Bookies Don’t Like New York Rangers Odds to Make Playoffs
They went out and signed the biggest free-agent name on the market. They added the second pick of the NHL draft, a can’t-miss blue-chip winger who should be able to play right away. They acquired an excellent, proven defenseman in a trade that was widely seen as something of a steal.
And yet, the hockey bookmakers believe the smartest bet right now regarding the New York Rangers is that they miss the playoffs in the 2019-20 season. Individual market odds for NHL teams hit the streets on Monday at 888Sport, and despite all that the Rangers did to better themselves over the summer, they are listed at -200 at “No” on the question of “to make the playoffs” or not.
The Rangers added unrestricted free agent winger Artemi Panarin on July 1, to the dismay of several other clubs, and drafted Finnish phenom Kaapo Kakko at No. 2 overall. They also traded for quality D-man Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg for marginal defender Neal Pionk and a late first-round pick.
Most points scored by #NYR players last season (including non Ranger-players)— Noah (@contributenoah) August 6, 2019
1⃣ Artemiy Panarin 🇷🇺 79 GP-28G-59A-87P
2⃣ Mika Zibanejad 🇸🇪 82-30-44-74
3⃣ Chris Kreider 🇺🇸 79-28-24-52
4⃣ Jacob Trouba 🇺🇸 82-8-42-50
5⃣ Pavel Buchnevich 🇷🇺 64-21-17-38
But the oddsmakers won’t be won over, probably, until the Rangers dispel lingering doubts about overall depth offensively and defensively, along with their goaltending situation.
Goaltending used to be the least of the Rangers’ concerns, but Henrik Lundqvist turned 37 in March and is coming off a season in which he posted the lowest saves percentage (.907) of his career.
Some hockey pundits believe Lundqvist will be rejuvenated because of the Rangers’ strong off-season moves. There is no question that the Swedish mainstay of the Blueshirts’ crease remains dedicated to his craft, but 37 was old in any era of the NHL. It’s particularly old now. Backup Alexandar Georgiev remains unproven.
The worry is that Lundqvist has just played so much hockey in his time in New York that he just doesn’t have the stamina to make it all the way through to a playoff run. The Rangers are still locked into him for two more years contractually, too, at an $8.5 million cap hit. But he still showed last year that, if he’s not elite anymore, he’s still capable.
In the first period of tonight's game, #NYR Henrik Lundqvist became the 11th goalie in @NHL history who has played at least 50,000 career minutes & only the 3rd goalie to do so with 1 franchise.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 20, 2019
Congrats, Hank! pic.twitter.com/ZlJiXo4nGB
Once you get past the names of Panarin, Kakko, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and, perhaps, Ryan Strome, it’s difficult to see where the Rangers will get consistent scoring upfront. Once you get past Trouba and Marc Staal on the back end, the rest of the top six is unproven.
Can Rangers Reverse The Doubt?
The Rangers are at +1050 to win the Metropolitan Division at 888Sport, with only the Columbus Blue Jackets (+1400) a longer shot.
Personally, I think this team will surprise the oddsmakers. Not saying people should make tentative plans for a parade down Broadway next spring, but Panarin is truly an elite player who will make everyone around him better, and Kakko has the kind of skill to potentially make him the best draft pick in Rangers history (he’s already the highest pick they’ve ever had).
One problem still though too: The Rangers only have about $1 million in cap space. They’re going to have to go with this roster, probably, all the way through the season - unless they become sellers at the deadline.
It’s a better New York Rangers team right now than it was this time last year. It’s -10,000 on that question. But are they a playoff team? There are still doubters.