Former Rangers center lands stunning contract in NHL free agency

NHL: St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The start of NHL free agency Monday was very good to former New York Rangers center Alex Wennberg, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the San Jose Sharks.

Wennberg is a nice complementary player, a third-line center with the Blueshirts after being acquired from the Seattle Kraken before the 2024 NHL trade deadline. He plays smart and hard, and his professionalism will rub off on the Sharks youngsters, notably No. 1 overall pick Macklin Celebrini.

So, there is reason to like this signing for San Jose.

But at $5 million per season?

He’s topped 13 goals once (17 in 2020-21 with the Florida Panthers) in 10 NHL seasons, and showed zero scoring touch in 35 games with the Rangers (19 regular-season games, 16 postseason games) when he scored once on an actual shot and then once in overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final when he went to the crease and the puck deflected off his chest and into the net.

He’s been give top-six minutes throughout his career and never done much with it. And he’s abysmal in the face-off circle, never winning at least 50 percent of his draws in a season. In 712 NHL games, Wennberg has a 46.2 percent face-off winning percentage.

His previous contract had a $4.5 million AAV, so, at 29, you can argue the veteran should get a raise. But really, based on what? By comparison, Reilly Smith, a Stanley Cup champion who’s thrived in the postseason throughout his career and has five 20-goal seasons and whom the Rangers acquired in a trade Monday, makes $5 million a season. a contract he signed two years ago at age 31.

Nonetheless, a good day for the Wennberg family, and for Barclay Goodrow, another former Rangers forward who’ll now have a familiar face to connect with in San Jose this season.

Related: Have Rangers found Barclay Goodrow replacement in NHL free agency?

Patrick Kane, Erik Gustafsson among former Rangers to sign contracts in free agency

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wennberg wasn’t the only former Rangers player to land on his feet when free agency started Monday.

Future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane never made it to the open market. The three-time Stanley Cup champion re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings on a one-year, $4 million contract with $2.5 million in bonuses. He reportedly had interest in a Rangers reunion, after playing with them after the 2023 trade deadline when he was hobbled by a hip injury that required surgery. But the Red Wings signed Kane before the Rangers had a chance to negotiate with him.

Erik Gustafsson will join Kane in Detroit after agreeing to a two-year, $4 million contract. The 32-year-old defenseman was a regular on the Rangers third pair this past season and moved up when Adam Fox missed 10 games in November with a knee injury. Gustafsson finished with 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in his only season wearing the Blueshirt.

Another former Rangers player also signed with the Red Wings on Monday. Veteran goalie Cam Talbot, an NHL All-Star with the Los Angeles Kings last season, signed a two-year deal to play for his seventh team since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Reilly Smith’s brother, former Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith, left the New Jersey Devils to sign a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars.

Closer to home, former Rangers forward Anthony Duclair inked a four-year contract with the Islanders.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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