Maxim Lapierre was recently invited by the New York Rangers to attend the team’s training camp on a PTO, which is a move that surprised many fans considering the fact that the Rangers already have several qualified players competing for just a few spots. Lapierre has made his living under the skin of his opponents over the course of his career, and he does have qualities that could help the Rangers, but the fact is that he is a true long shot to start the season on Broadway. To have success, he will need to prove in preseason that he can still be a valuable penalty killer, and overall player after spending a year overseas.
Lapierre would be the first real agitator to wear Broadway blue since Sean Avery left. He’s the kind of guy that throws hard hits and picks at star players. One team that he seemed to annoy was the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup Final back in 2011.
The agitator is certainly a part of today’s game; players like Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand have played pivotal roles on Stanley Cup-winning teams because they have that way of just getting the other team to focus on them. That said, the big difference between Lapierre and the other players mentioned is that they are much better all around at this point.
Now just because Lapierre isn’t as gifted offensively as Marchand and Shaw, doesn’t mean he can’t serve a purpose. In his last NHL season, the center killed 1:45 per game for the St. Louis Blues and 2:13 per game for the Pittsburgh Penguins while also winning 50.6 percent of his draws. He finished that season with 11 points, and while that’s not great, it’s only four less than Dominic Moore, who Lapierre would be replacing.
The selling point with him is that, like Avery, he can play and produce these random spurts of offensive ability, that leave you thinking, “why can’t he do that more often?”
He does have all of the tools that the Rangers are looking for in the fourth line/spare forward role, but at 31-years-old, time isn’t on his side.
I don’t see Lapierre making this team. Yes, he has some of the traits that the Rangers are looking for, but there is just no part of him that jumps off the page. Guys like Oscar Lindberg, Josh Jooris and Marek Hrivik just seem to have so much more upside at this point, not just because of their natural ability, but because they don’t come with bad reputations as divers. Perhaps Alain Vigneault (who used to coach him in Vancouver) put in a good word for the veteran to try to give his career a spark, or maybe the Rangers don’t want the younger players thinking that making this team is a lock. It just seems like a square peg in a round hole at this point.
Now don’t get me wrong, if Lapierre comes out flying and looking like he could be a difference maker on a nightly basis, then fine, the team needs to give him a contract. But if I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath.