Don’t dismiss Rangers as NHL’s next dynasty

You know how many teams with the Stanley Cup in the 33-year stretch from 1956 through 1988? Why, that would be seven — Montreal 16; Islanders, Oilers, Maple Leafs, four apiece; Bruins and Flyers twice each; and the Flames with one. In the nine years from 1995 through 2003, four teams took the Cup — the Devils and Red Wings with three each, the Avalanche with two and the Stars with one.

In the 52 years from 1947 through 1998, there were eight repeats, two three-peats, two four-peats plus a five-peat. The NHL was the Dynasty League. And then came the hard cap that was meant to squash greatness, eliminate dynasties and turn the league’s greatest hockey league into a day camp with the philosophy that “Everyone wins!”

There has been one repeat winner since the cap was instituted in 2005-06. The Penguins went back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 and though they were not a historically great team, they pulled off a historically great feat. And they took the second one even through Kris Letang missed the playoffs. And as much of the core remains for the club that will face the Canadiens in this upcoming qualifying series, the Penguins might be known as a mini-dynasty by winning three in five years, the label that has been dangled for looks around the necks of the Blackhawks teams that won three times in six years from 2010-15.

But this league’s heritage was never about minis. It was about full-blown dynasties constructed early by teams who took advantage of the territorial draft and then later by general managers who worked the draft tables as if they were the “Cincinnati Kid’s” Lancey Howard and were able to keep their players into perpetuity.

That doesn’t happen anymore. It can’t. There is arbitration. There is free agency. And there is the hard cap that, because of the impact and projected impact of the coronavirus on league revenues — is expected to be a flat number ($83 million was the number floating around late last week) for as many as the next three to five seasons.

So squads like the Flyers (wouldn’t you like to have a 21-year-old Carter Hart in nets if plotting a dynasty), Avalanche, Oilers, Canucks, and, yes, even the sad-sack Sabres, who might be in line to make a run at a dynasty will face extensive challenges in maintaining their personnel.

But allow me to give a pop to an Original Six team whose dynasty claim goes back almost 90 decades in winning two Cups in six years in 1928 and 1933. Or two in 55 years, from 1940 to 1994. How about that. So, yes, we’re aware of the degree of difficulty attached to winning one in New York, but the Rangers appear set up to be in the conversation for years to come.

Young talent is everywhere and if Igor Shesterkin isn’t necessarily considered a young NHLer at age 24, he is the prime age to backstop a dynasty team. Rookie defense partners Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren are 21, Tony DeAngelo is 24, Jacob Trouba is 25. Mika Zibanejad, who might have held the belt as best player in the world the final month of the NHL play (24-16=40 in 25 games), is 26 and Artemi Panarin, who changed almost everything, is just 28. Chris Kreider is 28.

And of course, Kaapo Kakko is 19, Fil Chytil is 20 and Brett Howden is 21. Pavel Buchnevich is 24. And the prospects: K’Andre Miller and Vitali Kravtsov are 20 and so is Nils Lundkvist. Morgan Barron is 21. Tyler Wall is 22.

The cap is going to present challenges — e.g., how to keep Zibanejad, set to blow through the $10 million-per number when his contract expires following 2021-22 — that will be exacerbated by the effects of Covid-19.

An NHL dynasty seems far away, but maybe the Rangers have a semi-reasonable shot to pull it off.

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