Happy 4th! Rangers sign Desharnais, Kovalchuk stays home


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David Desharnais signed with the Rangers for one year to fill a fourth line role. More on the Rangers. Plus Ilya Kovalchuk. AP Photo via Getty Images

On the 4th of July, the Rangers filled one spot by signing David Desharnais for one year, $1 million. It’s a low risk move in hopes that the undersized, speedy veteran center can play fourth line.

There once was a time when Desharnais topped 50 points in Montreal. But those days are long gone. He’s 30 going on 31 and coming off a bad season in which the Habs traded him to the Oilers where he wasn’t much better. In 49 combined games, he totaled 14 points (6-8-14) while adding a goal and three helpers in the postseason for Edmonton.

He’s not old by any stretch. But has been trending in the wrong direction. Maybe playing for Alain Vigneault in a up tempo system emphasizing speed will help rejuvenate him. Amazingly, he’s now replaced Mats Zuccarello as the smallest player on the Rangers. He’s listed at 5-7, 174. Zuccarello is 5-7, 179. But of course is a top six forward who has led the team in scoring two years running.

As long as they don’t misuse Desharnais by trying him in a top nine role, he should be fine. I’m not sure how good a replacement he’ll be for the younger and bigger Oscar Lindberg, who was good on face-offs. In limited duty with the Oilers, Desharnais won 54.3 percent (94-and-79). He’s 50.5 percent for his career.

Desharnais has scored 64 of his 81 career goals at even strength. Of his 173 assists, 121 have come at even strength. The rest of the production is power play (17-52-69). His shooting percentage is 14.9. Not bad considering he’s never taken 100 shots in a single season. Hopefully, he doesn’t frustrate our fans. He can go to the net. The issue is consistency.

My reaction is blah. It’s not like Desharnais isn’t capable. He’s another small player. For one year, it’s okay. Maybe he’ll fit in. But unless GM Jeff Gorton adds another forward (cough Jagr) for the third line, the projected fourth line doesn’t excite me.

Projected NYR Lines

Kreider-Zibanejad-Zuccarello

Vesey-Hayes-Nash

Grabner-Miller-Buchnevich

Puempel-Desharnais-Fast

You can always flip the wingers for Zibanejad and Hayes. I would much prefer to have Grabner on the fourth line balancing it out. Puempel isn’t a full-time starter. Maybe a kid like Cristoval Nieves impresses enough to stick. Heck. Even Nicklas Jensen should have a shot.

I am sure we’ll get to see first round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil take part in preseason. But unless one really stands out, they’re probably both going back to Europe.

On the Jagr suggestion, why not? He’s 45 but still can play and drive possession. Would he take a discount to return to Broadway and help develop Buchnevich on a third line centered by Miller? That would be a much better look and slide Grabner down.

I know it’s a long shot. But you have to love Jagr trying to get GM’s attention on July 1.

I would’ve taken a flyer on Nail Yakupov, who instead signed with the confusing Avalanche for $875,000. Still only 23, the former first overall pick is looking to rebuild his career. Good luck in Colorado. You’re gonna need it.

In related news, Mikhail Grigorenko left for the KHL agreeing to a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow. He was also in the same draft as Yakupov. Not good. One successful pick Alex Galchenyuk still is waiting to re-sign with the Canadiens. Big money awaits.

Speaking of which, Evgeny Kuznetsov got a gigantic eight-year, $62.4 million contract from the cash strapped Caps who then turned around and gave away Marcus Johansson to the Devils for second and third round picks. A steal of a deal for Devils GM Ray Shero, who might be setting up for another trade with a glut at center. Something Hasan noted. They can use a defenseman. I predict either Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac will get moved. Henrique would be easier due to his age (27) and cheaper cap hit which is $4 million for the next two years before he hits the market.

It makes sense with Pavel Zacha entering Year 2 and number one overall pick Nico Hischier debuting. Zajac is signed longer and they just added Brian Boyle. If they keep Henrique, he can shift to the left side.

As for the Islanders, still nothing doing. They made the one upgrade trading Ryan Strome to Edmonton for Jordan Eberle. That’s been it. They got bad news on top goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin, who re-signed with CSKA Moskva for three more years. The 21-year old has dominated in the KHL. He was taken the same 2014 NHL Draft as Rangers’ goalie prospect Igor Shestyerkin. Looks like the Isles better hope fourth rounder Linus Soderstrom works out. The 20-year old has put up great numbers in Sweden.

Kovalchuk Reaches Four-Year Agreement with SKA St. Petersburg

Ilya Kovalchuk made his decision to stay in the KHL for another year with St. Petersburg SKA. No surprise. Though he might’ve been influenced by Vladimir Putin to stay and try to win a gold medal at the 2018 South Korea Winter Games. That’s important to Russia. With the NHL not participating, the Russians could be the heavy favorite like the old days. More on Kovalchuk:

If that’s true, it’s not a surprise. The Devils weren’t going to give Kovalchuk away. Especially inside the Metro Division to a bitter rival (Rangers) or the Blue Jackets. The bottom line is Kovalchuk would rather wait until he’s unrestricted next summer and can choose his team.

If you’re a Devils fan, there are probably a few expletives mixed in with your barbecue and drink. It is what it is. He was never returning to play for them. Especially in a rebuild.

I’ll imagine Hasan will have more to say on this situation. Wishing all a Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸⭐️✨💥

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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One Response to Happy 4th! Rangers sign Desharnais, Kovalchuk stays home

  1. hasan4978 says:

    I was going to put something in the post day about Kovalchuk but honestly it isn’t even worth the aggravation anymore. I’m just glad it’s finally over with – at least till he comes back with the Rangers next year and Armageddon begins.

    Like

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