The NHL’s trade deadline is four days away. We’ve seen a lot of action this week already, and the Rangers have made two “minor” moves. They acquired Julien Gauthier, a young RW, from Carolina in exchange for Joey Keane. They also acquired J.F. Berube from Philly last night for future considerations. Chris Kreider has all the attention, but their other key UFA, Jesper Fast, could also be traded by the deadline.
What We Know
Almost nothing. That’s not even an exaggeration. We know he’s a pending UFA. We know he’s a versatile player that can play an integral role in a team’s bottom-six, but can fake a middle-six role if needed. We know he is on a cheap contract at $1.85 million, making him easier to trade than others. We also know he’s likely to get closer to $3 million in a UFA deal.
We also know that his best scoring line is from two seasons ago when he put up 13-20-33, career highs in all three scoring categories. He’s not a scorer. He fits into the lineup by being that jack-of-all-trades winger who plays a smart and controlled game. He’s also a great skater and a leader in the Rangers’ locker room. He is a player whose value isn’t on the traditional score sheet, but does show up in advanced metrics.
What We Assume
We assume almost any playoff team could find great value for him. The original assumed cost was a mid-round pick. There are no recent trades that help us assign a more accurate value to Fast, so sticking with a second or third round pick as the cost is probably the best bet.
This assumes, of course, that teams are willing to pay that much for a 20-30 point winger whose value isn’t tied to goals and assists. We assume at this point that teams use some level of advanced stats, which is the only avenue on paper that shows Fast’s true worth.
I do not envy Jeff Gorton or John Davidson at the moment. All signs point to Fast being traded, even though his apparent value to the team today is probably worth more than just a 2nd round pick. For the Rangers, it’s about Fast’s next contract demands and how that will look as Fast, who will be 29 next season, ages.
Is Fast worth $3 million a year? Can the Rangers responsibly commit to a 29 year old winger for 4 years? Will Fast ask for 5 years? What is the cutoff for the Rangers to be able to re-sign him. Is that cost worth passing up on whatever trade offer they receive?
Fast is one of those odd players who may have more value to his team, even in a rebuild, than he does on the trade market. There’s no clear cut answer to “trade him” or “keep him.”