The New York Rangers have some concerns at one of the most important positions on their roster. The improvements made over the summer were focused on adding young talent and depth players like Jack Johnson on defense. Still, the lack of center depth is a concern, and one Kevin Rooney will not fix.
A look at the Rangers center situation
Mika Zibanejad is the club’s undisputed number one center. He is coming off his best season in the NHL, recording 75 points which included 41 goals in just 57 games.
The other three centers for the majority of last season were Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, and Ryan Strome. Strome is in a contract battle with the Rangers and has filed for salary arbitration. His hearing is scheduled for November 5 and the outcome of that hearing, should the two sides not agree on a new deal, may put the club at a huge disadvantage heading into next season.
Assuming that Strome signs and depending on the combined AAVs of his and Brendan Lemieux deals, there could be some cap room. So what about signing a cheap option at center for one year?
A Derick Brassard reunion?
Looking at the list of potential candidates the club could sign from the available free agents has some possibilities to “stop the bleeding” until the team comes up with a long-term solution. One player that might find himself back in a Rangers uniform is Derick Brassard.
Brassard ironically was part of the deal that brought Zibanejad to New York. That’s when Jeff Gorton shipped Brassard to Ottawa in a July 2016 trade heist.
Things have not gone too well for the 33-year-old. Since the trade to Ottawa he has played for four other teams, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Florida, and the New York Islanders. The center lost his confidence and his gritty game as was proven with his journey around the NHL.
Brassard showed signs of life with the Islanders
Last season with the Islanders he proved his worth. He scored 10 goals while producing 32 points in 66 games. His 32 points were 13 more than current Rangers 4th line center Brett Howden. A number that stands out between the two players was shot attempts, where Brassard outshot Howden 110 to 64.
Brassard’s face-off percentage was drastically better than Howden last season. Howden managed to win just 48.2 % of the draws he took whereas Brassard managed to win 55.2% of his draws. By comparison, Zibanejaead won 49.2% of all the draws he took.
Brassard could be a good fit with this Rangers team
Brassard would be a good fit, even though older than Howden, on the fourth and possibly third line. In a time where the Rangers have their backs against the wall with the NHL salary cap, Gorton could probably get Brassard signed to a one year contract in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Last year for the Islanders his contract was for $1.2 million in a season that saw the Islanders qualify for the Covid-19 playoff bubble. In 18 playoff games, he managed two goals with eight points winning 50.1% of his face-offs ( 37 wins/36 losses).
Brassard might not seem like the most logical choice, but he could be a valuable steal at a that price. He even could help the Rangers win games until the team finds better options as the season progresses.
Here’s a look at the top free agents available
There are other options too for the Rangers. Check out the top 10 free agents available here.