Jun 14, 2014, 1:53 AM EDT
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Maybe it makes sense that the New York Rangers began the 2013-14 season with a nine-game road trip, as few things came easy to this team. They fought through a lot of obstacles to make it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, yet the Los Angeles Kings finally represented a mountain they couldn’t climb.
Depending on the next steps this organization takes, this will either be a series they regret for years or one of those “learn how to lose before you learn how to win” moments.
Let’s take a look at the Rangers’ season as a whole and consider what it could mean for the future.
- Henrik Lundqvist finally made it to the championship round of a postseason as the Rangers reached their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. “King Henrik” really came through when the Rangers were on the brink of elimination, which should dispel most of the remaining notions about his inability to step up in big games. The Kings eventually ended his ridiculous run, yet he still impressed in defeat.
- New York came into the 2013-14 season with serious free agent questions to answer. Ultimately, they re-signed Lundqvist and also gave Dan Girardi a contract extension. After failing to reach a compromise with Ryan Callahan, they traded him and what became two first-round picks for Martin St. Louis, who enjoyed some big playoff moments after early struggles with his new team.
- Some might wonder if the Girardi extension will eventually haunt the Rangers. At least plenty of people on social media were hammering on the defensive-minded blueliner, to the point that there were jokes about the jokes.
- Even with the big questions answered, there are plenty of support players who need new deals. From RFAs including regular season scoring leader Mats Zuccarello and rising young forward Chris Kreider to underrated UFA blueliner Anton Stralman, GM Glen Sather has some decisions to make. (See the full list here.)
- The Rangers have to hope that Rick Nash‘s playoff luck turns around in the future. Health could certainly be a factor in an up-and-mostly-down season (he was limited to 65 regular season games), yet at 29 with a pricey deal that runs though 2017-18, there’s also the worry that his best days are behind him.
- All things considered, Alain Vigneault’s first season as the Rangers’ head coach was a success. More and more, they’re playing his style of hockey, so there are reasons for optimism. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to avoid another 20-year drought between Stanley Cup Final appearances, however.
- After not seeing ‘eye-to-eye’ with Carlyle, Reimer will compete for No. 1 gig 3
- Two down, one to go: Wings ink Tatar to three-year, $8.25M deal 10
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal 61
- Subban not eager to discuss contract talks 33
- Leafs re-sign Reimer — two years, $4.6 million 22
- Gorges still can’t explain falling out of favor in Montreal 13
- Eller, Habs agree to four-year, $14 million contract 10
- Cory Sarich hospitalized following cycling accident, expects ‘full recovery’ 7
- Stamkos shrugs off talk of LeBron-like homecoming to Toronto in 2016 31
- Avs and O’Reilly agree on two-year deal, but questions remain 45
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 (69)
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation (61)
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal (61)
- Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M (58)
- Return that toaster: Ovechkin-Kirilenko engagement broken off (54)