Updated tier rankings for New York Rangers free agent targets

Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, we move quickly into offseason mode. The NHL free agent market will open on July 28, which for a number of general managers around the league it presents an opportunity to reshape their rosters.

“It’s hard not to watch these playoffs and notice the physicality, the energy, the effort and the intensity it takes to win and to succeed and we’re certainly going to need to play that way to have success in the regular season and in the playoffs,” Chris Drury said heading into the summer. “We’re always looking at ways to improve the lineup, to add different pieces, just like every team in the league, and every team in the league is watching these playoffs – you know we all want harder players to play against and we’re no different.”

Below is an updated list of UFA targets for the Rangers this summer including their position, age, and last contract AAV. The tiers and players are also ranked from highest to lowest.

New York Rangers UFA Targets: Top Priority

When we look at the Rangers, there’s no doubt that reshaping their third and fourth line is now a top priority. The following five players are exactly what Gerard Gallant will need on his roster to not only play the way he wants, but to compete in the postseason when the games become harder.

Casey Cizikas (Center – 30 y/o – $3.35M AAV): The Islanders “Identity Line” center should be the top free agent the Rangers should target. He wins draws, and scores clutch goals in the postseason. Cizikas isn’t physically imposing at 5-11 and 195 lbs but he plays so much bigger than his size. It’s unlikely that Lou Lamoriello will be able to keep him.

casey cizikas
Feb 8, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders scores at 11:15 of the third period against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 08, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Coleman (Center – 29 y/o – $1.8M AAV): The center turned winger had himself an excellent season for the Tampa Bay Lightning with 31 points in 55 games. At 5-11 and 200 lbs, he is a solid forward who is aggressive on the puck, and hits with purpose. This season he racked up 109 hits but has been known to throw his body a lot more.

Barclay Goodrow (Center – 28 y/o – $925K AAV): Another member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Goodrow is a big man at 6-2 and 215 lbs. This season he scored 20 points in 55 games. For his career, he wins 52% of the draws he takes and would be a nice 4th line pivot if Cizikas can’t be signed.

Jordan Martinook (Forward – 29 y/o – $2M AAV): Martinook is ferocious forechecker and physical player that refuses to back down. In 2018-19 he registered 199 hits to go along with 46 blocks playing in all 82 games for the Hurricanes. The guy is also vocal in the locker-room, beloved by his teammates, and wears a letter on his sweater too. If the Rangers could get him at just a small increase to his last deal, he’s be a great fourth liner.

Luke Glendening (Center – 32 y/o – $1.8M AAV): Offensively, Glendening is not going to bring much to the table, but that’s not why you would sign him. For his career, he has a winning FO% of 54.8 and is without a doubt a specialist.

Brandon Sutter (Center – 32 y/o – $4.35M AAV): The Huntington, NY native is a big man at 6-3 and 190 lbs. He scored 12 points in 43 games for Vancouver last season and won 55.5% of his draws. He’s no longer worth the money he used to make, and could be a nice cheap option in what will be a competitive UFA market.

Secondary Targets

The Rangers are said to be in the market for a veteran defenseman, preferably someone with big game experience. This falls under a nice-to-have bucket, but I would not overpay to add to a position of strength, albeit a very young position.

Jamie Oleksiak (Left Defense – 28 y/o – $2.1M AAV): Dallas is rumored to do whatever it takes to sign him before free agency begins. So it is very possible he won’t be there when the bell rings to open up the buying. However, if he is the Rangers should look to add him. Should they go this route, that likely means K’Andre Miller will be slotted for less minutes on the third pair.

Patrik Nemeth (Left Defense – 28 y/o – $3M AAV): The Avalanche picked up the rugged defenseman from the Detroit Red Wings and he played very well. At 6-3 and 228 lbs, he is a physical presence that could certainly play quality third pair minutes.

Niklas Hjalmarsson (Left Defense – 34 y/o – $5M AAV): If the Rangers are looking for someone with Stanley Cup experience on a short term deal to shore up their third pair, Hjalmarsson would be a smart move. During his heyday with the Blackhawks, he helped drive puck possession and won Cups. The question is what does he think he’s worth after picking up just 5 points in 41 games for the Coyotes this past season.

Zdeno Chara (Left Defense – 44 y/o – $795K AAV): This elder statesman and future Hall of Famer actually considered the Rangers before signing with the Capitals. He has yet to decide if he will continue his career, but a one year deal at under a million would make sense for Drury.

Big Fish: Proceed with caution

There’s plenty of big free agents out there. Some, like Alex Ovechkin and Gabriel Landeskog will remain there until the expansion draft passes and then sign with their current teams. However, there are other names that would be serious upgrades for the Rangers but have major risks.

Age is one factor because these UFA’s will get multi-year deals on the open market. They will also command salaries north of $5 million which could have cap implications for years to come.

Phillip Danault (Center – 28 y/o – $3M AAV): Would you spend $6 million plus on a third line center? During the regular season, he put up a respectable 24 points in 53 games. His face-off percentage of 52.5 shows his consistency and effectiveness in the dots. For his career, he wins 53.8% of the draws he takes. He is a shutdown center who is respectable offensively. This is the one player on this list I would certainly take the risk with. The Rangers should only consider Danault at $5 million or less.

Zach Hyman (Left Wing 29 y/o – $2.25M AAV): If the Rangers want to be harder to play against, Zach Hyman is that type of player. Problem is he is looking for over $6 million per season on a 6-7 year deal. That’s a big risk at his age. Plus he’s a left wing and the Rangers are overloaded there. Still, he does fit the bill for what Gallant and Drury want to do.

Alec Martinez (Left Defense – 34 y/o – $4M AAV): He is a proven winner, and Rangers fans are painfully aware of it after he scored the Cup winning goal against Henrik Lundqvist in 2014. Martinez would automatically jump into the top four, which would push Miller to a third pair role. There’s mutual interest in staying with Vegas so he may not be around come July 28 anyway.

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