Stepan, who could battle Richards for the right to center Nash's top line, isn't the only Ranger forward who could be missing come opening night, as captain Ryan Callahan and speedster Carl Hagelin are expected to miss the first 1-to-2 months of the season after both underwent offseason shoulder surgery.
Hagelin could be an option to play the left wing on the top line and is coming off a 10-goal, 24-point season in 2013. He was one of New York's better offensive players in the postseason, recording three goals and three assists in 12 games.
Callahan, meanwhile, is the heart and soul of the Rangers and a solid two-way winger. He had 16 goals and 31 points in 45 games with New York last year, finishing fourth on the team in scoring. Callahan also led all Rangers forwards in average ice time during the regular season and playoffs.
With New York's offense expected to be short-handed at the start of the season, the club hope guys like Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider can help pick up the slack.
Brassard was acquired at last season's trade deadline in the deal that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus and he managed to turn some heads in his two months with the Rangers. The centerman played in 25 games for the Rangers in the regular season and playoffs combined and had an impressive 23 points (7G, 16A) during that stretch.
Kreider, meanwhile, is another speedy player who may have been held back by Tortorella's style. After bursting on the scene with five goals in 18 playoff games with New York in the spring of 2012, the 22-year-old had only two goals and one assists in 23 games with the Blueshirts during the 2013 regular season and spent half the season playing for the club's AHL affiliate in Hartford.
If Kreider is able to flourish under a new system, his combination of size (6- foot-3, 226 pounds) and speed could help make up for the early-season absences on the offensive side.
The Rangers didn't make any big splashes in free agency this summer, but they did add a pair of role players in veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot. Moore missed all of last season while spending time with his wife, who tragically died of cancer at the age of 32 in January.
DEFENSE - The strength of the Rangers is in its defense and goaltending, and if Vigneault can somehow manage to get the offense to contribute more while keeping things on the back end the same, New York could be the team to beat in the East.
While Vigneault is expected to tinker with the offense to find the right combinations, he shouldn't have to change much on the blue line where the Rangers have the makings of a superb top-four with the presence of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto.
McDonagh and Girardi will form the top group, with the former player taking on an offensive role while Girardi focuses primarily on his shutting down the opposition. The 24-year-old McDonagh had four goals and 15 assists in 47 games last season and was rewarded with a six-year, $28.2 million extension over the summer.
Girardi, the team leader in ice time last year, had two goals and 12 assists in 46 games.
The second pairing of Del Zotto and Staal also expects to be a reliable pairing, although, unfortunately, Staal's scary eye injury from last year could still be a factor.
Staal was hit in the right eye with a deflected puck in March and missed the rest of the regular season. He returned for one playoff game in May, but was forced to cut the comeback short due to the eye injury. However, Staal said recently his vision is "way better" now than it was back then.