The New York Rangers have had an interesting offseason. The moves they have made – signing Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Josh Jooris, and Adam Clendening, as well as acquiring Nick Holden and trading Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick – have been smart and cost-effective. Despite that though, glaring holes remain.
Those holes are on the back end, as puck-movers Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle are gone, while the much-maligned Dan Girardi and Marc Staal remain. With some cap space opening up after the Brassard trade, it seemed logical that the Rangers would do their best to add a quality offensive-minded defenseman to the mix before the season starts.
Alas, it is mid-August, and that has not happened. What will happen soon though is that prized free agent-to-be Jimmy Vesey will make a decision on where to sign, and that move – however it turns out – could be the domino that needs to fall for the Rangers to make final significant roster changes before the season starts.
Rangers Rumored to be in the Mix for Vesey
Vesey, a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators back in 2012, will officially become an unrestricted free agent on August 15, as he never signed with the Predators even though they assumed he would. In June, Nashville dealt his rights to Buffalo for a third-round pick, but it seems that despite the Sabres’ efforts to sign him before he hits free agency, Vesey always intended to hit the market.
The 23-year-old left-winger, who won the Hobey Baker award last season after compiling 24 goals and 22 assists in 33 games for Harvard, projects to be a top-six forward in the NHL. Since he can only sign an entry-level contract for his first two years, he will likely bring strong production at a very low initial cost. As such, it’s no wonder the Rangers and a bevy of other clubs are interested in his services.
The Rangers though, along with a handful of other teams, might have a better shot at landing Vesey than most clubs. New York is rumored to be a finalist in the sweepstakes. A couple of connections could help tip the scales in the Rangers’ favor. GM Jeff Gorton has a good relationship with Vesey’s agent, Peter Fish. Vesey is also said to be good friends with Blueshirts forward Kevin Hayes, who signed with the club in a similar situation just two years ago.
More Moves to Follow Vesey?
Signing Vesey would be great for the Rangers, but whether or not that happens, the conclusion of this saga should help New York determine its course of action for the remainder of the offseason.
If the Rangers land Vesey, they will have more flexibility to part with a quality forward, as their already-strong depth up front would be greatly improved. Perhaps then they would be more open to exploring a trade for an offensive defenseman.
If Vesey signs elsewhere, the Rangers might be more reluctant to trade a forward. Even so, that would still be a viable option, and one advantage is that they would also have a bit more cap space to aid them in any potential deal.
New York’s biggest deficiencies last year were their defensemen and their penalty kill, which are not mutually exclusive. Their forward acquisitions this offseason have largely been geared toward improving their penalty kill, but it does not make sense that they would go into the season with a defense corps that, as of right now, is worse than last season’s mediocre unit. It could be Vesey’s decision that they are waiting on before moving forward on further improvements.
Tom has been with The Hockey Writers for almost four years. After previously covering the LA Kings and the New York Rangers, Tom now covers the Anaheim Ducks.
While in college at Clemson University, the 2016 college football national champions, Tom wrote game summaries and feature articles for the official team website of the Greenville Drive, a Class-A minor-league baseball team and affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Tom is happy to be able to continue to fulfill his passions for sports and writing with THW.