General manager (GM) Chris Drury made the necessary additions at the trade deadline to strengthen the depth of the New York Rangers’ roster. The Rangers needed more experienced depth players to improve their team and in case of injuries to players who are regulars in the lineup. The GM made worthwhile additions in Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte, and Andrew Copp.
Due to the positive impact the new Rangers trio has had in the two weeks each has been with the organization, Drury should consider re-signing at least one of them during the offseason. If any of the players have a strong showing during the postseason, that will enhance his respective value with the Rangers. Motte has the lowest average annual value (AAV) currently of the trio followed by Vatrano and Copp, respectively.
Copp is a versatile player that can contribute to the power play, penalty kill, can play center, and wing. He has provided a boost to the Rangers’ lineup since his acquisition from the Winnipeg Jets and he will look to maintain his strong play in the hopes of securing his next multi-year contract during free agency. Let’s take a look at why Drury should consider keeping him on the team beyond the remainder of the season.
Not All Forwards Possess Copp’s Versatility
Copp began his career with the Jets more skilled on the bottom-six due to his penalty-killing ability as a defensive forward. Over the last three seasons, his offensive numbers have increased. In 2021-22, he has already set new highs in goals and assists with 19 games remaining in the regular season.
Before the deadline, the Rangers primarily had one center good at winning faceoffs in Mika Zibanejad. Even though the Rangers remain toward the bottom of the NHL in faceoff win percentage (FOW%), Copp’s attribute at faceoff draws can benefit New York in the postseason. Faceoffs are a statistic that is overlooked during an 82-game schedule but has more significance in a potential 28-game playoff schedule in which a team needs to win 16 games to be the Stanley Cup champion.
Copp’s Intelligence Leads Him To Further Develop His Game
Paul Maurice, the former head coach of the Jets, commented in November on how Copp’s natural hockey acumen has led to more opportunities for him. “Well, he’s smart. So, he’s trying to maximize his offensive game by being a really smart defensive player. That’s his DNA. At the end of the day, his foundation is he doesn’t make mistakes defensively and I’m talking year over year, there’s just not a lot, from the very first game he played. He’s seen less video than any player I’ve ever coached. He just got it.”
Maurice believes Copp’s past as a high school quarterback in Michigan has influenced his approach to his understanding of hockey. The 27-year-old has strived to take on a bigger role rather than being content with being a defensive forward. His drive to be better has helped him grow as a leader.
“You want to be as big of a part of the team (as possible). We’ve had a great group here for a long time, it feels like. We’ve added some pieces this year that feel like we round out the group pretty (well), so we take a lot of ownership in how we play and how we perform. And you just want to be your best and be your best for the team. So yeah, I feel confident in my game, confident that I’m helping the team every night whether it’s on the scoresheet or not on the scoresheet and I just want to continue that.”
Copp Has the Capability To Play on the Rangers’ Second Line
With Ryan Strome missing the last few games due to a lower-body injury, Copp has assumed the role of the Rangers’ second-line center and as a result, has spent more time playing with one of the NHL assist leaders in Artemi Panarin. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-native scored the game-tying goal for the Rangers in the April 3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and he also tallied the game-winning goal in overtime for the Rangers against the Detroit Red Wings on March 30. Playing on the same line and power-play unit with Panarin is one of the best opportunities for Copp to facilitate his offensive contributions to the Rangers.
Once Strome returns from his injury, head coach Gerard Gallant may play Copp at right wing on the second line if the coach likes the idea of keeping the multifaceted player on the same line as Panarin. Strome has a history of playing right wing, but the new Ranger has been used more recently at the wing position. Gallant is more likely to take advantage of Copp’s adaptability than place Strome in another position where he does not play regularly.
Will Drury Choose Between Re-Signing Copp or Strome?
If Drury wants to target one of the two pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs), the Rangers will only be able to re-sign either Copp or Strome during the offseason. Strome’s current AAV is $4.5 million and he will be looking to be paid a minimum of that amount with his new contract. It is understandable if Drury decides to explore options for another center if he does not want a second-line center to be making $5 million annually.
There is no denying Copp’s production for the Rangers and Drury should consider re-signing him if he remains one of the more productive players for New York this year. After all, the GM did trade a decent amount to acquire him and it would be prudent to make an offer to keep the forward with the Rangers. He seems to be fitting in well with the Rangers during his brief time with the organization.
Copp’s current AAV is $3.64 million and if Drury makes him an offer, it will range between $4-4.5 million annually. It will be challenging for the GM to keep him with the Rangers if the forward is seeking nearly $5 million per year. The more he produces for the Rangers between now and the end of the team’s season in the playoffs, the larger of a salary he will seek to earn. A five-year contract for $4-$4.5 million is fair for Drury to offer him. Zibanejad and Adam Fox are due for salary increases in 2022-23, which is something to keep in mind.
Copp’s utility is valuable for a franchise as he is a defensive first player that has increased his offense over the course of his career. His ability to play center and wing allow Gallant to be confident the forward can develop chemistry at either position quickly with his new linemates. He has shown the ability to be another leader for the Rangers. If he plays an integral part in the Rangers’ success during the postseason, it will be imperative for Drury to keep him with New York beyond the season. His eight points in seven games with the Rangers epitomizes the talent he possesses to contribute on a regular basis for the organization.