Earlier today, the Rangers and restricted free agent Jesper Fast reached agreement on a new contract. It was a Fast resolution with the 25-year old checking right wing and the club agreeing to a new three-year deal worth an average of $1.85 million per season.
The Rangers made the announcement along with the terms on Twitter. A rarity for an air tight organization which usually doesn’t give us those details.
It’s a fair deal for a hard working player who never takes a shift off. In three-plus seasons, Fast has tallied 22 goals and 43 assists totaling 65 points in 216 games. The former 2010 sixth round pick is a versatile speedy complementary wing who coach Alain Vigneault trusts.
A smart two-way forward who is dependable on the penalty kill and at even strength, the affable Swede is best suited on the fourth line. He formed solid chemistry with ex-teammate and countryman Oscar Lindberg. They teamed with Michael Grabner during portions of ’16-17 when Grabner wasn’t elevated to the third line.
After posting career highs in goals (10), assists (20), points (30) and games played (79) in ’15-16, Fast got into 68 games registering six goals and 15 helpers for 21 points. One thing about him, he’s been a good postseason performer stepping up when it counts. During the 2015 NHL Playoffs, Fast registered three goals and three assists in a trip to the Conference Finals. He did even better this past Spring going 3-3-6 in 12 games before the team fell to the Senators in the second round.
With the Blueshirts rebuilding on the fly by trading Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for seventh overall selection Lias Andersson and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, they’re going to have a different look for the ’17-18 season. Pavel Buchnevich will have a defined top nine role along with second-year forward Jimmy Vesey.
Mika Zibanejad remains unsigned. He’s the key Group II who is due a raise. With defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk essentially replacing Stepan’s cap hit ($6.65 million AAV) to improve the blueline, the club still has questions surrounding their center situation. With Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and Desharnais, they could shift J.T. Miller to the pivot anchoring the third line. He’s been more effective on the wing.
The other possibility is swinging a trade. But it seems unlikely. Especially with Colorado GM Joe Sakic not coming down from his outrageous demands for potential 2019 unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene. Unless Rangers GM Jeff Gorton wants to part with more of his core featuring Miller or Chris Kreider, it doesn’t look realistic.
If the club gives Zibanejad a longer term in the neighborhood of five years for say $5 million AAV, they’ll have little wiggle room to add anyone else. In the past, they’ve bridged players to save cap space. If they go that way, maybe they can add another player on a tryout or perhaps look into what’s left. I will continue to advocate Jaromir Jagr, who drives possession and hasn’t lost his passion. In a secondary scoring role playing alongside Buchnevich, he could work.
For now, we’ll have to patiently wait before Zibanejad signs. Gorton hinted that it could be in the latter part of the summer. These things take time. Give it two to three weeks. I’m sure it’ll be done.
In related news, Fast’s former linemate Lindberg signed a two-year contract worth $3.4 million with Las Vegas. Similar term. Hope it works out well for him with the Golden Knights.