The dust has settled on the first day of free agency and while some teams went for big splashes the Rangers made some savvy depth moves that may be cause for cautious optimism regarding the front office and their offseason strategy.
While rival GMs were busy handing out 5, 6, or even 7-year deals, the Rangers added Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Michael Paliotta and Adam Clendening to short term, low cap hit contracts. The Rangers didn’t exactly have the opportunity to make any big moves, given their tight salary cap situation, but it’s still encouraging that they looked to add speed and skill to their bottom six.
Although Paliotta and Clendening are likely to spend significant time in the AHL, Gerbe and Grabner are exactly the kind of bottom-six moves the Rangers need, with the diminutive center and ex-Islander filling in the gaps left by Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg. Gerbe had 7 points in 47 games played last year with Carolina, while Grabner 18 points in 80 games.
Those numbers aren’t stratospheric but it’s important to remember that these guys are playing supporting roles with the Rangers, and it’s more about their underlying numbers. To that end, Gerbe posted a 49.1% CF% at even strength, with Grabner putting up a CF% of 49.6%. If deployed correctly, Gerbe and Grabner could help a team that’s struggled in terms of possession, particularly when it comes to the third and fourth lines.
What’s most encouraging however aren’t the free agency acquisitions themselves, but rather what they say about management’s perspective. This is a team that’s been prone to win-now, big splash moves these past few years and instead of going for a shiny new toy they recognized one of the true issues with the team and addressed it. It’s cause for cautious optimism that perhaps management knows what needs fixing on this team and is making attempts to address those needs. Although we’ve yet to see any major shakeups on the ailing blue line, I’m cautiously optimistic that some change will come this summer to help retool this roster and put the team back in contention.