Finding a low cost replacement for Jesper Fast

NHL free agency begins in a month. The Rangers and Jesper Fast have not yet agreed to a contract, and it looks like Fast might test the open market. Fast is looking at roughly $3 million a season over three years, per Evolving-Hockey, and it’s likely he gets that. If the Rangers deem that too expensive for a bottom-six winger, then they will need to find a low cost replacement for Jesper Fast.

The problem with finding a replacement for Fast is that he’s so versatile, and there are few comparisons to him. Fast does many of the little things well, and while his point totals aren’t great, he’s a catalyst for many lines. Replacing him will be tough, and replacing him for cheap will be tougher. There are very few players like him that come in under $3 million, let alone the $1.5 million cutoff I used for this post.

Sam Gagner

Gagner, who is now 30, is coming off a 6-7-13 in 42 games with the Red Wings. The speedy C/RW has more offensive upside than Fast, but comes at the sacrifice of defensive play. That’s not to say Gagner is a slouch defensively, just that Fast is better in his own end.

Gagner is looking at a 1-2 year deal in the $1 million range. If cap space does become a concern for next season, then the $2 million savings is a shrewd move. He would also be a good bet to be exposed in the expansion draft.

Zemgus Girgensons

Girgensons has been a whipping boy in Buffalo, mostly because the former first round pick hasn’t put up any consistent offensive numbers. He’s a black-hole offensively. However, he is pretty solid defensively. He can also play center or wing, giving the Rangers flexibility with their eventual decision on Brett Howden.

Girgensons is looking at a contract under $1 million, and could be a nice flier to add some stability to the fourth line. He won’t do much offensively, but he would at least be sound in his own end, something the Rangers sorely need. He is very one dimensional though, but that one dimension is pretty solid.

Nick Shore

Like Girgensons, Shore isn’t known for any offensive abilities. However he is relatively sound defensively. His defensive numbers are actually right up there with Fast’s, for what it’s worth.

Shore would come even cheaper than Girgensons, which is certainly a low-risk bet on a one year deal. But again, the Rangers would be betting on a one-dimensional player. David Quinn isn’t known for running his fourth line that often, but a more well rounded one might change that. He’s an option, but likely not the best low cost Jesper Fast replacement.

Jason Spezza

Yes, I know, he’s old. He’s nowhere near the offensive machine he used to be. However that doesn’t mean he’s useless. The talent is still there, and no one loses hockey IQ. If there’s anyone that’s close to Fast’s ability to play in all three zones, it’s Spezza.

The concern with Spezza is that he has lost a step, and it makes you wonder when the other wheel will fall off. At some point, the game will fly by him. At 37 years old, is that time now? Does he have another year left? Can he give the Rangers some much needed center depth, again allowing them to move Howden to wing?

Stefan Noesen

Noesen might be the best of the bunch, at least in terms of how they fit with the Rangers. He’s 27, plays both wings, and is much more balanced offensively and defensively.

His contract expectations are 1-2 years around $1 million as well, making him a significantly cheaper option than Fast. Since he’s more well rounded, the risk of a one-dimensional player goes away. Noesen does a lot of the little things, like Fast. Noesen might be the best low cost replacement for Jesper Fast.

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  • To sum it all up, Fast’s data equals to a 4th liner and he plays on the 2nd line. He dose so much…

  • There are a few options out there, but you don’t replace the Players’ Player Award Winner 5 times in a row easily … and certainly not cheaply. Noesen is the most interesting of the bunch IMO.

    While Fast might not have big offensive numbers, he doesn’t KILL a line offensively — in fact the opposite may be true, he frees up his other two linemates to do their “thing” knowing that Fast will be there to back them up.

    I would gladly buy Hank out and put those savings towards Fast for 2-3 years @ $3M — however no NTC or NMC.

    I don’t think the issue with Fast is the money or the couple of years, I don’t think his wheels are falling off any time soon …. but my one issue with resigning him is blocking playing time for other RWs on the team, in particular Gauthier and/or possibly Kravtsov. I don’t think Gauthier got a fair shot to show us what he’s capable of.

    In the final analysis it might pay to let Fast go, move Kakko up to the 1st or 2nd line (if 1st, move back Buch to play with Panarin), let Gauthier try to nail down the 3rd line (or Kravs) and replace Fast with a guy like Noesen — but if you can’t nail down a guy like Noesen, then resigning Fast at a reasonable deal is still doable (especially if you buy Hank out).

    • I don’t think $3M presents any long term problem. Good chance he is lost in the expansion draft for starters, but even if not, he should be tradeable if and when the younger wings need spots.

      Not saying we should necessarily do this, but other than the raw short term cap hit implication, I don’t see a downside. [Obviously a 5+ year contract is another story – ditto an NMC or NTC]

    • The Players’ Player Award Winner 5 times, and you still want to get rid of him? He should get 5 mil/yr. That award is just like the the thumbs up/down in the site. It doesn’t mean a thing unless you want to be popular. Thumbs up wont get you 1 dollar more if you can’t produce just like Fasth the Great.

