Jesper Fast - will the Rangers want and be able to bring him back?
Larry Brooks is providing player evaluations daily in the NY Post, an exercise that began the past Monday. The order is by last name, and while he is not giving a grade, he is giving a sort of high-level assessment. Since it's my hope that we will have hockey, I thought it might be interesting to take one or a few aspects of his daily column along with his closure - the latter in italics - and provide my view, then receive yours in the comments. I will try and do this daily, and have covered Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil and Tony DeAngelo. Today, it's Jesper Fast.
There is a reason that Fast — four times running the team’s Players’ Player as voted by his peers and who just as easily as not could win it again this year if there is balloting for club awards — has been entrusted with important assignments by coaches Alain Vigneault and David Quinn.
It is because of the 28-year-old Swede’s indefatigable work habits, his commitment to detail, his willingness to battle and his devotion to play on the defensive side of the puck. You know about glue guys in the room? Fast has been a glue guy on the ice.
The winger recorded 12 goals in 69 games, one shy of the personal best he had established in 2017-18. Quinn entrusted him with 16:36 of ice time per game, nearly two minutes over his career average as he combined with Panarin and Strome to form a unit that was on the ice for 28 goals scored by the Rangers and 11 scored by the opposition in 450:16 of five-on-five play.
For context, the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich unit was intact for 283:48 and was on for 18 goals scored by the Rangers and 10 scored by the opposition. So, which would you identify as the first line and which as the second, or are we in the 1A/1B territory occupied by Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash and Benoit Pouliot-Derrick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello?
Fast is the fourth-senior Blueshirt, behind just Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Kreider in longevity after having been the team’s sixth-round, 157th-overall selection in 2010. The winger made the team out of training camp in 2013-14 (while beating out Kreider for a job), and played nine games in October before he was dispatched to the AHL. When Fast returned the following year, he’d made it for good.
The Post has learned that management had preliminary discussions with Fast’s camp leading into the Feb. 24 trade deadline but were unable to come to an agreement on an extension, with the divide somewhat wide. The Blueshirts nevertheless declined to move Fast, instead retaining him for the drive to the playoffs. If this season does not resume, this will represent the other side of the coin on which deals were made for rentals.
Fast, who plays a grinding game that has taken a toll on his 6-foot, 180-pound frame, would appear to have more value to a contender than to a bad or rebuilding team. But essentially every legit contender — maybe not Colorado — is going to be up against it. And regardless of the Swede’s assets, it’s unlikely that teams will line up to throw money at a 12-goal scorer.
So a divorce may not be inevitable...though his departure would create a hole in the room … and in the top-six.
I am huge fan of Quickie. He does all the little things that have a tendency to go unnoticed, until he is no longer here and you wonder why those tasks aren't being done. He can move up and down the lineup, as seen by his usage over the years.
Fast is probably best suited to a third-line role, including copious time on the penalty kill. But he was on pace to exceed his career-highs in goals, assists and points with almost no power-play time. Granted those numbers are aided by skating on a line with Panarin, but he didn't look like a piker on that trio.
Fast is in the final year of a three-year, $5.85 million deal and earned every penny of that contract. He is the most defensively responsible forward on the squad, resulting in the ice time he receives. I am one of those who would love another three-year deal, even if the cost is close to $3 million a season, because of all he does for the squad. If GM Jeff Gorton can get him for that term on a lower AAV, sign me up now. The divide Brooks mentions concerns me, but as he said, maybe the drop in cap enables the team to find a way to bring back Fast.
The more glue guys - especially ones that can play - the better.