Two NYR Prospects’ Futures in Question
Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the Rangers’ signing of Jimmy Vesey, most of the focus has shifted to fine-tuning the roster in preparation for opening night. The forward group is now one of the youngest and deepest in the NHL, which is a tremendous ode to Jeff Gorton and crew, as they accomplished what was arguably the offseason’s biggest goal, if not the issues on defense. For more on an expansive offseason recap until today, see Russell’s Sunday long-read. This plethora of forwards not only gives the Rangers the forward depth which they haven’t had since their 2014 run to the Stanley Cup, but it also gives the front office some extra chips to play with to improve the defense.
As currently constructed, the Rangers have seven forwards fighting for three spots on the fourth line: Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Josh Jooris, Oscar Lindberg, Nathan Gerbe and Nicklas Jensen. On the surface, Grabner is the only lock because this is exactly what he was brought here for. With Oscar Lindberg on the shelf until November due to hip surgery, he loses his center position, which most likely goes to Jooris. Fast, Jensen, Gerbe and Glass will fight for the 13th/14th forward spot. The most intriguing case is that of Jesper Fast. If there wasn’t uncertainty on the back end which now needs to be addressed via trade, it isn’t even a question if Fast makes the lineup. This piece only analyzes the possibility of him getting traded.
Fast has been move around the lineup ever since he’s been with the Rangers. He’s spent some time in the top-six when needed and round on the bottom six at other times. He’s proven that he is a full-time NHLer, which might make him easy trade bait for Gorton. Much like Fast, Lindberg is also in this position. He’s more suited for the center position, but can play on the wing if necessary. I think the Rangers will want to give Nicklas Jensen a long look in camp because he’s essentially now the return for Carl Hagelin due to the Emerson Etem trade last January. Lindberg’s situation, however, is a little bit tricky due to his injury. It’s very likely that he will be put on LTIR to start the season, thereby opening up some more cap space for the Rangers to make a move.
Depending on what the Rangers are looking for in a defenseman, these two youngsters could see their days on Broadway numbered. Even if Gorton is looking for a top-pairing defenseman, Fast or Lindberg could be a “throw-in” to sweeten the pot if another GM is looking for an established NHL prospect. One other thing to consider is contract length. Fast has one year remaining at $925K before becoming a RFA at the end of the season. As of now, the Rangers have slightly in excess of $2million in cap space. With Nicklas Jensen carrying a hit of $600K this season, he is the cheaper option yet totally unexperienced. Lindberg, too becomes a RFA in July, with a 2016-17 cap hit of $650K compared to $600K for both Gerbe and Jooris, respectively. Not that there is much cap savings there, Lindberg is probably here for the entire season due to his injury issue.
They way I see things is that between Fast and Lindberg, Fast is the more likely candidate to be shipped elsewhere if the right deal comes along. I know that AV likes having him here, as his speed and forecheking ability are much needed tools for his system, but with a plethora of forwards and gaping holes on the back end, the Rangers have developed a nice little trade chip that could come in handy if the right offer comes knocking on the door.