    • I agree with what most what you’re saying here Tanto. The thing I like about Fast is that not only does he play a complete hockey game and do all the little things well.
      Fast plays up and down the lineup. He won’t light up the stat sheet but he holds his own in the top 6 as a fill in for an injury. Not many $1 or $2 mil players can do that. So Fast earned whatever raises he has coming to him.
      Fast has also mightily improved his offensive abilities since he first came up to the NHL. He took a few 1 timers on one knee last season from the off wing. Few 4th line grinders provide that kind of lineup flexibility and lineup insurance. In the event of an injury, Fast moves up anywhere. That way Quinn only needs to call up & fill in a 4th liner and not a top 6 player.
      I trust in whatever Gorton does with Fast. There may be a team that wants Fast as part of a multi player deal at the October Entry Draft.
      If that is the case, I would like either of Noesen or Girgensons whom I’ve always liked and kept an eye on. He’s Latvian like myself. He’s a big defensive forward. That’s what you want from your 4th line and to be able to start 65%-75% of their shifts in the Dzone. I’d love for them to be able to at least control better than 45% of possession while on the ice. Lemieux-Girgensons- (pick your RW) would be a decent 4th line. They could be even better too.

  • We need to stop populating our team with “nice” players. Fast is a nice player, who does whatever the coach wants. He doesn’t score goals and he is a 4th line player. Drop him and do not replace him. Teach the 4th liners to be a defensive first line. The whole 4th line shouldn’t get $3M.

  • Yesterday I mentioned Zemgus Girgensons as a player we should consider for our 4th line. He’s not a small player, standing at 6’2″, 211lbs, and still young enough at 26 years of age. What you failed to mention was that he plays center, and the wing, giving DQ options that resigning Fast doesn’t.

    He isn’t a scoring machine, but neither is Fast. Come on folks, skating with Bread, and Strome, on the 2nd line, he still couldn’t break the 30 point mark????? He is bigger than Fast, plays more physical, is a very good PK man, and would be the ideal 4th line guy. His only shortcoming as far as I know, he won’t drop the gloves, but then again has Fast ever done so????? Stefan Noesen may be a bit more gifted player offensively, but not as good defensively, and is year older.

    Bottom line, I believe he would be the best option for us at this time. Sign him for 2 years @ $1-1.5 per, and that will do it!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Totally disagree about not having cap issues. Just did a cap friendly armchair GM and signing everyone back, except for Fast to one year deals ($5M to Strome, $4M to ADA, $2M to Georgiev, and $1.5M to Lemiuex), then adding Lafren to $925,000 ELC, and adding Baron, leaves them 2 players short and approx $41K in cap space.

    Granted a goalie will probably go, but cap space is needed just to bring the same basic team back, except for Fast. So, moves will have to be made to get under the cap.

    • That move would be buying out Lundqvist. I agree that buyouts are a waste of capspace , but Henk only has 1 year left on his deal so it’s basically one and done.

      Even with Henks buyout, the Rangers can’t fit Fast under the cap. They could pick up one of the above players, or a player like Christan Fischer. That is, if you like players who can skate well, grind in the corners and have offensive upside.

      • That’s why I think that Hank is the key to this offseason. Obviously him retiring would solve their cap problems for this year.

    • I think you are overpaying Georgiev and Lemieux and can maybe save 3/4 to one million there. However, that doesn’t change your message. Re-signing Strome, TDA, and Fast – even to fairly inexpensive deals – without some way to produce cap savings is just not possible.

      • It doesn’t matter what I put actually, because what I have is in range for those players.

        They are TWO players short with no cap space. Under the current situation.

  • As I’ve said before, Jesper won’t have to go out West or even out of the Metro.

    Team’s are already circling for his service.. Thinking Gauthier can provide what he brings us a totall joke.. JG has to pay up, he let great too 6 player’s who bring elite PK ability and 200 ft games in Hayes and JT Miller.

    Ps. Philly will 100% scoop him up, they will have the appropriate contract to offer him. Plenty of Swedes over there, young upcoming core, Hayes (controls a huge chunk of that locker room) and AV.

  • I think it may be a good idea to talk with St Louis about either Barbashev or Sundqvist. They are in cap hell and need to move out some players. Sundvist is making $2.75 mill for the next 3 years, but he could play up 3rd or 4th line and C and RW. Barbashev is cheaper at $1.475 for one more season and will still be an RFA in 21-22. Both are also a bit younger than Fast. I also like Pierre Engvall. His cap hit is $1.25 through 21-22 and still an RFA. And Toronto is also in cap hell.

  • Look at this year’s Stanley Cup winners. Yes, I mean Tampa Bay. They’ve had plenty of talent for the past few years, but look at who they brought in to make them the champions: Zach Bogosian, Braydon Coburn, Patrick Maroon, Blake Coleman, Barklay Goodrow. Big scorers? No. Great passers? No. Lots of speed? No. what they are are hard working players, who fight for every puck, never back off a check, work their tails off along the boards, and who bring that attitude to the locker room. Sort of like Jesper Fast, in fact. He is the proverbial “glue player”, the guy who sets the tone for the team. Think twice before you give him away.

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