Day Two: Chytil gets bridge deal, Rangers acquire tough guy Reaves, Bruins do well in off-season despite losing Krejci, Plus more

It was a much calmer Day Two for the July frenzy. After so many signings on Day One, it was like a light wind cooling off the hot summer heat. Coincidentally, the temperatures here didn’t even reach 80 degrees. However, there were still a few moves made.

The Rangers took care of a couple of things on Thursday. For starters, Filip Chytil was signed for two years. His bridge deal that runs through 2023 will average $2.3 million per cap hit. I projected him for $2.5 million. So, I was in the right ballpark. It cost a little less.

Now, it’s up to the 21-year old forward to prove himself. By that, become more consistent scoring and improve overall. Is he a center or a wing? He might start with Barclay Goodrow, who can take face-offs. It’s a good possibility that Vitali Kravtsov will join Chytil on the third line. We’ll have to wait and see what new coach Gerard Gallant decides in two and a half months.

Gallant will also have a familiar face at his disposal. In a move that wasn’t surprising, Team President and GM Chris Drury traded a third round pick to Vegas in exchange for tough guy Ryan Reaves. An intimidating player who can be intimidating for opponents due to his hard hitting physical style and mighty punch, the 34-year old veteran only knows one way to play. That’s hard. He also is a good forechecker who Gallant knows well from their time with the Golden Knights where they had a lot of success.

Is this move an overreaction to Tom Wilson? It could be. At first, I wasn’t too crazy about it due to the team already adding Sammy Blais and Jarred Tinordi. However, Drury was very pointed in his remarks about wanting to change the roster. Too often, we saw opponents take liberties with the top players including Artemi Panarin, who was buried by Wilson during a power play. That was embarrassing. If the Islanders didn’t open their eyes (it did with Dolan dismissing JD and Gorton), the Wilson antics was the last straw.

Even though the team responded during a heated rematch that featured a game opening line brawl and more nastiness, they weren’t equipped to handle it. Give credit to former Ranger Brendan Smith, who found a new home in Rangers South Carolina. That night, they did what they had to. With the no-nonsense Reaves added to a tougher lineup that includes Blais and Tinordi, that’ll allow Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba to focus more on taking care of business on the ice. They don’t need either in the penalty box. It’ll also allow stars Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox to feel more comfortable. Teams won’t get away with taking runs at them. That goes double for Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Chytil and Kravtsov.

Reaves has a year left on his contract. His cap hit is $1.75 million through 2022. There’s talk the Rangers could sign him for another season. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Especially when they parted with a third round pick in a deep draft. Reaves probably knows this is it for him. He’s done well in the league lasting a decade by playing on the edge. I’ve been an outspoken critic over past incidents where he should’ve been suspended. He finally got a two-game ban against Colorado. I hope he avoids the cheap shots when he plays. They don’t need him putting them down a man shorthanded.

It’s interesting to note that Reaves was most effective under Gallant where he produced nine goals and 11 assists to total a career high 20 points in ’18-19. He even scored three power play goals. But he won’t need to have that role in the Big Apple. It’s the heavy hitting that I believe most interested the Rangers. Sure. They know he isn’t hesitant to fight. There’s no love lost between him and Wilson dating back to the 2018 Stanley Cup won by Washington. Everyone has October 13 circled on their calendar. Expect fireworks.

By adding coveted target Goodrow along with Blais by sacrificing Pavel Buchnevich, it was clear that Drury was responding to how easy the team was to play against. That’s not a knock on Buchnevich either as he got directly involved with the unpredictable Wilson to stand up for Panarin. To his credit, Buchnevich did play with more edge last season. He didn’t shy away as much and was frequently involved in scrums. Unfortunately, he became a cap casualty. That’s the hard part of the business. I understand why he was so well liked. I’m sure the Blues will love Captain Happy.

When they decided to sign Patrik Nemeth and then Tinordi, who’ll likely serve in the Smith role as the seventh defenseman, it was obvious which direction the organization was taking. So, when it was revealed last night that they added Reaves, the mixed reaction was predictable. The more I think about it, the more I understand why they did it. Reaves isn’t just a goon. He is hard to play against. Gallant knows how to use him. The fourth line just became a headache for opponents. Whether it’s Kevin Rooney with Blais or Goodrow, and Reaves, they will be a strong checking line that will have a similar mindset as the Isles’ Identity Line. Do we really need to see Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck injure key players with clean, hard hits? I don’t think so.

Don’t forget Julien Gauthier either. He was re-signed and has untapped potential. A good skater with power moves, Gauthier also finishes checks and drives the net. He should play in games as well. Gallant will have options. That’s a good thing. I believe the lineup will depend on the opponent and how the role players are performing. We know he’ll make them accountable. Had he coached here over David Quinn before, Tony DeAngelo might still be around or at least have not been devalued after six games before headed to Carolina.

