Just when things couldn’t get harder, another key player from those very good Ranger teams is gone. Jesper Fast left the Blueshirts for the Hurricanes. A hardworking two-way player who always gave an honest effort, the 28-year old right wing agreed to a three-year deal worth an average cap hit of $2 million with Carolina.
The obvious question is why did he only get that salary. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the Rangers have re-signed him? It doesn’t seem like they made an attempt, opting to let Fast test the open market. Mystifying. Maybe Fast preferred to see what he could get and find a contender who would give him a better chance to win. The Hurricanes check off those boxes.
Whatever the reason, a good two-way forward is gone for a reasonable price. I really liked what Quickie brought to the table. A gritty, hard-nosed approach to each shift, he always hustled. The Rangers could plug him anywhere. That’s why he was successful. Fast played five-on-five well and was an above average penalty killer. He scored the first two shorthanded goals of his career in ’19-20.
The former Rangers sixth round pick in 2010 carved out a nice career for himself as a reliable defensive right wing who could slide up and down the lineup. Who could forget his hustle to force a Caps turnover that led directly to Ryan McDonagh scoring from Derek Stepan in sudden death of Game Five against the Capitals to keep the Rangers alive? That kind of determination and defensive instincts is why Fast was popular among teammates and fans.
I’m sure the Canes will appreciate what their newest member brings. To think that Fast fit in with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome on the second first line (Line 1B). It speaks volumes about his character and how much the coaching staff trusted him. When former coach Alain Vigneault bumped him up to the top line in that elimination game versus Washington, he knew. David Quinn used him similarly. I imagine Rod Brind’Amour will too with the retirement of Justin Williams.
For the seven years he spent in Manhattan, Fast reached the 30-point mark twice, doing so in ’15-16 by going 10-20-30, and in ’17-18 when he established career bests in goals (13) and points (33). In fact, 31 of the 33 came at even strength including all 13 of his goals. He added two shorthanded assists.
At 28, Fast had a good ’19-20 by posting 12 goals with 17 assists for 29 points and a career high plus-16 rating over 69 games. That included a pair of shorthanded goals as he and team leader Mika Zibanejad (3 SHG) were dangerous while on the penalty kill. They combined for five of the Blueshirts’ eight shorthanded goals.
A gritty player who is willing to sacrifice the body for the cause, Fast ranked third on the team in hits (125) and second among forwards in blocked shots (53). Only Brett Howden (67 blocks) had more.
For his seven-year Rangers career, Fast finishes with 55 goals and 92 assists for a total of 147 points in 422 games. Fifty-three of the 55 goals came at even strength as did 89 of his 92 helpers. The other five comprised of four shorthanded points and one power play assist. His ice-time increased over the past three seasons with the 16:36 he averaged this past season the most in his career.
In the postseason, Fast tallied 14 points (6-8-14) over 40 games. Once former teammate Brady Skjei knocked him out of the series early in Game One with a clean hit, the Rangers were never the same. They missed what Fast brought and got swept by the Hurricanes in the best-of-five series. He was also a locker room leader.
Best wishes to Fast in the future. He was a good Ranger.