New York Rangers: 3 storylines to watch this season

Jean-Yves Ahern / USA Today

theScore's NHL editors take a look at three storylines to watch for each NHL team heading into the regular season.

The redemption of Rick Nash

As the highest-paid forward on the New York Rangers, Rick Nash did not pull his weight last season.

Nash recorded seven goals over the first three months en route to his first full season with fewer than 30 goals since 2006-07, when he was 22. He added a disappointing three goals and 10 points in 25 playoff games despite firing 83 shots, marking his second straight underwhelming postseason performance since joining the Rangers.

Two big factors behind the dip in Nash's performance were his ice time and his power-play production. Nash averaged 17:01 time on ice last season - the lowest average since his rookie season - and recorded only seven points with the man advantage.

Nash's job is to score goals. He has 336 in his career as he prepares to enter his 30-year-old season, putting him 17th among active players, and has scored more goals per 60 minutes at even strength than anyone else with a minimum of 1,000 minutes played over the last two seasons. With a renewed focus on the power play and a larger role within New York's offense, it will be up to the veteran to prove he's still an elite power forward.

How much does Dan Boyle have left?

The Rangers' biggest free-agent signing was veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, who is approaching 1,000 career games and stands among the active leaders in points for a defenseman.

Boyle was signed to boost New York's offensive production from the blue line. No Rangers defenseman aside from McDonagh recorded more than five goals or 24 points in 2013-14, and McDonagh accounted for 13 of the defense's 25 power-play points. Ideally, Boyle will provide a scoring threat on New York's second pairing and quarterback the second power-play unit.

But Boyle is 38 years old and showing signs of decline as he enters the twilight of his playing career. His average ice time declined by nearly five minutes over his last four seasons with the San Jose Sharks and the 36 points he recorded last season was his lowest total in a full season since 2001-02.

Boyle's power-play production remained intact in 2013-14, as half of his points were recorded with the man advantage, but his general decline elsewhere suggests he is no longer a top-pairing option. New York will need to limit its expectations and hope he can build on his 70 points in 107 playoff games once April rolls around.

Shorthanded on the penalty-kill

The departure of Benoit Pouliot in the offseason left a hole at left wing for the Rangers, but losing Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman will arguably have a larger impact, especially on the penalty-kill.

New York's penalty-killing percentage ranked third in the league last season, with both Boyle and Stralman playing important roles. Boyle led all forwards with an average of 2:04 shorthanded ice-time, while Stralman averaged 1:37 - fourth among defensemen. Replacing those minutes will not be easy.

Boyle won more shorthanded faceoffs (91) than anyone else on the team and his absence will place more responsibility on the shoulders of Derek Stepan and Dominic Moore. Kevin Klein is a prime candidate to take Stralman's place on the blue line of the second unit, but Klein doesn't drive possession like Stralman and might not be as effective in shorthanded situations.

The Rangers were a mediocre team in even-strength scoring last season, recording 1.07 goals for every one scored against them in 5-on-5 situations. It was special teams that helped New York host its first-round playoff series rather than fight for a wild-card spot, and the Rangers might be vulnerable in 2014-15 if their formerly formidable penalty-kill is compromised.

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New York Rangers: 3 storylines to watch this season
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