauses, the Rangers will enter the 2023-24 season with many returning players. Drury is hoping the club fares better with Laviolette as head coach after Gerard Gallant and the franchise agreed to part ways.

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