Jesper Fast re-signing with Rangers may be aided by coronavirus pause
Part 5 in a series analyzing the New York Rangers.
Can we agree that the two most second-guessed personnel decisions of Alain Vigneault’s five-year reign behind the Rangers’ bench were: A) playing Tanner Glass at all, and B) playing Jesper Fast as a top-six forward?
So guess who David Quinn had locked in during the season as a top-six forward to complement Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome?
Well, yes, that would be the same Mr. Quickie.
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 Vigneault and 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-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello?
Panarin on the second line? Sergei Fedorov was once on the second line in Detroit, behind Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier was on the second line for a time in Edmonton behind The Great Gretzky, and either Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg was once a second-liner for Colorado.
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.
But No. 17’s future as a Ranger — the man, by the way, started with No. 12, switched to No. 19 after Brad Richards left and then Fast changed out of that sweater when the digits were retired in Jean Ratelle’s honor — is in doubt. The pending free agent just might be wearing a different uniform next season.
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.
In both cases, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The cap almost assuredly will be lower for 2020-21 than anticipated. The Rangers were going to face a squeeze, anyway. But it would be surprising if the team does not circle back on the winger once the fate of this year has been decided. Because if the Blueshirts are going to have less space with which to work, so will everybody else, and that raises the likelihood that there will be fewer dollars available for Fast around the league on the open market.
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.
Players have come — Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, et al — and players have gone — Nash, Stepan, Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, plus — over the past two-plus years, so Fast’s departure would not in itself represent a trauma.
But it would create a hole on a team that sure is not overflowing with defense-minded forwards.
It would create a hole in the room … and in the top-six.
Position: Right wing
Contract status: Completed final season of contract with cap hit of $1.95 million and is a pending unrestricted free agent
2019-20 stats: 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points in 69 games
Source : Larry Brooks Link