Nathan Gerbe was brought in via free agency by the New York Rangers this offseason as a cheap commodity with upside. As the preseason rapidly approaches, the roster spots seem to get harder to come by, but Gerbe could end up being a great value find for New York, as he plays head coach Alain Vigneault’s quick and skilled style, while also playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. There is nowhere near a guarantee that Gerbe makes the club; however, his wealth of tools, like speed, penalty-killing and offensive flair make him an attractive candidate to re-shape the Rangers’ bottom six.
Gerbe is a small forward. At 5 feet 4 inches with only 178 pounds behind him, he isn’t exactly going to intimidate someone physically. But that’s ok because the crux of his game centers on his speed and ability with the puck. There’s no doubt that there’s some skill in his game, and this is an attribute that the Rangers fourth line lacked far too often last season. Having a forward with great hands can give New York a different look when they have opportunities.
Something to Prove
Gerbe is coming in off a down season. Last year he posted only seven points, which were a hefty drop from the 28 he posted the year before. The one-year $600,000 contract should, in theory, force him to put his absolute best effort out on a nightly basis. For him it won’t be all about points; he could help the Rangers on the penalty kill and on the forecheck as well. It also doesn’t hurt that he could play either wing and even center if need be.
A bonus for New York is that Gerbe has the necessary bite to his game to allow him to bounce around the lineup. He will get into corners to battle, and he has a way of bothering the opponent. These are always good guys to have around because they keep everyone else from getting lazy.
My colleague Mark Shiver wrote just a few days before the penning of this post about Gerbe and praised his work ethic. One segment that stood out to me, in particular, was his closing statement about the athlete:
I believe that even though the Hurricanes have moved on, and that Gerbe is not a part of their plan, his hustle will be missed. No matter how well or poorly anyone around him played, he was consistently reliable in his intensity.
[See related: Few Grieving that Gerbe is Gone]
Gerbe reminds me a bit of Mats Zuccarello; he has some edge to his game, he plays bigger than he is and he can do some eye-popping things with the puck. As the roster stands now, I suspect that Gerbe would have to be the front runner for the 13th forward spot. He can move anywhere in the lineup, and he’s 29-years-old, so there isn’t much reason to send him to the minors, where other players (potential opponents) like Nicklas Jensen and Marek Hrivik could benefit from the increased playing time.
This will be a tough camp for the smaller forward, as the Rangers have several capable players pushing for very few spots and again he will have to overcome so undesirable odds.