PHILADELPHIA — The big names are all there on the Madison Square Garden marquee: Kane, Panarin, Zibanejad, Shesterkin, Tarasenko, Fox, Kreider.
Now comes the hard part, trying to make room for Stanley.
Whether that happens for the first time since 1994 will be determined between now and the middle of June.
But on Thursday night, all of James Dolan’s most expensive spotlights will be on future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane, who is slated to make his debut against Ottawa as the 34-year-old brings his 446 regular-season goals, 52 more in the playoffs and three Stanley Cup rings to Broadway.
“It’s a great move for our hockey team, obviously,” coach Gerard Gallant said before the Rangers beat the Flyers 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko. “We get a player like Kane, he’s outstanding, he’s a great competitor, a Stanley Cup champion. He’s exactly what we needed and we’re real happy to have him.”
Gallant said he plans to deploy Kane on a line with his former Chicago teammate Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck.
The other top-six unit will feature Mika Zibanejad centering Chris Kreider and Tarasenko, acquired earlier in this trade-deadline period.
The Kid Line of Filip Chytil between Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere is next, with grinders Barclay Goodrow, Jimmy Vesey and Tyler Motte making up the fourth line.
“I think any time you add at the deadline it’s obviously a confidence boost for the guys in here that started the season, to be able to put ourselves in a spot to strengthen our team and make a push and make a run,” Zibanejad said.
“It adds a level of excitement for us. That’s how we see it and that’s how we should see it. The pressure’s going to be there no matter what.”
Kane was having the least productive season of his 16-year career, toiling for a stripped-down Blackhawks team that is in contention for the NHL’s worst record and most favorable odds for draft-lottery prize Connor Bedard.
Kane had recorded just nine goals and 26 assists through 50 games but perked up as the trade deadline approached.
He piled up seven goals and three assists in his final four games before the Blackhawks shut him down.
So now Kane is coming to town on a surge at a time when the Rangers have been struggling.
They entered Wednesday 1-3-1 in their previous five games and were dealing with an injury to Ryan Lindgren and the beginning of a three-game suspension for K’Andre Miller.
The Rangers received a jolt at the deadline last season, adding middle-six forwards Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp to top-six roles among other moves.
That team finished the season strong and went on to defeat the Penguins and Hurricanes in the playoffs and take a 2-0 lead over the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals before fizzling out. The team scored a total of five goals in the final four games, all losses.
This time, general manager Chris Drury has added premium firepower in Tarasenko and now Kane.
Comparing the two deadlines, Gallant said: “It definitely feels different but we had some great results last year with those guys. They were not superstar names but they were guys that fit into our team real well and played hard and that’s why we had the success we had last year. We didn’t win the Stanley Cup, we didn’t win the third round but we played great hockey.”
“Did we make our team better? Definitely,” he said. “It just makes our team a lot deeper, there’s no doubt. A lot of skill, a lot of talent, but you’ve got to do it on the ice.”
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