Rangers free agent signings bolsters Wolf Pack lineup

After months of quiet on the farm in Hartford, the 2020-21 roster is beginning to form during an unusual October free agency. The Rangers were busy on the first day with depth signings that were geared towards their bottom six, defense, and the Wolf Pack roster.

Wolf Pack roster adds Paul Thompson

The Wolf Pack had one signing on the first day of free agency. The deal is for one year and will not count towards the Rangers cap space.

SIGNED Forward, Paul Thompson has signed an AHL contract with the Wolf Pack. Welcome to Hartford Paul! Thompson comes to Hartford from Springfield where he wore a C with the Thunderbirds.

Hartford Wolf Pack

The 31 year-old forward is an AHL veteran that provides leadership, grittiness, and proven offense to the lineup. Hartford knows Thompson well, especially as the enemy where he terrorized the Pack in his career.

“Paul Thompson scored four goals, including a natural hat trick in the third period, Wednesday night at the XL Center, leading the Springfield Thunderbirds to a 7-4 win over the Wolf Pack.”

Hartford Wolf Pack Recap, January 23rd, 2019

The veteran spent 10 seasons competing against the Wolf Pack in divisional action. The signing addresses the void of former captain Steven Fogarty and Matt Beleskey. Both forwards are not expected to return. When the season begins, Paul Thompson could be the next Pack captain. If not, he would likely be given the “A”.

Brandon Crawley returns

The Rangers elected to re-sign defenseman Brandon Crawley to a one year deal, valued at $700k.

The 23 year-old has spent three years in the organization. Crawley provided toughness and grit in the lineup for Hartford. Last season, the defenseman played in 9 games in the AHL while spending majority of the season in the ECHL with the Maine Mariners (38 games).

As the Rangers bring in more talent to the lineup, Crawley may find it hard to crack the big club. The organization is giving the defenseman one more year to prove himself in the lineup in Hartford. Otherwise, he could return to the Maine Mariners next season.

Colin Blackwell adds more depth

The Rangers signed center Colin Blackwell to a two-year deal. The 27 year-old forward has some experience in the NHL while providing solid offense in the AHL level.

Despite having 33 games in the NHL, the signing is still beneficial to Hartford. Keep in mind that last season, Blackwell had an even split in the AHL and NHL (26 games with Milwaukee, 27 in Nashville). If he ends up in Hartford, Blackwell will provide additional offense to the roster. He is dependable in the offensive zone. He also plays solid on defense and would be a a reliable two way player for Hartford.

Rangers snag another rival player, Anthony Greco

Speedy and talented Anthony Greco signed a two year deal with the Rangers. The 27 year-old forward spent four seasons in the AHL with one game under his belt with the Florida Panthers. The signing is aimed for Hartford as he’s provided solid numbers in the past with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Greco was also the AHL’s fastest skater in the All-Star festivities in 2019. Check out his impressive speed! The record is not broken to date.

Chris Drury and the Rangers have rebuilt Hartford to have grit, offensive firepower, and experience. It seems the organization has learned from the good and bad of last year’s roster. The players on the farm will help develop and maintain a winning attitude with the Rangers of tomorrow. A winning and developing culture is the key to success in today’s AHL.

Rangers Sign A Veteran Goalie

Wolf Pack roster
Kinkaid joins Wolf Pack roster (Getty Images)

After the departure of Igor Shesterkin, Hartford juggled goalies last season. Tom McCollum played majority of the season with the Maine Mariners and he was given a quick look in Hartford before being traded to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

As a result, Jean-Francois Berube was brought in to help right the ship in the crease. Unfortunately, Berube was not able to perform well due to a weak Hartford roster, as the club had call ups, injuries, and suspensions.

Now the Rangers elected to sign Keith Kinkaid to a two-year deal. The 31 year-old goaltender has plenty of NHL experience and was developed under the New Jersey Devils organization. His numbers were not impressive, but he has a chance to play in front of a quality Hartford roster. He needs to be reliable as well for the group. The expectation is that he will be mentoring Adam Huska or Tyler Wall in Hartford as both goalies will be battling for the backup spot with the Wolf Pack.

The Rangers also now have a goalie to expose to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft next summer. Igor Shesterkin is auto protected and Alex Georgiev can be protected as Kinkaid fits the criteria for exposure.

“I really like the addition of Kinkaid on a prove-it contract after a tough season to give Hartford a veteran option. He had shown signs of rebounding after going to Charlotte on loan in a brief stint before the season ended. #AHL”

Patrick Williams

Jonny Brodzinski joins Pack

Brodzinski is another seasoned forward for Hartford. The 27 year-old has experience in the NHL and AHL. He is another center that is reliable offensively and can play wing if needed. Hartford has plenty of options for line combinations as there is an abundance of centers. He is able to score and create plays. He is a well rounded player that can help push the offense along. He’s a good character guy to have around with the prospects.

Rangers re-sign Darren Raddysh and Gabriel Fontaine

Yesterday, the Rangers also kept two important players from last season for the Pack. Both Darren Raddysh and Gabriel Fontaine will continue to help what Chris Drury is building in the NHL.

Assessing the Wolf Pack

On paper, the Wolf Pack have a solid mix of veterans that will push the team forward in the upcoming season. Last season was exciting to see the prospects develop under a winning culture with a good mix of veterans.

Kris Knoblauch will continue to push the team hard and will be ready for his second season as the head coach. Add in prospects such as Morgan Barron, Patrick Khodorenko, and Tarmo Reunanen, the bolstered roster should be able to prosper well.

There’s unfinished business that remains. As of now, the AHL’s target date is still on for December. Most likely that will change, given the continual movements with the pandemic and NHL. In all likelihood we will see a January or February start for next season. Stay with us for future updates.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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