The Wreckage

In two years as general manager of the Rangers, general manager Jeff Gorton has made significant changes to the core of the team, creating a younger, quicker lineup from the one that was largely responsible for three Eastern Conference finals appearances between 2012 and 2015 that also included a run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Though the Rangers may not be a Stanley Cup favorite any more, what's been most impressive about Gorton's wheeling and dealing is that the club remains a legit contender.

GRETZ: This might be Henrik Lundqvist's last, best shot at a Stanley Cup

In the summer of 2016, Gorton sent Derick Brassard to the Senators in order to acquire Mika Zibanejad, who is five years younger and making less money. This past offseason, the Rangers bought out the contract of veteran defenseman Dan Girardi, traded No. 1 center Derek Stepan and backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for the seventh overall draft pick (used to select talented Swedish center Lias Andersson) and 21-year-old defenseman Tony DeAngelo, signed free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and veteran goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and selected dynamic center Filip Chytil with their second first-round pick in the draft.

Despite all the changes, and some questionable depth down the middle, the Rangers have high expectations heading into the 2017-18 season. In fact, head coach Alain Vigneault already declared his club Stanley Cup contenders this season, noting that it's time for younger veterans like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei and Zibanejad take the next step and make this team their own now that several key veterans are no longer there.

MORE: Lias Andersson taking NHL journey with Rangers in stride

New York Rangers 2017-18 schedule

The Rangers are positioned for a quick start to the 2017-18 season, playing nine of their first 11 games on home ice at Madison Square Garden, including their Oct. 5 season opener against the Avalanche. Their longest homestand of the season is a six-game stretch in the season's first month, from Oct. 14-26, featuring three divisional battles against the Devils, Penguins and Islanders.

An anticipated early-season non-divisional clash arrives on Nov. 19 when the Rangers host the Senators, the team that bounced them from the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. Then in December, the Blueshirts play 11 games over the first 23 days of the month.

MORE: Stanley Cup odds for all 31 teams

New Year's Day brings the Rangers' second-ever appearance in the outdoor Winter Classic. This season's contest pits the Rangers against the Sabres at Citi Field in a game televised nationally in the United States on NBC. New York also appears on NBC for a pair of Sunday afternoon games, Jan. 14 in Pittsburgh against the Penguins and Feb. 18 against the Flyers at MSG.

The bye week is Jan. 8-12 for the Rangers, who have an intriguing late-season home and home set with the Capitals March 26 at The Garden and the March 28 down in Washington. The next week, the Rangers close out the regular season with three road divisional games against the Devils, Islanders and Flyers.

Rangers' key offseason additions

Kevin Shattenkirk (free agent), Lias Andersson (seventh overall draft pick), Ondrej Pavelec (free agent), Tony DeAngelo (trade), David Desharnais (free agent)

Rangers' key offseason departures

Derek Stepan (trade), Antti Raanta (trade), Dan Girardi (buyout), Oscar Lindberg (expansion draft), Kevin Klein (retired), Brandon Pirri (free agent), Adam Clendening (free agent)

New York Rangers projected lineup

Forwards

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller - Kevin Hayes - Jimmy Vesey

Rick Nash - Lias Andersson - Michael Grabner

Pavel Buchnevich - David Desharnais - Jesper Fast

Defense

Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Shattenkirk

Brady Skjei - Brendan Smith

Marc Staal - Nick Holden/Tony DeAngelo

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist

Ondrej Pavelec

New York Rangers best-case scenario

There is a lot to like about this Rangers team — starting with a vastly improved, much more mobile defense led by captain Ryan McDonagh, potent offensive blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk and emerging star Brady Skjei. There are also a host of question marks which could haunt the Blueshirts as they slog their way through the brutally tough Metropolitan Division this season.

It starts in goal where 35-year-old Henrik Lundqvist had far too many lapses in his game a year ago when he posted the worst numbers of his Hall of Fame career. He has already been challenged by head coach Alain Vigneault to be more consistent this season. And he won't have the reliable Antti Raanta serving as his backup this year. Ondrej Pavelec is a former No. 1 in this league, but it's been a few years since he's had a good season.

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The Rangers also have question marks at center. Derek Stepan chewed up all the important minutes five-on-five, on the power play and on the penalty kill for many years, but now Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes take on a lot more responsibility. Can they handle it? And who is the third-line center? J.T. Miller (moving from the wing)? Declining veteran David Desharnais? Camp invitee Andrew Desjardins? One of the 18-year-olds, Lias Andersson or Filip Chytil?

Despite these important issues — and, hey, every team's got 'em, right? — the Rangers will be a fun, exciting, fast-paced team to watch in 2017-18, whether they are a Stanley Cup favorite or not.


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Source : http://www.sportingnews.com/nhl/news/new-york-rangers-schedule-nhl-roster-news-fantasy-hockey-odds/1cohieh17vv1k10i4wovu39tpu

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