As the new regime of the New York Rangers gets set for their first season in charge, there is a scent in the air that reeks from last season and a feeling of unfinished business (7:30 P.M. TNT).

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The Offseason

After a very eventful offseason for better or worse, the one thing fans agree on is that it is put up or shut up time for the Blueshirts. At the end of last season, the Rangers fired General Manager Jeff Gorton and President John Davidson. Assistant General Manager Chris Drury got promoted to both the General Manager and President.

With Drury now in charge, his first order of business was to part ways with former head coach David Quinn. It started off with a complete rebuild with personnel off the ice and the first move was to appoint Gerard Gallant as the new head coach. Gallant holds a career record of 270-215-51. On paper, he hovers around .500 but over the course of his last five seasons behind a bench, Gallant has posted a .524 winning percentage in four of the past five seasons. The 58-year-old really started to gain steam when he did a marvelous job with a below-average Florida Panthers side and then becoming the first Vegas Golden Knights head coach. In his first season with Vegas, Gallant led the Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals. Gallant is known for playing a very aggressive style of playing and get the most out of his players.

The next big piece of business for the Rangers was adding some toughness which fans tend to agree that they went a little overboard. The obvious acquisition was acquiring Ryan Reaves for a mid-round draft pick from Vegas. Reaves played under Gallant as a member of the Knights. The rights to Barclay Goodrow were acquired before the draft and the Rangers gave him a six-year contract to be in the middle-six of the lineup. Goodrow is a player that will do all the little things right and help grind down the opposing team. While he isn’t the biggest offensive threat, he was a key reason why the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to win back-to-back championships. Most notably, when he single handily kept the puck away from multiple Islanders players in an elimination game in the dying minutes.

“You can’t have all Ferraris, sometimes you need a good old-fashioned four-wheel-drive Jeep to get you through the mud and that’s what Barclay Goodrow can do for you,” said Goodrow’s ex-coach Jon Cooper.

They also signed Dryden Hunt and Jarred Tinordi from free agency to give them some more grit. But the biggest surprise of all was when the Rangers traded Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a second-round pick. Blais has some grit to him along with some skill and he had an excellent preseason. But fans were clearly not happy with this trade as Buchnevich had become a fan-favorite for his excellent two-way play and his character. The Blueshirts decided they would not be able to afford his contract in the very near future and they wanted to give their young wingers the ice time.

The problem with that is the Rangers sent down Vitali Kravtsov to the AHL and he has been given permission to seek a trade. The alarm bells are going off in Rangerstown as this is now the second top-ten draft pick the Rangers have had an issue with in terms of development and character and it starts to raise questions. Do the Blueshirts have a problem developing forward talent? Do the Rangers have a problem with drafting forwards? The one thing for sure is that Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere need to make a significant impact or fans will only question management more.

The biggest offseason question the Rangers faced was finding a second-line center which they were unable to do. It is believed they had their eyes set firmly on Jack Eichel, but Buffalo’s demands for Eichel prove to be more than the Rangers were willing to part with. The Rangers instead elected to bring back Ryan Strome and continue his excellent partnership with Artemi Panarin.

Rangers vs Capitals

So, with the new season set to kick off the much tougher New York Rangers will be looking to start the season off with a win in Washington. Part of the reason the Rangers decided they needed to get tougher was because of the way the Islanders dealt with them as the Rangers were pushing for a playoff spot, but another reason was the Tom Wilson incident when he injured Panarin who was stepping up for Buchnevich after Wilson sucker-punched him. The Rangers tried to deal with the incident the best they could after the league decided a $5,000 fine was appropriate and Brendan Smith dropped the gloves with Wilson the next game but that wasn’t the fairest of fights. Smith held his own but fighting isn’t his strength.

The smell of unfinished business reeks through the NHL and many believe that this game could get ugly very quickly. In fact, the NHL believes it will be as commissioner Gary Bettman will be in attendance. The Rangers now have guys who can deal with Wilson (or any other player) if he tries anything shady and the man who won’t hesitate is Reaves. Reaves has had collisions with Wilson including dropping him two times in eight seconds. He has let everyone know that he is “The Tom Wilson Solution.”

While new Ranger players will be looking to make an impact and gain the respect of their teammates and fans, the Blueshirts will be relying on their young wingers Lafreniere and Kakko who will feature regularly in the top-six. Both lottery picks are showing tons of promise and potential but for the Blueshirts to make the playoffs, they will need key contributions from the young wingers.

Washington will enter this game missing one of their top players in Nicklas Backstrom who is currently on the injured reserved. In addition, Alex Ovechkin was injured in the preseason and appears to be a game-time decision though he is trending upwards towards playing after participating in the morning skate.

The Capitals will turn to Vitek Vanecek for the opener instead of presumed started Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft before being traded back to Washington for a draft pick. Assuming both goaltenders are healthy, it is an interesting decision by head coach Peter Laviolette to start with a goaltender they didn’t mind losing just months ago.

With the opening of the season being a back-to-back, Gallant has chosen not to reveal his starting goaltender and we will have to wait until pregame. It is likely that Igor Shesterkin will get the first start of the season in a divisional matchup but Gallant could elect to match backup goaltenders and save Shesterkin for the home opener on Thursday night.

“Back-to-back games, you know, I mean we’re obviously very seldom ever going to play goalies back-to-back,” said Gallant. “It might happen once in a while, but we got two good goalies.”

Matt’s What to Watch

The obvious what to watch for is Tom Wilson but for today we will pick the TNT Broadcast. Wednesday Night’s game will be the first game on TNT as they begin their first-ever national contract with the NHL. It will be worth keeping an eye on the presentation they offer as opposed to what NBC previously did and what ESPN did last night. NBC clearly didn’t care much for hockey and offered a rather mundane intermission broadcast. I often found myself doing literally anything else during intermission including changing the channel and tuning back in 18 minutes later when the game would be coming back on. Will TNT offer something entertaining or different that will keep my eyes glued to the screen?

Projected Lineup