Early grades for New York Rangers offseason acquisitions
After a second consecutive playoff series in which the New York Rangers had a commanding 2-0 lead, yet failed to advance, general manager Chris Drury knew the Rangers needed to make some moves in the offseason. With little salary cap room to work with, Drury needed to find players who could bolster the depth of the roster at an affordable cost. To say he did just that is an understatement.
Here are the grades for each of the offseason acquisitions through 12 games
Blake Wheeler: C+
It has been a slow start, to say the least, for Blake Wheeler. The 37-year-old forward has just one assist in 12 appearances and has a plus/minus rating of -4. For the first 11 games, he was receiving third line minutes. In New York’s recent game against Detroit, he was given the opportunity to play on the first line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider in an attempt to generate 5-on-5 scoring. Even still, he was not very noticeable and could not find the score sheet.
However, Wheeler believes his game is coming on. “The first six games I was not myself,” the veteran forward explained. “I think in the last week I’ve started to feel good again. I feel like myself again. Despite his slow start, Wheeler has remained optimistic. He brings a great presence to the Rangers’ locker room with extensive experience. What bumps his grade is the fact that Drury was able to sign him at an incredibly low AAV of only $800k. It is only a matter of time before he finally gets on the board.
Tyler Pitlick: C
While he has not had much opportunity this season, Tyler Pitlick was brought in to bolster the depth of the lineup and contribute in a bottom six role. Through four games he has one assist with a plus/minus of 0. He has registered three blocked shots and six hits.
While Filip Chytil remains out with injury, expect Pitlick to get some more games on the Rangers fourth line. While he has not been necessarily bad to start the year, the 32-year-old forward would certainly like to contribute more in his role.
Erik Gustafsson: A+
This may be one of Drury’s best moves of the offseason. Gustafsson comes in with a very friendly contract with an AAV of $825k. Through 12 games, he has been rock solid on defense, and has put up surprising numbers offensively. Gustafsson put up 3 goals and 5 assists along with a plus/minus of +5. He also has 13 blocked shots on the season.
Being familiar with head coach Peter Laviolette and his systems has certainly helped the 31-year-old defenseman. With Adam Fox being out of the lineup for at least a month, Gustafsson has stepped up big time. “(Gustafsson) is an experienced defenseman,” Laviolette mentioned. “He can skate, he can defend, he can make good plays coming out of our end.” Gustafsson has also stepped up on the power play with the absence of Fox. A very good move by Chris Drury.
Nick Bonino: B
Nick Bonino has been a great acquisition for the Rangers. Although he has not registered a point through 12 games, he was not brought in to score. The value that he brings in all other aspects of the game has been very noticeable. He is 5th in the NHL in blocked shots with 36, and 12th in face-off percentage (minimum 100 face-offs) at 57.9%. These are both aspects that needed drastic improvement from last season.
With a contract of $800k, Bonino has certainly been worth it for the Rangers. He has also been a huge factor on the Blueshirts penalty kill, which ranks 9th in the NHL at 86.1%. Great teams are often defined by their depth players and special teams. Bonino has come in and provided just that for the Rangers.
Jonathan Quick: A
After a concerning preseason, Jonathan Quick has come in and played very well for the Rangers. With Igor Shesterkin missing time due to injury, Quick has stepped up and been solid in the cage. In four starts and one relief appearance, he is 3-0-1, holds a save percentage of .936, and a GAA of 1.77 along with one shutout. Sparkling numbers for the 37-year-old netminder.
“I think he’s been terrific,” Laviolette explained. “He’s had a long career of being terrific. It was nice to get him the start that we did. He came on and played a couple of really good games. I thought he was instrumental in taking a point out of Minnesota. That’s the most action he’s seen in a game and I thought last night (against Detroit) he was really good as well.”
At $825k, this is yet another great signing from Drury, who has done an incredible job over the course of the offseason.
Bonus – Peter Laviolette: A+
Despite a great regular season record, it was clear after the last two playoff series exits that the Rangers needed to move on from Gerard Gallant. A change of culture was needed inside the locker room, and Peter Laviolette has instilled that exact change. With a focus on team defense, structured systems, and work ethic, Laviolette has been the perfect fit for the Rangers to start the season and has been a great hire by Chris Drury. With a 9-2-1 record, Laviolette has gotten this Rangers team to perform at the highest level, even in lieu of injuries to key players.
Overall, it was a very productive offseason for the Rangers. From coaches to players, the moves have paid off big time, as they head further into the month of November.