Former New York Rangers still looking for homes in 2023-24

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

A quick look at CapFriendly shows 89 unrestricted free agents and 9 restricted free agents available on the market as of September 6.

Surprisingly, out of those players, 11 are former New York Rangers still looking for new deals. As the NHL inches closer to training camp and eventually opening night, let’s take a look at some familiar names.

Latest Rangers news and rumors here.

Former unsigned New York Rangers

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Patrick Kane (Last season with NYR: 2022-23)

Three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane is rehabbing from hip surgery, so he has yet to sign a new contract with any team. Ultimately, the longtime member of the Chicago Blackhawks came to New York in a blockbuster trade last season and dressed in only 19 games before entering free agency for the first time in his career. Although there are many rumors regarding his future, no one should count out New York as one of his preferred destinations when he’s ready to return.

Jaroslav Halák (Last season with NYR: 2022-23)

Interestingly, Jaroslav Halák has been in the NHL for 17 years and a member of seven clubs, most recently serving as Igor Shesterkin’s backup for 25 games in 2022-23. Although he’s 38 years old, he can still play at a high level, which means he could land a PTO or a contract as a backup somewhere in the league. Recently, he told the media he’s interested in being a number two and not playing as a team’s third-string netminder.

Tyler Motte (Last season with NYR: 2022-23)

Of all the available free agents, Tyler Motte is the only player on the list to skate with the Rangers twice. Initially drafted by the Blackhawks, he came to New York via a trade with the Vancouver Canucks in March 2022. After leaving as a free agent, Motte returned to the Rangers at last season’s trade deadline. Ultimately, he is a free agent with no offers to return to the Blueshirts.

Update 9/9/23: Tyler Motte signs one-year deal with Tampa Bay Lightning for $800,000

Libor Hájek (Last season with NYR: 2022-23)

As the last player remaining from the Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018, Libor Hajek is a free agent for the first time. Even though he’s skated in 110 games over the past five seasons, there’s no room for him in New York, playing just 16 games last year. Unfortunately, the second-round draft pick (37th overall) never took advantage of his opportunities with the Rangers, resulting in an offer to try out for the Pittsburgh Penguins this year.

Anthony Bitetto (Last season with NYR: 2020-21)

During the offseason in 2020, Anthony Bitetto came to the Rangers as a free agent and skated in just 14 games with the team, instead spending most of his tenure in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Eventually, New York traded him to the San Jose Sharks in March 2022, where he continued to play in the AHL. He recently joined the Florida Panthers organization in June 2022 but has yet to play in the NHL since May 8, 2021. 

Nick Holden (Last season with NYR: 2017-18)

Nick Holden remains on the sidelines as a veteran defenseman with 654 games without contract offers for 2023-24. After skating with the Rangers from 2017 to 2019, he bounced from Boston to Vegas to Ottawa, where he played 65 games last year. Even though he’s 35, he averaged over 19 minutes a night during his career and could serve as a reserve defender somewhere. 

Update 9/13/23: Nick Holden retired and accepted a job with the Vegas Golden Knights

Derek Stepan (Last season with NYR: 2016-17)

As another Rangers draft pick in 2008, Derek Stephan played his first seven seasons in New York before moving on to Arizona, Ottawa, and, most recently, Carolina. However, he is less productive at 32 than in the early part of his career, with just 11 points in 73 games last year. Considering he’s been a leader with the Rangers and Coyotes, a team out there will eventually give him a chance to make an impact in the room and on the bench.

Eric Staal (Last season with NYR: 2015-16)

After winning the Stanley Cup and spending most of his career with the Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal ended up on Broadway, skating in 20 games in 2015-16. However, he didn’t stay with the club and has played with four teams since then, most recently skating with the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final. Even though he’s 38 years old, he scored 29 points last year and provided invaluable leadership during a Cinderella playoff run.

Derick Brassard (Last season with NYR: 2015-16)

As a free agent with over 1,000 games of experience, it is surprising to see a depth player like Derick Brassard still available. Although he’s played with ten franchises over 16 years, he had his most productive years with the Rangers from 2013 to 2016. Interestingly, Brassard had his best season, with 23 points, in three years, which means he can still contribute and skate in a team’s bottom six nightly.

John Moore (Last season with NYR: 2014-15)

After 12 seasons in the NHL, veteran defenseman John Moore is a free agent again. Initially, he began his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets and came to New York in the Marián Gáborík trade in 2013. Eventually, he left as part of the Keith Yandle trade with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015. Since then, he’s played with the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, last skating in the NHL during the 2021-22 season. 

Michael Del Zotto (Last season with NYR: 2013-14)

Out of all the former Rangers players who are still free agents, Michael Del Zotto is one of two players initially drafted by the franchise. After breaking into the league as a 19-year-old in 2009, he played five years on Broadway before skating with seven other clubs. Although he hasn’t played in the NHL since April 23, 2022, he’s been active in the AHL, seeing action in 65 games last year. 

Note: Del Zotto announced his retirement on September 6, after this article was published.

Full list of free agents at CapFriendly

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