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Rangers will have new approach after Chris Drury’s one-year deal bonanza

Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury’s signing of the veteran free agent to a one-year contract worth less than $875,000 last offseason was a necessary step given the team’s cap situation and desire to create opportunities for a young core to improve the lineup.

But that objective may have been accomplished a little too well, as the Rangers had to call up and give on-ice playing time to nine skaters (not including goaltender Louis Domingue’s one-game cameo) who began the season in Hartford with the Wolfpack, the club’s AHL affiliate.

The Rangers needed a contract worth less than $875,000. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But with the Rangers opting out of veteran forward Barclay Goodrow’s contract by claiming him off waivers with the Sharks on Wednesday, Drury will likely free up cap space and make another move this summer.

Still, last offseason’s approach gave the Rangers a better understanding of what their prospect pool looks like.

Prospects such as Matt Rempe and Adam Edstrom were given extended playing time, with Rempe appearing in 17 regular season games and 11 playoff games while Edstrom appeared in 11 regular season games.

The two Bash Brothers-like forwards, standing at 6-foot-8 1/2 and 6-foot-7 respectively, will undoubtedly be in the mix at training camp, but Rempe in particular will be looking to prove he can be an NHL regular and isn’t the product of a sideshow of his own making.

Meanwhile, Rangers’ 2021 first-round draft pick Brennan Osman is looking to make a bigger impact after being unimpressive in his first three NHL games last season, and Brett Berard, the club’s 134th overall pick in 2020, is also looking to get into that conversation.

Matt Rempe played in 17 regular season games and 11 playoff games. Getty Images

Part of the reason the Rangers needed to take advantage of their depth this season was coincidence.

Blake Wheeler (one-year contract, $875,000 annual salary) suffered a season-ending injury in mid-February and Filip Chytil was diagnosed with a suspected concussion in the 10th game of the season, leaving the Rangers without two top-nine skaters.

Also, serious injuries to Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba have created temporary holes that need to be filled on the back end.

Rangers right winger Blake Wheeler #17 during practice Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Hartford’s defense also always seemed to have some kind of weakness, limiting the Rangers’ options for bringing back players on the blue line.

Ben Harper missed most of the season after undergoing pectoral muscle surgery, and Connor McKee was out week to week at one point with an upper-body injury.

However, the acquisitions of veteran forwards Tyler Pytlik (one year, $787,500) and Nick Bonino (one year, $800,000) did not pan out as the Rangers hoped.

Amid the team’s poor performance in January, the Rangers waived Bonino, but Bonino ultimately decided not to report to AHL Hartford after the All-Star break and filed a motion to mutually terminate his contract with the team.

Bonino is a good penalty killer, but at 36 years old, he hasn’t been able to provide what’s needed for the bottom six.

Rangers promoted Jake Lecyshyn instead, but he has only played one game this season after making 12 appearances in 2022-23.

Nick Bonino just didn’t perform as well as he needed to for the Rangers. Jason Senesu, New York Post

He still has one year remaining on a three-year contract he signed with Las Vegas worth $766,667.

Pytlik also managed just one goal and four points in 34 games before being released by the Rangers.

He reported to Hartford, and after the Wolfpack was eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs, the 32-year-old joined the Rangers’ taxi squad for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Pytlik, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent, could end up playing in Europe along with fellow UFA Nic Petan, who was acquired before the trade deadline.

Pytlik managed just one goal and four points in 34 games. Robert Sabo, NY Post

The two veterans aren’t the only members of the Wolfpack with an eye on playing overseas.

Carl Henriksson, the 58th overall pick in the 2019 draft by the Rangers, has signed a three-year contract with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League.

The 23-year-old center, who scored 23 points in 64 games in his second year with Hartford, injured his shoulder in the penultimate game of the regular season and missed the entire postseason.

Henriksson is not expected to be fit to play again until mid-November.

Additionally, goaltender Olof Lindbom, the Rangers’ second-round pick (39th overall) in 2018, opted to sign a one-year contract with the Lahti Pelicans of Finland’s Liiga with a one-year option.

Lindbom spent the majority of the 2023-24 season with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, posting 10 wins, 15 losses and three draws with a .884 save percentage and 3.56 goals against average, but was injured in the Wolfpack’s opening game of the Atlantic Division semifinals against the Hershey Bears.

The only reason Lindom played goalie was because Dylan Garland was temporarily recalled by the Rangers as a precaution after their third man, Domingue, was briefly injured during the NHL playoffs.

The Swedish goalkeeper has struggled to stay healthy for much of his professional career.

With the addition of Hugo Olas, the Rangers’ 197th overall pick in 2020, in March to an already deep goaltending corps that included Domingue, Galland and Taryn Boyko, Lindbom likely realized he no longer had a path to significant playing time.