New York Rangers
Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 15
By Kostya Kennedy
Call them the Strangers. New York will begin the season with a
23-man roster that could include as many as 10 new players. The
Big Apple turnover is a dramatic, expensive effort to reshape the
team in the aftermath of Wayne Gretzky's retirement and two
straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the club's longest
drought since the mid-1970s.
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Given all that new blood, Rangers loyalists had better buckle up
for a season that could be as full of twists and turns as a New
York City cab ride. Six of the newcomers are thirtysomething
veterans who are free-agent pickups, the best among them being
5'6" All-Star right wing Theo Fleury. Feisty and dynamic, he has
scored 374 goals in his 11-year career, and his three-year, $21
million contract is a big chunk of the $67 million the Rangers
spent this summer. Fleury seems destined to win the hearts of
Manhattanites with an impishness not unlike that of established
Broadway icon Annie: He too believes the sun will come out
tomorrow. When asked if the Rangers can win the Stanley Cup this
season, Fleury says, "I don't see why not."
Whether they even qualify for the playoffs will depend largely
on how well signees such as steady defensemen Stephane Quintal
and Sylvain Lefebrve, fleet winger Valeri Kamensky (he averaged
27 goals the last four seasons), checking center Tim Taylor and
backup goalie Kirk McLean meld with the rest of the team. Coach
John Muckler will experiment with various forward combinations,
trying to assemble a solid second line to complement a top unit
that will be centered by the gifted Petr Nedved.
The scariest sight in training camp was goalie Mike Richter
lumbering around with his chronically spasmatic back packed in
ice. Richter is a top-tier netminder and one of three players
left from New York's 1993-94 Stanley Cup championship team.
(Defenseman Brian Leetch and forward Adam Graves are the
others.) Even with the off-season shopping spree the Rangers'
talent is still middling, so they will need Richter to carry
them at times.
"You hope that for the first 10 or 20 games we get the
goaltending and the defense to keep us over .500," says Leetch,
who signed a four-year, $34 million contract in May. "Then we
should get much better as the season goes on. Of course, when
you have this many new players, you never know how things will
Issue date: October 4, 1999
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings
As always, the Rangers hit the free-agent market hard, pulling in gamer Theo Fleury, Valeri Kamensky, Stephane Quintal and Sylvain Lefevbre among others.
Petr Nedved was a firecracker in his 56 games, scoring 20 goals including nine on the power play. If driven, he can power this team.
The contract issues that surrounded Brian Leetch all last season are resolved, giving him peace of mind and allowing him to concentrate on his game again.
Neil Smith traded away three promising players in G Dan Cloutier, C Marc Savard and RW Niklas Sundstrom in an effort to move up and draft Pavel Brendl and Jan Hlavac. But coach John Muckler is known to prefer players with experience.|
What kind of lifeline does Smith have?
Everybody loves Manny Malhotra's physical and mental game, but will the point production return that love?
People, Places and Things
GM: Neil Smith
Coach: John Muckler; 2nd full season (41-53-13); 10th overall (247-250-43)
Assistants: Keith Acton; John Tortorella
Captain: Brian Leetch
Last year: 33-38-11 (18th overall)
PP: 2nd (20.4%)
PK: 10th (85.7%)
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Fri., Oct. 1: Wayne Gretzky will be on hand to drop the puck as the Rangers open up in Edmonton.
Tue., Oct. 5: Home opener vs. Ottawa.
Mon., Oct. 11: The Rangers make their first of three appearances at Nassau Coliseum to play the Islanders.
7: Short-handed goals last season after setting an NHL record by scoring none in 1997-98
"In the peak of his career, I envision him as this 35-goal scorer
on the second line. He will be impeccably
responsible defensively and a leader on the ice and in the dressing
room." -- GM Neil Smith on 19-year-old Manny Malhotra