The New York Rangers went all in at the NHL trade deadline to try and position themselves for a Stanley Cup run.
It did not work out as planned, and after blowing a 2-0 series lead to the New Jersey Devils they are left trying to pick up the pieces in an offseason that is beginning far earlier than anybody expected.
It seems unlikely that any of their trade deadline rentals (Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane) will be returning to Broadway next season due to their underwhelming performances, their age and the lack of salary cap space the team will have to work with this summer.
So let's take a look at where those rentals could end up this offseason.
Today we look at some potential landing spots for Tarasenko.
During the Rangers' clear-out day he said his main priority is finding a good spot for his family with a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, so that should help narrow dome some potential candidates.
Tarasenko will turn 32 next season and is not going to be the franchise player he was during his peak in St. Louis, but he is just one year removed from a 34-goal season and reached the 50-point mark in only 69 games this season. He can still be a very effective top-six scorer and should have plenty of potential suitors in what looks to be an extremely weak class of unrestricted free agents.
Let's look at some of those options.
The Hurricanes check a lot of boxes for a team that could make a lot of sense for Tarasenko in free agency.
First, they are a definite Stanley Cup contender.
They have been one of the best teams in the league for five years now and given the makeup of their roster should continue to be for the foreseeable future. Most of their core players are in their prime years and signed to long-term deals. They are not going anywhere.
They will also have a ton of salary cap space to work with as they are projected to have more than $24 million in cap space with already 17 players under contract for next season. That not only gives them plenty of flexibility to be significant buyers this offseason, it could put them in the running for any top free agent they want. Tarasenko figures to be one of the top goal scorers available.
They will also have a need within their top-nine forwards as veterans Jordan Staal, Paul Stastny, Jesper Fast, Derek Stepan and Max Pacioretty are all projected to be unrestricted free agents this summer. Not all of them will be back, and there will be openings there.
As good as the Hurricanes have been in recent years, they have had a need for forwards with finishing ability to turn all of their puck possession dominance into actual goals, especially come playoff time. Pacioretty was supposed to help fill that void but his season was almost entirely wiped out because of injuries. He could be a buy-low candidate to return on a short-term deal, and even if he is Carolina could still use another potential finisher like Tarasenko.
Even though Tarasenko has shown signs of being in a decline, his 18 goals and 50 points would have still placed him fourth among Hurricanes forwards this season. Put him with a possession-driving, playmaking center like Sebastian Aho or Jesperi Kotkaniemi and he might be able to get back to a 30-goal level.
It would be a good match for both Tarasenko and the Hurricanes.