It didn’t take long for the Rangers to get Adam Fox signed to an extension. Fittingly, after he notched the game-winner in last night’s 3-1 win over the Kraken, Team President and GM Chris Drury got the rating Norris winner signed to a seven-year extension through 2029.
Credit goes out to both Mollie Walker of the New York Post and Vince Mercogliano of USA Today for breaking the story. Walker was first to post that the Rangers had indeed got Fox signed to a brand new contract that doesn’t kick in until the ’22-23 season. Mercogliano followed up with the particulars. The 23-year old defenseman will earn an average cap hit of $9.5 million starting next season. A well deserved extension for a brilliant player, who’s become the most valuable New York Ranger.
Everything Drury told the media who attended the Fox press conference in Vancouver is true. He’s an unbelievable player who makes teammates better. With an uncanny ability to escape checks and make subtle plays transitioning from defense to offense so smoothly, the former Harvard University standout is a great skating defenseman who is good defensively and dangerous offensively.
It’s also his hockey IQ that he’s able to read and react to plays quickly. Take the goal be scored last night. He made a terrific stretch pass that sent Artemi Panarin into the Kraken zone and then knew he’d get the puck back once he entered for the snipe. Fox thinks the game so well. The pass he made to Alexis Lafreniere for a goal last week was brilliant. He circled the net and out of the corner, found a cutting Lafreniere for the finish. How many defensemen can do that? It’s limited to a special few.
Getting Fox done was imperative. Especially once the Bruins signed Charlie McAvoy to a long-term extension worth the identical $9.5 million AAV. Nothing against McAvoy, who’s an excellent overall defenseman that plays more physical. Fox will be getting paid the same money. They’re basically the same age along with Avalanche top defenseman Cale Makar ($9 million AAV). Miro Heiskanen is 22 and makes a bit less. Right now, Fox is better than the aforementioned players. Had they waited until next year, the cost would’ve gone up. It’s a great deal that keeps Fox in New York City until he’s 31.
After tallying 42 points (8-34-42) and a plus-22 rating his rookie year in ’19-20, Fox followed that up by going 5-42-47 with a plus-19 in 55 games for the abbreviated ’21 season. That was good enough to win his first Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. He became the first New York Ranger to win the Norris since legendary Hall Of Famer Brian Leetch in ’96-97. So far, he’s continued his acceleration by starting hot with two goals and seven assists for nine points in nine games. Already with 98 points (15-83-98) over 134 career games, Fox needs two more to reach 100.
It isn’t only about production. A tremendous five-on-five player who also makes good defensive plays and blocks shots, Fox is normally in the right position when he needs to be while going up against quality competition with partner Ryan Lindgren. They’re already one of the league’s best tandems. Both are 23. Lindgren handles the nuts and bolts while Fox makes things happen in a similar fashion to former Devils’ Hall Of Famer Scott Niedermayer. Of course, Niedermayer wasn’t the biggest in stature either. However, he made up for it with his tremendous skating and ability to read plays, going from defense to offense as well as anyone. That’s who Fox reminds me of.
While I don’t like comparisons, I can’t think of another former player that Fox plays like. It isn’t Leetch, who was superb offensively and solid defensively. Leetch was in a different category on offense. I’d give the edge to Fox defensively. The transition is similar. But they’re different players. Leetch could score highlight reel goals and hit double digits 14 times including reaching 20 five seasons. He won two Norris Trophies and has a memorable Conn Smythe for the ’93-94 Stanley Cup Championship team. One can only hope one day, Fox helps lead this new era of Blueshirts to the promised land alongside Igor Shesterkin. They’re the best two players on the roster. Both with so much ahead.
In regards to where the Rangers would be for next year’s cap, Mercogliano provided an update on that below.
Of course, nobody knows what the cap will be by next off-season. Perhaps it might go up a little due to it being a full season with two new TV partners and fans back in every arena. Though attendance is predictably down with MSG no longer drawing close to what it was before the pandemic. We’ll have to wait and see.
There’s a lot to like about what the Rangers organization is doing. Under Drury, they’re getting players signed sooner. That’s better business. It saves money. Even if Fox will be paid top dollar. He’s worth it.
The Rangers return to action tomorrow night at 10 PM against the Canucks.