Midseason check in on Rangers offseason free agent signings

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The New York Rangers were one of the busiest teams on July 1, inking five players on the opening day of NHL free agency. Surprisingly, instead of targeting younger players, general manager Chris Drury opted to sign veterans, all over 30, bringing in two skaters with Stanley Cup titles on their resumes.

At the halfway mark of the 2023-24 season, it is safe to say that not all these free-agent signings have worked out in favor of the Rangers, but since every contract is valued at less than $1 million, the deals are not hurting the team financially. Now that New York has surpassed the halfway point of their season let’s check in on how each signee has performed on Broadway.

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Tyler Pitlick

2023-24 Statistics: 28 GP, one goal, two assists, three points, minus-one

Tyler Pitlick came to New York on July 1, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $787k after spending last season with the St. Louis Blues, where he registered 16 points in 61 games. Thus far, he’s only skated in 28 games, accounting for 63% of the Rangers first-half schedule, collecting three points with one goal.

As a bottom-six forward, Pitlick averages 10:10 a night when he does play, with a season-high 14:49 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 19. He wouldn’t fetch a good return in a trade and most likely won’t be back next season because the Rangers could promote a prospect to fill his spot.

Nick Bonino

2023-24 Statistics: 43 GP, one goal, four assists, five points, minus-10

Nick Bonino also came to the Rangers on July 1 on a one-year deal worth $800k. General manager Chris Drury brought in the 35-year-old because he’s a veteran of 865 games with two Stanley Cup rings.

After 42 games, Bonino has one goal and five points and is tied with Alexis Lafreniere for the team’s worst plus/minus rating at minus-10 while averaging 12:17 a night. He’s on pace to skate in more than 62 games as he did last year but could finish with his lowest point in over a decade.

Blake Wheeler

2023-24 Statistics: 44 GP, seven goals, 10 assists, 17 points, minus-three

Blake Wheeler signed in New York on July 1, trying to continue his NHL career at 37 after being bought out by the Winnipeg Jets. Many Rangers’ fans felt his best days were behind him and that he wouldn’t be a significant contributor despite making $800k.

Frequently, Wheeler is nonexistent on the ice, even though he’s had chances to skate in the top six, only playing over 14 minutes in nine contests this year. After 44 games, he’s netted 17 points, the eighth-best total on the team, but he also has the sixth-worst plus/minus rating at minus-three.

Erik Gustafsson

2023-24 Statistics: 44 GP, four goals, 17 assists, 21 points, even

The Rangers got lucky on July 1 when they signed Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal valued at $825k. Although he’d never win a Norris Trophy, he is a highly skilled offensive defenseman who is New York’s seventh-leading scorer with 21 points, eight of them coming on the powerplay.

Gustafsson may be a bottom-pairing defender, but he does skate over 17 minutes a night and is on pace to surpass his points and games played total from last season. Considering that Zac Jones hasn’t earned a regular spot in the rotation yet, keeping Gustafsson for another year wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Jonathan Quick

2023-24 Statistics: 15 GP, 9-3-2, 2.49 GAA .912 SV%

Jonathan Quick won the Stanley Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights in June and signed with the Rangers on the first day of free agency to back up Igor Shesterkin for $825k. At 37, many wondered if he had anything left in the tank, especially playing for his favorite childhood team.

There’s no doubt that Shesterkin is the number one goalie in New York, but he has struggled at points, with Quick bailing out the team with an impressive 9-3-2 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 15 starts. Although he’s not a long-term option in the backup role, no one can argue that he’s become one of the free-agent goalie signings in years.

Stats via Hockey-Reference

Some of Ryan Gagne's all-time favorite goalies have been Mike Richter, Henrik Lundqvist, and Igor Shesterkin. As a Yankees... More about Ryan Gagne

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