The Rangers are busy today, cleaning up a bunch of loose ends. RFA Tommy Hughes has been re-signed, terms undisclosed (side note: It’s 2016, just release the terms). Hughes was one of the few Hartford RFAs to receive a qualifying offer, and his inclusion in this was a surprise to a few people, given his relatively meager production over the life of his ELC.
The 24-year-old undrafted defenseman (righty) has spent the last three seasons in Hartford, with his best season being last year. He’s not a guy that will light the lamp often, and is relied on more as a prototypical defensive defenseman.
Hughes will likely spend another full year in Hartford. It’s unlikely he sees much, if any, NHL time.
The Rangers have signed UFA forward Josh Jooris (terms undisclosed), who was with the Calgary Flames the past two years. Over 119 games with Calgary, Jooris put up 16-21-37 as a bottom-six forward. The 26-year-old, right-handed forward will likely serve as a depth forward. It’s worth noting that Jooris hasn’t spent significant time in the AHL over the past two seasons.
Jooris is a curious signing, as the Rangers appear to be loading up on bottom-six guys. With Nathan Gerbe, Michael Grabner, and now Jooris in the mix, it appears the Rangers are preparing for life without Oscar Lindberg in the short term, and perhaps looking for cheaper solutions to the fourth line and Tanner Glass’ relative ineffectiveness.
It’ll be interesting to see where Jooris slots in. It doesn’t look like he’s AHL bound. Perhaps he’s the 13F. But with Gerbe, Jooris, Grabner, and Glass in the mix, it doesn’t look like Nicklas Jensen or Marek Hrivik will get serious looks this Fall. Jooris is highly regarded by stats folks as one of the best defensive forwards in the game. This sounds like a solid signing.
The Rangers have locked up their second RFA, agreeing to terms with defenseman Dylan McIlrath on a one-year deal. The deal will pay him $800,000, per Tim Wharnsby. The big defenseman is a constant topic of conversation and point of contention for many folks for reasons well beyond his control. From the questionable selection at tenth overall to questionable usage, McIlrath has stayed professional through it all.
In 34 games last season McIlrath put up 2-2-4, but showed a steadiness and calm nature on the ice that was a bit unexpected for many people. He was a pleasant surprise in that small sample, and he certainly earned more ice time that he didn’t get last season. Whether you agree he’s a future mainstay or not, he certainly deserved more ice time.
It’s uncertain what McIlrath’s role will be this coming year. He’s one of three RHD’s on the roster, and while Alain Vigneault loves his equal LHD/RHD lineups, the acquisition of Nick Holden and the assumed promotion of Brady Skjei make for an unclear blue line at this stage in the offseason. It’s likely he resumes his role as the team’s 7D, unless more changes are made. But he must play 42 games, or else he becomes a UFA next season.
The Rangers have re-signed their first major RFA, coming to terms with J.T. Miller on a two-year bridge deal. The 23-year-old winger will get $2.5 million next season and $2.75 million in 2017-2018, for a total cap hit of $2.65 million over the life of the deal.
I’m not the biggest fan of bridge deals for someone like Miller, since it paints the Rangers into a corner when it comes to buying out UFA years, like it did with Carl Hagelin. However you can’t be upset with the “right now” value. Miller comes in as a bargain given his production.
Miller will look to improve upon his first full year in the NHL, where he put up 22-21-43 in 82 games. He bounced between the second and third lines last season, but it is likely he has found his spot in the top-six going forward.
They say it takes five years to really judge a draft class in hockey. Very few players come in and play in the NHL immediately following their draft year. Heck, it’s usually two or three years before a draft pick even turns pro. Factor in another year or two in the minors, and you have a four or five year waiting period before some rookies even get a chance to play regularly in The Show.
If a team gets one NHL regular in a draft, it’s considered a successful draft. If they can land a second player, it’s a big win. For the Rangers, 2011 was the final time they would draft in the top-fifteen through today. They took J.T. Miller with that first round pick, their one consistent NHL player. The rest of the draft features Steven Fogarty, who just turned pro, and four mid-to-late round picks.
Heading into the offseason, the Rangers were rumored to be heavily invested in a roster shake up, one that saw them fielding offers on everyone on the roster except for Henrik Lundqvist. They were rumored to be going after the fourth overall pick (Edmonton) and/or the 15th overall pick (Minnesota) in an attempt to re-stock the farm system.
Instead, we are left with two bargain bin free agent signings in Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe, and one minor trade for Nick Holden. The club has the exact same blue line, just with Holden/Brady Skjei replacing Keith Yandle/Dan Boyle. Grabner and Gerbe replace Viktor Stalberg and Dominic Moore.
So what happened?
One of the biggest questions looming over the offseason for the Rangers is how they will manage their RFAs. They have four players potentially headed to arbitration, the most important piece being Chris Kreider. Kreider’s combination of skill, size, and speed is difficult for opposing teams to match up against, making him priority number one for the Rangers. Initial guestimates had Kreider coming in on a multi-year extension worth $5 million per season. Steep price to pay for Kreider, but that’s the market value nowadays.
Enter Kyle Palmieri of the Devils, who this week inked an extension to stay in New Jersey for five years at a $4.65 million cap hit. The contract includes a modified no-trade clause for the UFA years, the last three years of his deal. Prior to his 30-goal campaign this past season, Palmieri had never even hit the 15-goal mark, with his career high being 14 goals.
In the least surprising news of the offseason, four Rangers have filed for arbitration. Forwards Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller, and defenseman Dylan McIlrath all filed for arbitration before yesterday’s 5pm deadline. This is a part of the process, and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It’s a common occurrence for the Rangers, and it buys them more time to negotiate a contract.
This does protect all four players from receiving an offer sheet, something some people were concerned about. I’d expect that all four players reach deals before going to arbitration, since these hearings can get pretty ugly (remember the Sean Avery hearing?). Also this triggers the August buyout period for the Rangers, so they will have a second window to buyout players, if need be.
Jeff Gorton is busy today, locking up his second RFA in the past ten minutes. News of Mat Bodie’s contract broke just minutes ago, and now news has broken that Niklas Jensen has also re-signed. Jensen was acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Emerson Etem last season, and put up 15-10-25 in 41 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack this year.
The 23-year-old, 6’3″, 210 lb winger from Denmark is coming off his ELC. Details of the contract have not been disclosed, but it is expected to be close to the NHL minimum on a two-way deal. The former first round pick is expected to compete for a spot with the Rangers next season, but will likely be a depth call up as need be.
The Rangers now have 14 contract spots remaining, of the 50 max.
The Rangers have agreed to terms with RFA Mat Bodie, the first RFA domino to fall this summer. Bodie was coming off his second contract, another one year, two way deal, in which he made the NHL minimum and $80,000 in the AHL. It’s expected that he has something similar to that deal for next year, although the terms haven’t been released.
Bodie was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014. The 6’0″, 175 lb defenseman has put up seasons of 5-27-32 and 7-29-36 with the Hartford Wolf Pack. It is expected that Bodie will remain with the Pack as one of their top-four defensemen this year. He likely won’t see much NHL time, if any.
With the signing, the Rangers have 15 NHL contract spots remaining of the 50 contract max.