Players from all around the league have been shipped from coast to coast as the NHL free agency got underway last Friday, October 9th. Big names like Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Pietrangelo, and Taylor Hall were one of the many high caliber players that will be rocking a new sweater this upcoming season. So where does that put The New York Rangers? Over the past week, the anticipation of Jack Eichel joining The Rangers was high, but evidently never went past the social media world of rumors and crossed fingers. With the last major headline for the New York Rangers being the signing of Alexis Lafreniere, the New York Rangers have had some peculiar signings leaving many Rangers fans puzzled at Jeff Gorton’s decision making. If you are like many confused Rangers fans, well ponder no more!
One of the most moving positions during the start of the free agency was the goaltenders. Lundqvist, Holtby, and Crawford were some of the goalies on the move. The New York Rangers signed Keith Kinkaid from the Montreal Canadians. Looking towards the future, this is a good signing. As for the present, it doesn’t have much relevance. With the signing of Alexander Georgiev a few days ago, it’s obvious The Rangers have their goalie situation squared away. This addition of Kinkaid is mostly to preserve The Rangers’ two goalies when the expansion draft comes rolling around. For those who don’t know, the NHL is adding a new team to the league called the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken are set to start their season in the 2021-2022 season. By signing Kinkaid, The Rangers won’t have the chance of losing one of their two talented goaltenders.
As for Kinkaid, I’m sure the Long Island native is excited to be back in the home state. I expect him to be sent to Hartford to offer a veteran presence among Adam Huska and Tyler Wall. To have experience and depth in the Hartford lineup is what this signing is all about. Along with the bonus that by signing him, we are now protecting Georgiev and Sheshterkin once the expansion draft occurs.
Perhaps one of the most puzzling decisions by Jeff Gorton occurred in the signing of Jack Johnson. The signing sent Rangers fans and hockey fans into shock, leaving them baffled at Gorton’s move. However, could there be more than meets the eye in this signing? On the surface, most likely no. Johnson is criticized by many throughout the league as being one of “the most disappointing top five picks”. After being drafted 3rd by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005, it seemed he could never fully meet the high standard to be a successful defenseman in the National Hockey League. Johnson has played in 937 NHL games, with 232 career points.
As for his role in New York, it is possible that he will be a third or fourth line pairing. If one of the current Rangers defensemen do get not make the roster, or if one of them gets traded, Jack Johnson will step in to help. Gorton most likely made this move to insure there is more of a veteran presence on defense due to the trading of Marc Staal. However, he does offer some valuable assets that could benefit The Rangers. One benefit, is that he is known for his ability to play well on the penalty kill. With the trading of Jesper Fast, who was a great penalty killer, this demanding role is certainly Johnsons to fill. Even though his stats may not reflect it, he has offensive potential.
A nerdy stat that many don’t know is that in his career his shooting percent is 4% higher than the league average for a defenseman. So for you fans yelling “shoot the puck” all the time at your tv screen, hopefully Johnson will save you your vocal chords this season.
As many know, the center position has been a struggle for Gorton to find a solidified player to play in the lower lines. Due to this, the New York Rangers signed Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell both to a two year deal. Rooney, signed a two year $750,000 contract. As for Blackwell, he signed a two-way contract where he will receive $700,000 in the NHL, and 350,000 in the AHL. With both signings being a two year deal, The Rangers are also protecting their valuable assets come the expansion draft in 2021. Both of these centremen will most likely be competing for a fourth line spot. Both players are twenty-seven years old and could show their experience to an extremely young New York Rangers team.
On the contrary, it is likely at least one of these two players will see time in the AHL for Harford. You may be wondering, where do these two compare on the score sheet?
Blackwell has played in a total of 33 NHL games registering 3 goals and 7 assists. Whereas Rooney has played in a total of 95 games 10 goals and 9 assists. As you can see, there is not much of a difference between the two statistically speaking. Although, Rooney does have a little more experience as opposed to Blackwell. Not only does he have more experience, he also has more size on Blackwell. Standing at 6’2” weighing 190 pounds, he offers some physicality to the game thanks to his physical features. For both players, it will be a battle to obtain a role in the lineup. Reflecting on Gorton’s signings, I think it is a smart move since they lack depth down the middle. I don’t see a way where this can go south for The Rangers. But I am no psychic, only time will tell.
After signing Alexis Lafreniere in the NHL Draft, The Rangers have so far played it safe with their free agency signings. By having players to give up in the expanssion draft, adding depth in Hartford, and developing the center position, Gorton was protecting everything he has created-and rightfully so. With cap space starting to become The Rangers’ worst nightmare, these signings will allow The Rangers more flexibility. Overall, they stuck to their gameplay by not signing big name guys, and invested in low risk, high reward scenarios. Smart move from the veteran Jeff Gorton. Now we wait to see if it paid off.