Chris Kreider wasn’t the only New York Ranger surrounded by trade rumors. It was also expected that the team would trade gritty winger Jesper Fast before the deadline. The Blueshirts made headlines when they signed Kreider to a seven-year contract extension and dealt Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round pick. Holding onto Fast wasn’t the most exciting move the team made at the deadline but it was an intelligent one.
Fast is an excellent defensive forward. As a young player his intelligent positioning, willingness to battle for loose pucks and fearless shot-blocking kept him in the lineup. As he has improved offensively he has remained one of the team’s best forwards defensively.
The Rangers have become an offensive-minded team which makes Fast even more valuable for them. Talented forwards like Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil aren’t going to help the team kill penalties. They aren’t going to be the ones throwing themselves in front of slap shots. Fast is. He is a reliable presence that the Blueshirts can depend on in their defensive zone, and he remains one of their best penalty-killing forwards.
Chemistry with Linemates
Trading Fast at the deadline would have been a big blow for Panarin and Ryan Strome. The two have developed excellent chemistry with Fast and have played like a top line. While Panarin provides the line with incredible passing and offensive ability, Fast gives the line grit. He is responsible defensively, which allows Panarin and Strome to be more aggressive offensively.
He also isn’t afraid to engage in battles for the puck with larger players and often sets up in front of the net to screen opposing goalies. All three players complement each other well and all are in the midst of their best seasons. Fast has 11 goals and 16 assists in 60 games. He is on pace to surpass his career-high of 13 goals and 33 points, which he set in 2017-18. Strome has already set a new career-high in points with 55 and Panarin is on pace to set a new career-high in points. He currently has 83. Panarin is plus-33, Strome is plus-21 and Fast is plus-17. They are the best three players on the Rangers in terms of plus-minus.
Panarin is the Rangers’ best and highest-paid player. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Blueshirts kept the star-winger happy by hanging on to his linemates at the trade deadline.
Another aspect of Fast’s game that makes him valuable is his leadership. He leads by example and was named an alternate captain while Alain Vigneault was the team’s head coach. He has continued to wear the ‘A’ on his sweater with David Quinn as his head coach and he remains a candidate to become the team’s next captain. Quinn said there is no player more consistent than Fast and that his play is infectious for the rest of the team.
Fast’s play is reminiscent of former Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan. Although he is not one of the taller or bigger players on the team, he never shies away from physical play. Like Callahan, Fast had to earn his way onto the team. He was originally drafted in the sixth round in 2010. He has since become one of the longest-tenured members of the team and younger players can learn from him. Four consecutive times he has won the Rangers’ Players’ Player Award as voted on by his teammates at the end of each season.
While the Rangers still haven’t signed Fast, trading Skjei freed up cap space which the Blueshirts can use to change that. He is coming off of a three-year, $5.55 million contract and is due for a raise. At 28-years-old, he is a valuable player but given that he has never been known for his offense, he won’t be getting a lucrative extension like the one Kreider just signed.
Keeping Fast at the deadline shows that John Davidson, the team’s president, believes the Rangers should be able to re-sign their veteran player. Now it’s just a matter of the two sides getting the deal done. In the meantime, the Blueshirts should be ecstatic to still have Fast in New York after a wild trade deadline.
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