Sammy Blais unlikely to hold spot in New York Rangers lineup
The clock is ticking on Sammy Blais and his time with the New York Rangers.
It was already likely that he was going to be moved at the trade deadline as part of a deal for a rental. The 26 year-old forward is on a one-year contract worth $1.525 before turning into an unrestricted free agent in July.
With zero goals and only nine assists as a Blueshirt in 44 games spanning two seasons, he’s not bringing much to the Rangers lineup. Blais lacks speed, which is probably even more diminished since blowing out his knee in November of last year. He certainly is physical when it comes to hitting but has only one fighting major since joining the Rangers and two for his entire career (163 games) per Hockey Fights.
At this time, Blais is keeping the much faster and skillful Julien Gauthier on the sidelines and blocking promising Will Cuylle from a call up. After being benched for the entirety of the third period due to an undisciplined punch to the face of Penguins’ Brock McGinn that cost the Rangers the lead, Blais’ spot on the roster is in jeopardy.
Sammy Blais near future in doubt
Trying to become an integral piece of the Rangers lineup has been an uphill battle for Sammy Blais. He was the main component in the extremely unpopular trade of Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 2021.
While the move was for cap saving purposes with Buchnevich subsequently signing a four-year contract with the Blues at an AAV of $5.8 million, it still doesn’t sit well with many fans in New York. GM Chris Drury would’ve been better off keeping Buchnevich and trading his rights after the playoffs for a low draft pick because they spent the entire year searching for a top six right wing.
In that trade with the Blues, the Rangers also received a second round pick that they had to package to the Winnipeg Jets as part of the Andrew Copp deal in order to fill that hole. This past summer, Copp signed as a UFA with the Detroit Red Wings leaving Blais as the only thing to show for moving Buchnevich.
Blais signed a one-year deal this past offseason for a little less than his qualifying offer. He did show some promise with 4 assists in 14 games last year before an ACL tear knocked him out for the rest season. However, that promise is drying up quick with just 5 assists in 30 games to date.
With the Rangers in dire of need of cap space for 2023-24, there was very little chance that Blais was going to get a contract from Drury. Not with Will Cuylle developing quickly in Hartford.
Cuylle, 20, has 7 goals and 12 points in 25 matches with the Wolf Pack this season. He’s only in the first year of his three-year entry-level contract that comes with a team friendly AAV of $828K. So whether it happens later this season or at the start of next, Cuylle will be replacing Blais in the lineup.
As for Thursday’s huge tilt against the New York Islanders, you’ll likely find Blais wearing street clothes in favor of Gauthier.
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