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Day 1 of free agency: no big splashes, third-pair D & bottom-six forwards

July 29, 2021, 8:41 AM ET [577 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers very lightly dipped their toe into the first day of free agency, Not that this was a surprising result, as cap flexibility, given the potential future acquisition and need for space for re-signing their own restricted free agents, was a primary concern. A third-pair, left-handed blueliner was officially inked, along with a depth d-man and two possible fourth line options, providing more grit and making the team "harder" to play against were brought on board.

The Patrick Nemeth signing came in right at the figure that had been reported, three years, $2.5 million AAV, Given the money thrown around in free agency in general, the years and dollars were more than reasonable. I would have loved David Savard, maybe partially influenced by his stretch run and playoff play for Tampa rather than his performance in Columbus, but get not going four years and $3.5 million, despite that AAV being less than expected.

To replace Brendan Smith, Jarred Tinordi was brought in on a two-year deal with a 900K AAV.  His claim to fame is taking on Tom Wilson after Wilson's hit on Brendan Carlo. Tinordi is a physical blue liner who is nothing special defensively. He will be slotted in the lineup periodically, and if a longer-term injury rather than a 1-2 game absence arises to one of the six blueliners, look for one of the kids - Braden Schneider, Zak Jones or Nils Lundkvist, if he doesn't start the year next to Nemeth - to be in the lineup rather than Tinordi.

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In the continued desire to remake the bottom-six, Greg McKegg, a prior resident of Broadway, is a decent faceoff guy who spent last season in Boston, is returning on a one-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 at the NHL level. In addition Dryden Hunt, a bottom-line guy who likes to bang and who I think ends up more in the lineup than expected and a signing I like a lot, agreed on a two-year, two-way deal for $767,500 per.

Those two join Barclay Goodrow, who signed his deal late last week, Sammy Blais, acquired in the Pavel Buchnevich deal, incumbents Kevin Rooney and Julin Gauthier along with rookie Morgan Barron to help fill out the bottom-six. Don't expect much offense from this group, but as Rick Carpienello wrote: " they'll bring size, physicality and a will is back for a sngness to do the dirty work."

If one more option is added, that player could be winger Nick Ritchie, who has yet to sign a deal, though still could return to Boston. He would augment the theme of a bottom-six that is physical, though Ritchie can add a little offense. If GM Chris Drury is willing to go three years, a deal could get done. 

Obviously, the looming specter is the possible deal for Jack Eichel. Phillip Danault inked a six-year deal with a $5.5 mil AAV in LA, lengthening an already deep center crew. Danault likely will be a 2C for a few years before transitioning to be the 3C, which is probably where he best fits on a championship squad. The dollars were about a mil less per year than what had been reported as a possibility for Danault, and with Ryan Strome still here coupled with the potential of Eichel, that outlay was viewed as too high.

Several insiders are reporting that the Eichel Sweepstakes has gone quiet, virtually stalled. Drury then just needs to remain patient and let the market come to him, if he really wants Eichel. No reason to get into a bidding war when several candidates have either dropped out to other signings, see LA, or price, see Minnesota. That doesn't mean Eichel is a done deal, far from it, or other teams (Calgary, St. Louis etc.) or the previously named ones won't engage or re-engage, but Drury can slow play this.

New York has $16-17 mil in cap room. Some of that cash will go to Filip Chytil and Igor Shesterkin. If Eichel is not an option, dealing Buchnevich does end up looking a bit more head scratching. But Drury could look to acquire a player with a year left on his contract, like Tomas Hertl, or maybe engages on Christian Dvorak, as many would like, or possibly Sean Monahan. 

I would have liked Michael Bunting on the deal he signed, same with maybe Derek Ryan. But Drury stayed away from deals that would have crippled the team down the road, cognizant that the Goodrow deal may not age well. Hard to give a grade, since right now, it's incomplete, since the team still needs a second or third line center, since right now, I view Chytil as a wing not a center, though Goodrow may be the 3C.

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