Rangers News & Rumors: Robertson, Motte & Wheeler

In this latest edition of New York Rangers News & Rumors, Rangers prospect defenseman Matthew Robertson is entering a crucial year in his development, and it could impact his future with the club. In other news, the reason for Tyler Motte not returning to the Rangers has been reported. Lastly, the addition of Blake Wheeler this offseason should not be overlooked. Let’s discuss all of this in today’s Rangers News & Rumors column.

Robertson Entering Crucial Season With Rangers

In a recent article for the New York Post, Mollie Walker wrote that Robertson’s future with the Rangers “could be in jeopardy” if he does not take a major step forward in his development during the 2023-24 season (from ‘The clock is ticking on Matthew Robertson’s Rangers future,’ New York Post, 9/13/2023). Walker noted that prospects like Zac Jones and Braden Schneider have passed him on the depth chart, while Robertson still has not been able to make the jump to the NHL.

Matthew Robertson New York Rangers Draft
Matthew Robertson, New York Rangers, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Robertson, 22, is viewed as having good upside, but his development has been slower than expected. The 6-foot-3 defenseman appeared in 57 games last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, posting five goals and 23 points. His pace of production went up, but it notably did not lead to him receiving a single call-up during the season.

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It will be interesting to see if Robertson can take a major step forward in 2023-24 and rise up the Rangers’ depth chart in the process. If not, the Rangers may have a decision to make regarding his future next summer after his entry-level contract (ELC) expires.

Motte’s Asking Price Was Too High for Rangers

For much of this offseason, many wondered if Motte would return to the Rangers for the 2023-24 season. It is clear that they like the player, as they acquired him at back-to-back trade deadlines. Yet, the 28-year-old forward instead signed a cheap one-year, $800,000 contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Following this, many wondered why the Rangers did not offer him a deal. Turns out that they did not have that option before free agency began.

Tyler Motte New York Rangers
Tyler Motte, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Per the NY Post’s Larry Brooks, Motte’s asking price for much of this offseason was $2 million per season. The Rangers simply did not have the cap space to give a bottom-six forward like Motte that kind of cash. Instead, they decided to send cheap one-year contracts to Wheeler ($800,000 cap hit), Nick Bonino ($800,000 cap hit), and Tyler Pitlick ($787,500 cap hit). Thus, they were able to improve their roster with three players rather than overpaying for one.

Wheeler Could Be X-Factor for Rangers

Speaking of Wheeler, he has the potential to be an excellent addition for the Rangers. Although he was bought out by the Winnipeg Jets this offseason, he still was quite effective in 2022-23. In 72 games, the 2004 fifth-overall pick posted 16 goals to go along with 55 points. With production like that, he should be a fine addition to the Rangers’ middle six and power play.

Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Another key element about Wheeler is that he comes with a plethora of overall experience. He is also a former captain, so he has the potential to be a great mentor and leader for the Rangers. This is something that should be beneficial for the Rangers, as they have young forwards like Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko who could learn a lot from a player like Wheeler.

Landing a skilled winger like Wheeler at a very cheap cap hit is a complete steal, and it is going to be a lot of fun to see what Wheeler can do for the Rangers from here. A 20-goal and 60-point campaign certainly should be in the cards if the 15-year veteran stays healthy.

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