The New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012, but ultimately leaned too heavily on their top 4 D, played too many games in the playoffs, and simply ran out of gas. The team MVP was easily Henrik Lundqvist, who is the most likely candidate to win the Vezina trophy. Ryan Callahan took a step forward, and is now recognized as one of the league's premier two way players. Brad Richards was effective, earning his $12M (the cap hit was only $6.6M due to the lopsided nature of his 9 year contract). Rangers fans might be disappointed that the team did not make the finals, but given expectations at the beginning of the season 2012 must be considered a success.
There were disappointments for the Rangers in an otherwise successful season. Brandon Dubinsky took a major leap backwards, falling from 54 PTS to 34 PTS after signing a generous 4 year extension last summer. He was barely noticeable in the playoffs, with just 2 assists in 9 games. There is little doubt that Rangers fans won't remember this season for Marian Gaborik's 76 regular season PTS, but rather for the extended periods in the playoffs when Gaborik disappeared. When he wasn't being benched, he was practically invisible for most of the post season. That's not what they're paying him $7.5M to do.
As they enter the summer, they'll need to resign Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, and Brandon Prust, which they should have the space to do unless they want to bring in a big ticket free agent (as the Rangers often do). This will be a good team again next season, but they must do a better job of spreading out the minutes on their blueline. Stepan and Hagelin are back at $875K, Kreider looks like he could be a star at $1.32M, while Callahan at $4.27M is looking like one of the better contracts in hockey. Girardi is a bargain at $3.3M, as is McDonagh at $1.3M. Staal at $3.97M ain't too bad either. There are good reasons for Rangers fans to maintain their optimism heading into 2013.