While there is no game action until the weekend, it’s a perfect time to perform a check-in on Chris Drury’s summer signings. Having a limited amount of cap space, Drury was forced to address needs rather than wants. Let’s face it, with players like Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Mika Zibanejad locked up long-term, New York will remain frugal with their spending.
At the beginning of the offseason, the top six was all but locked up. Names we all know and love would be returning after their first-round exit to the New Jersey Devils. Entering free agency, it was evident that the majority of the signings would revolve around depth. Fast forward to mid-November and the Blueshirts are 11-2-1 before a crucial matchup against their foes across the Hudson River. Here’s a closer look at each of Chris Drury’s summer signings and how they are living up to their roles.
All Aboard the Gus Bus
If there is an early favourite for the signing of the summer, Erik Gustafsson would be receiving the most votes. Fans of the Washington Capitals would agree that he was a talented, puck-moving defenceman. His move to Toronto at the Trade Deadline was a tad lacklustre, being scratched for most of their playoff fixtures.
The sixth defenceman was a crutch for a while regarding the Rangers. Ben Harpur filled that role at the beginning of last season. Then, it was occupied by Niko Mikkola when he came over with Vladimir Tarasenko from St. Louis at the deadline. When Mikkola signed with the Florida Panthers, there was a rare vacancy in New York’s defensive core.
Since his arrival, Gustafsson has performed exceptionally well, especially under the current circumstances. Filling in for the former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox is no easy task. “The Gus Bus” is rolling, even as the power play quarterback. With 10 points in 14 games, he is slowly turning into a fan favourite at Madison Square Garden.
Defensemen to have 3+ goals and 7+ assists in under 21 minutes a game this season:
— Erik Gustafsson
He's been on the ice for 18:50 a game this season pic.twitter.com/Mi7byq2Ozo
— RangersMuse (@nyrangersmuse) November 15, 2023
His offence has provided a buzz, but his ability to shut down opposing forwards is tremendous. Standing at 6′ 1″ tall, he possesses a long reach to implement stick checks in his repertoire. If there is one bold prediction for this article, do not be surprised if Gustafsson gets an extension before the end of the season.
— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) November 13, 2023
Getting Quickie With It
That historic western road trip proved that Jonathan Quick still has enough left in the tank. The Rangers organization has been blessed with goaltending. Legends like Ed Giacomin and John Davidson broke through in both the 60’s and 70’s. John Vanbiesbrouck was a hero in the 80’s. The 90’s saw the arrival of one of the greatest American-born goaltenders, Mike Richter. The King and newly named Hockey Hall of Famers Henrik Lundqvist sat on the throne in the mid 2000’s and 2010’s. This decade belongs to Igor Shesterkin, but this season is complimented by a three-time Stanley Cup Champion.
Quick’s performance against the struggling Edmonton Oilers back in October was simply remarkable. He still has a flair for the dramatics, making spectacular saves. Flashing both the pads and the leather are still in the 37-year-old’s arsenal.
Jonathan Quick has had a VINTAGE start to his season in New York 👀
🗽 .928 SAVE%
🗽 1.98 GOALS-AGAINST AVERAGE
🗽 1 SHUTOUT
🗽 141 SAVES ON 152 SHOTS pic.twitter.com/A4hoOIx0hU
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 13, 2023
So far this season, Quick is 4-0-1 with a .928 save percentage. With Shesterkin potentially returning from injury this weekend, Quick will return to his spot as the backup. Look for Quick to be an integral part of the back-to-back during American Thanksgiving Weekend. My prediction is that Quick will start on Black Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Quick is another A+ acquisition regarding Chris Drury’s summer signings.
Nick Bonino: Faceoff Mastermind
Sure, his point totals are low, but do not let Nick Bonino go unnoticed. Drury brought him in to win draws, kill penalties, and shut down the opposing bottom six lines. So far, so good from the former Stanley Cup Champion, posting an impressive 58.6% from the draw thus far.
Faceoff drills with Coach Peca. What's interesting about this is, Nick Bonino is a lefthanded shooter, messing around taking draws righthanded. pic.twitter.com/a3PawQDZne
— Colin Stephenson (@ColinSNewsday) September 23, 2023
With the injury to the budding forward Filip Chytil, Bonino’s veteran presence is much needed. He has been seen climbing Peter Laviolette’s depth chart, filling it at the 3C spot. Bonino centring Kaapo Kakko and Will Cuylle is a fun line, and it can get going anytime soon. It’s not an A+ like Quick and Gustafsson, but Bonino, ironically enough, earns a solid B grade.
The Underwhelming Signings
When he was signed this offseason, not many expected an immediate impact from Tyler Pitlick. He’s been decent as a checking forward but will likely get scratched when Chytil returns from injury. At this rate, many would rather see Brennan Othmann get his call-up, but there is no need to rush the process.
Laviolette’s first major change in his line was swapping Kakko with veteran Blake Wheeler. Both needed a change of scenery, and both are having difficulty finding offensive production. As of today, Blake Wheeler has a goal and two assists as the first-line right winger. The 1RW position needs to be targeted yesterday but will likely improve by the Trade Deadline. With New York supposedly out on former Blueshirt Patrick Kane, Drury will now have to look elsewhere. When looking at his signings as a whole, Drury has filled lineup needs but can expect some growth anytime soon.
Blake Wheeler's got his first as a New York Ranger 🚨 pic.twitter.com/KFMmzSogbJ
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 10, 2023
Main photo: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports