In this latest edition of New York Rangers News & Rumors, Rangers general manager (GM) Chris Drury discussed the club’s potential lineup plans with Alexis Lafrenière and Brennan Othmann this season. In other news, Drury talked about the club’s plans for professional tryout (PTO) contracts for training camp. Lastly, what can we expect from free-agent addition Erik Gustafsson this season? Let’s discuss all of this and more in today’s Rangers News & Rumors column.
Lafrenière & Othmann Options for Right Wing
While speaking with reporters, Drury brought up the likelihood of both Lafrenière and Othmann taking reps at right wing during training camp and the preseason. Here’s what the former Rangers captain and current GM had to say on the matter:
“I’m anticipating they’ll (Lafrenière and Othmann) get every chance to play on the right and show what they can do. I’m sure that can make for some exciting games and practices to watch in camp.”Chris Drury – (from ‘Rangers GM Chris Drury’s press conference: Five takeaways, including plans for Alexis Lafrenière,’ The Athletic, 9/14/2023)
With the Rangers having strong depth at left wing, playing on the right would give Lafrenière the opportunity to play consistent top-six minutes. This would be excellent for the 2020 first-overall pick, as he has yet to break out into a star while playing on the team’s third line. If he finds comfort playing on the right side, this could be beneficial for both the player and the team.
As for Othmann, adapting to the right wing could open the door for the Rangers’ top prospect to make the NHL roster for opening night. It is clear that the Rangers’ left wing depth is quite strong, but a switch to the right side would help his odds of playing in their bottom six.
Drury Confirms No Rangers PTOs Yet, Happy With Group
Across the NHL, we have seen an array of teams sign players to PTOs for training camp. The Arizona Coyotes are the most notable, as they currently have 11 players trying out for them. Yet, the Rangers have been noticeably quiet on that front, and Drury confirmed to reporters that he wants to see what the Rangers players who are currently signed can do.
Wanted to give the players we signed and the people we have a real good look at camp without having to showcase tryout." (2/2)— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) September 14, 2023
Things can of course change on this front before the end of training camp, as there’s never any true harm in signing a player to a PTO. When noting that last year’s Rangers PTO Jimmy Vesey was a great success, it could be enough for Drury to take another chance on a player. This is especially so if early injuries arise at camp.
Gustafsson Low-Risk, High-Reward Addition for Rangers
After posting a 42-point campaign in 70 games split between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs last season, Gustafsson signed a one-year, $825,000 contract with the Rangers this summer. Adding a player who produced that well from the point at such a cheap cap hit is a real win for the Rangers, and it will be fun to see if he can replicate it in 2022-23.
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Gustafsson’s defensive game has gotten criticism over the years, but as he displayed last season, his offense has the potential to make up for it. With the Rangers, he is expected to play bottom-pairing minutes, likely alongside Braden Schneider. However, due to his offense-first nature, he is surely going to see time on their power play. This is where he should be most effective.
Alas, at the end of the day, Gustafsson is a classic case of a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Rangers. If he carries over his offensive success from last season to 2022-23, he will be quite impactful for the club. Yet, if things don’t work out well and he becomes a depth player for them, his $825,000 cap hit would still be quite digestible.