Ben Harpur’s extension and what it means for New York Rangers future plans

ben harpur
Dec 18, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ben Harpur (5) and Chicago Blackhawks center Colin Blackwell (43) fight for the puck during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers made a shrewd move when they extended defenseman Ben Harpur on Thursday for two-years at the bargain price of $787,500 AAV.

Since joining the lineup on December 15, he’s been a steady partner for Braden Schneider and someone head coach Gerard Gallant trusts to put out there.

“He’s a big guy and makes people think when he’s on the ice,” Gallant said. “He’s earned a well deserved contract. He’s playing safe, smart, hard, and not flashy. I think our team’s played really well since he’s been in our lineup. I’m not putting that all on him but the make up with a guy like that on the backend, he’s physical when he has to be.”

Gallant is right to say that Harpur isn’t the main reason why the Rangers have turned it around, but a little credit is deserved. The Blueshirts are 11-4-3 and have allowed the third fewest goals against per game (2.23) since he took over the third pair left defense spot.

Ben Harpur’s extension and Rangers plans

Ben Harpur
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The best part about Harpur’s extension is that it’s a complete low-risk and high-reward deal. If his game regresses, the Rangers can bury his entire cap hit in the minors without issue. In the near term, it lessens the need for the Rangers to ship out valuable assets for a rental defenseman.

There was plenty of speculation that the Rangers were targeting Blue Jackets left defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, especially since his cap hit is only $2.7M AAV. However, per Elliotte Friedman he believes Columbus wants a first and third-round pick for him. That’s way too much, and GM Chris Drury would be better suited using one of their two first-round pick on either top six forward Patrick Kane or Vladimir Tarasenko.

Prior to Harpur signing his extension, a trusted source told me that his play reduced the Rangers need to address that hole at the deadline but that doesn’t mean they won’t add a depth piece. Last season, they went out and acquired Justin Braun for that purpose. This year, they are likely to go after someone similar. Possible targets include Nick Holden from the Senators or Nathan Beaulieu of the Ducks.

How Ben Harpur impacts the longterm future

One of the perceived drawbacks of Harpur’s extension is that he’s blocking the path of more talented prospects. That’s not really the case.

Matter of fact, I’d argue that Harpur’s contract is even more important to the future of the Rangers blue-line than you can imagine. Especially when you realize that K’ Andre Miller needs a new contract this summer.

Per Cap Friendly, the Rangers defense currently amounts to $23.9M against the cap. Next season, assuming Miller nets an AAV of around $5M, it will be close to $29M.

2023-24 NYR Defense

Just to provide some context, the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche blue-line is near $30M this season.

Of course, from a development standpoint it would’ve been nice to see Zac Jones claim that role. Unfortunately, he was often indecisive leading to far too many zone coverage issues and turnovers. Same can be said for Libor Hajek, who’s been unable to carve out a steady role since being included in the Ryan McDonagh trade in 2018.

Both those players are pending restricted free agents, and will be made available at the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. Jones was just named to the AHL All-Star Game and should be a fairly sought after commodity.

Ultimately, the Rangers have always been hopeful that Matthew Robertson would eventually assume the role as Schneider’s partner for years to come. The 21 year-old was taken in the second-round of the 2019 Draft and is still on his ELC for next season.

The plan is for him to compete with Harpur in training camp for that spot and be given every opportunity to take it. Should he falter, the Rangers are in good hands with the 28 year-old veteran.

“Being under contract for the next two-years is nice,” Harpur said. “I’m super happy to be here. The guys have made it real easy. For the [Rangers] to reach out and want to get something done speaks to their future plans.”

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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