I’m wondering about Dryden Hunt, who’s played in parts of three seasons. Is he ticketed for Hartford as insurance? Probably. Libor Hajek probably will be traded. He remains unsigned along with Tim Gettinger. Hajek is a skating defenseman who should be able to crack a lineup. It just doesn’t seem like it’ll be in New York City due to Nils Lundkvist. We’ll see how it goes.

Alex Georgiev’s agent denied a rumor to USA Today reporter Vince Mercogliano that his client requested a trade. It sounds like a smokescreen. The Rangers did shop him, but nobody bit on giving up a first round pick. Even Vitek Vanecek only netted a second round pick from the Capitals, who reacquired him from the Kraken after they landed former Avalanche starter Philipp Grubauer. It’ll be odd to see Darcy Kuemper in Avalanche colors. The same for Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen in Hurricanes threads with Petr Mrazek now a Maple Leaf where he’ll share the net with Jack Campbell.

The goalies changing teams is always hard to keep up with. How much fantasy value will Kuemper have in Colorado? It all depends if he stays healthy. Pavel Francouz is the backup once he recovers from surgery. What about Grubauer? Is he now not as valuable due to moving to Seattle with Chris Driedger backing up? It’s so hard to figure out goalies in fantasy hockey. I only mention it because I’m going to need better goaltending to compete in our South River Fantasy Hockey League. Do I now keep Carey Price with him expected to be ready for the start of the season? He hasn’t been as consistent in past regular seasons. Decisions, decisions.

Okay. Enough about fantasy hockey. How about the Blue Jackets getting Zach Werenski extended through 2028? He’ll go from a $5 million cap hit to $9.58 million beginning in ’22-23. I love what he said after the signing. A clear shot at former teammate Seth Jones and other former Jackets. I admire that. Will he be worth it? He’s younger than Jones, who the Blackhawks paid top dollar for along with parting with a lot. John Davidson quietly has had a solid restart there by getting Werenski taken care of along with Boone Jenner and adding Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist and Sean Kuraly. Patrik Laine accepted his $7.5 million qualifier. After his commentary on former coach John Tortorella, it’s put up or shut up. I’m curious to see how Jakub Voracek fits in. I like Cam Atkinson better and believe he’ll help the Flyers. Expectations won’t be high in Columbus. Maybe they’ll surprise some in the reformed Metro Division.

Good first days for Florida, Montreal and Boston, who lost David Krejci to the Czech Republic. The underrated second line two-way center was a big part of their success in winning a Cup and reaching two other Finals. He will be missed by Bruins fans. But they did well in getting Linus Ullmark while adding Nick Foligno, re-signing Mike Reilly and most notably Taylor Hall on a good contract for an AAV of $6 million over four years. Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek are good depth moves and Derek Forbort is a rugged defenseman Boston fans should like. They will miss Krejci, but it’s time for Charlie Coyle to fill that void. What the heck are they paying him for?

It’ll be interesting to see what future Group II free agent defensemen Fox and Charlie McAvoy get. Both are in my top five among blue liners. The cost should be between nine and ten million. Do the Rangers or Bruins try to extend them now? Keep an eye on restricted free agents Quinn Hughes and Rasmus Dahlin. Both figure to get significant raises. Maybe not as high as Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Jones and Werenski. But they’ll get paid. I’m also curious as to how much Vancouver gives Elias Pettersson. Their cap is tight due to what they’ll need to commit to both him and Hughes.

One underrated signing was St. Louis getting Brandon Saad for five years for an AAV of $4.5 million. That’s good value for the former Stanley Cup winner, who left Colorado. Might he and Buchnevich play on the same line with say Brayden Schenn? Of course, the Blues will be trading Vladimir Tarasenko, who asked out with two years remaining on a contract with a cap hit of $7.5 million. Who’s interested? The Blues have to re-sign RFA’s Jordan Kyrou, Zach Sanford and Robert Thomas. They just got Ivan Barbashev re-upped.

The Islanders are expected to announce the signing of Zach Parise and a long-term contract for Kyle Palmieri, who’ll likely replace Jordan Eberle on the first line. They still must re-sign Casey Cizikas and bump up Group II free agents Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin. The latter being of interest to the Rangers, who must pay Igor Shesterkin. Expect the salary structure to be similar for the two Russian comrades.

There aren’t many players available. Unless you like Tomas Tatar or Nick Ritchie. The latter was a player I had interest in. But Drury wanted Reaves. If I were the Sabres, I would consider signing Ritchie. They don’t have much there. It’ll be built around Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and eventually top pick Owen Power. Keep an eye on J.J. Peterka and Jack Quinn. The future in net appears to be between Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and goalie prospect Devon Levi, who they acquired with a Panthers’ first round pick in the Sam Reinhart trade. A look at some of their signings and it’s sure to be another long year in Western New York.

That’s all for now. If anything else happens that’s worth posting about, I’ll have it. See you later.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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