Three Centers The Rangers Should Go After In Free Agency

With David Desharnais making the jump to the KHL, and the Rangers being likely to move on from Paul Carey and Peter Holland, there is room to bring in a few more centermen. These three are some dark horse guys, overlooked and undervalued, but ones that can fit into one of the many holes that the Rangers have.

Obviously John Tavares and Paul Stastny are the leading go-getters for centermen this offseason, so these players will not be of their caliber. But still, these players will be adequate enough and cheap enough during this rebuilding phase.  

Derek Ryan – Carolina Hurricanes

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Albeit a brief NHL career, Derek Ryan has been effective in his 2+ NHL seasons. His stats may show a negative plus/minus at -22 for his career, but there are some bright spots. Ryan has won 56.1% of his 1706 career faceoffs. This is coupled with Carolina’s trust in him in, by having him on 59.3% of the offensive zone starts. He also has a respectable CF% (Corsi For) of 54.4% over his NHL career.

Ryan has also spent some time in multiple roles, as a third line center who also played on Carolina’s second powerplay unit. For his career, he has eight powerplay goals and eight powerplay assists. At even strength, he has 28 goals and 41 assists in 153 career games for the Hurricanes.

Obviously, the number one worry is the fact that he has only had really two seasons at the NHL level. Despite playing overseas for nearly a decade in various locations like Hungary, Germany, and Sweden, the lack of experience in the highest level of hockey is certainly an area of concern. Even more so is the fact that he is 31, and by the time this rebuild ends, he will be pushing 34 years old.   

Despite all of that, he can provide much needed help in the center of the ice. His value at the faceoff dot and at both ends of the ice is certainly overlooked. He is coming off of a one year deal that was worth $1.425 million, so he could be picked up for cheap. The Rangers could sway him from staying with the Hurricanes, with a 2-year deal worth $2 million deal per season.

Tyler Bozak – Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Star

Bozak is certainly not considered a dark horse, but I would say he is definitely overlooked as a signing. His contract is certainly chunky, but in my opinion, is definitely worth the price. He, alongside Ryan, is 31-years-old.

At the end of a 5-year/$21 million deal, Bozak has shown dependability in the faceoff dot and offensive ability. He has 136 goals and 229 assists in 594 career games. Bozak has won 53.6% of his draws and took the draw in the offensive zone 51.4% of his career.

Stats aside, Bozak is very careful with the puck and has good awareness of where he is on the ice. He showed in the playoffs this season against Washington, that he can find open space and provide scoring opportunities. In both of these clips, you can see Bozak finding the open ice in a high scoring area and putting it home.

Some issues with Bozak is evidently not preventing scoring chances. His commitment to playing defense has been questioned; and with that being said, would this work with the Rangers? Possibly, but only if more things fall into place. Re-worked defense, solid wingers to couple his playstyle and a coach that would use him in a way similar to Mike Babcock in Toronto.

Again, his contract will be large. He just made $4.2 million last season, so it will have to hover around that much to bring him over to New York. With Toronto making the playoffs this season, and their future looking better then ever, it will be hard to rip him from the place he has played his entire career.

Mark Letestu – Columbus Blue Jackets

My final dark horse target for center for the Rangers is Columbus’ Mark Letestu. Letestu split last season with Columbus and Edmonton, playing in just 20 games with Columbus. He can be added as a bottom six forward, headlining the bottom two lines from the center position.

Letestu has been moved around alot in his nine years at the NHL level, playing in Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and Columbus on two separate occasions. He isn’t going to put up dazzling numbers in terms of points, but Letestu can add help that the Rangers need from their bottom lines.  

Letestu has a 52.1 % faceoff percentage for his career and is very durable. He has appeared in 60 or more games six times over his career. He has been primarily used in defensive zone starts over his career, with 56.9% of his draws being near his goalie.

His contract is a little more expensive than a traditional bottom six forward. He made $1.8 million last season, which in contrast to the Rangers is about as much as Jesper Fast is getting paid over the next three seasons.

The Rangers may want to move for a more talented scorer, but to balance the lines, Letestu can be a solid acquisition.

Gaining one of these three players could help fill a giant hole in the Rangers lineup. Additionally, New York has nearly $25 million in cap space to play with heading into the summer. This offseason will be fast and exciting, and could make or break this franchise.

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