Rangers put together highlight package of DeAngelo, who must continue to produce while becoming a leader

A couple of days following the re-signing of defenseman Tony DeAngelo for two more years at a reasonable average cap hit of $4.8 million through 2022, the Rangers paid tribute to the breakout American offensive star on their improved Twitter account.

A nice highlight package showed off the big season the 24-year old DeAngelo had in achieving personal bests with 15 goals and 53 points. That included posting his first career hat trick in a win over the Devils at MSG. A fun game to be at.

With the New Jersey native who once was a high first round pick for Tampa before getting dealt to the Coyotes, it took him some time to earn the trust of his third NHL team. Even in coach David Quinn’s first year, at one point DeAngelo found himself benched due to off ice related issues.

The talent has never been a question. He put up good scoring seasons in the OHL for both the Sarnia Sting and Soo Greyhounds.

After some struggles to establish himself with Arizona following a trade by the Lightning that resulted in current Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek being taken in the second round, he was part of a big deal to New York with the Coyotes 2017 first round pick (Lias Andersson) in exchange for center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta.

At the time, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was starting to change the roster. By moving Stepan prior to his no-move clause went into effect, he was admitting that the team needed to change for the future. That really spelled the end of a good roster that had consistently made the postseason and gone to three Conference Finals and two second rounds. Raanta was given a opportunity to become a starter in Arizona. Injuries prevented it. He’s the backup behind Darcy Kuemper.

As for DeAngelo, he gradually became better over the past three seasons for the Rangers. After going 4-26-30 over 61 games in Quinn’s first season behind the bench during ’18-19, he broke out for 15 goals, 38 assists and 53 points this past season in 68 games. That allowed him to earn a bridge deal with the club that’ll pay him $9.6 million over the next two years.

DeAngelo turns 25 this week. A unique personality who keeps things loose in the locker room, he will now be looked to as more of a leader. That means continuing to produce and make adjustments to his defensive game that needs improvement. Especially if he wants to stay on Broadway past 2022.

With a influx of young talent in the farm system due to D prospects K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Matthew Robertson, Tarmo Reunanen, Zac Jones and 2020 first round pick Braden Schneider, DeAngelo will have to prove he belongs.

Of course, more production over the next two years could price him out of the Big Apple. That’s salary cap life. Especially with no end in sight to the pandemic, which in turn could mean the cap doesn’t move off the number of $81.5 million.

For now, we can enjoy more DeAngelo highlights sometime in 2021 when hockey returns.

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Rangers make great bridge deal with DeAngelo

Guess who’s back. Tony D. Yes. The Rangers will have their Eminem version back for at least the next two years after avoiding arbitration. I thought bridging him for two years at $4.75 million would get it done. As it turned out, I almost nailed it.

Tony DeAngelo has re-signed with the Rangers for two years and an average cap hit of $4.8 million per season. That’s a perfect number for the offensive defenseman who posted career bests in goals (15), assists (38), points (53), plus/minus (12) and games played (68).

The soon to be 25-year old Sewell, New Jersey native also achieved personal highs in even strength goals where he notched 12 of his 15 with the other three coming on the power play. A number one quarterback who has great vision and an accurate shot, DeAngelo had a good split by recording 34 even strength points (12-22-34) and 19 power play points (3-16-19).

He also was a fixture in overtime where the playmaking defenseman excelled at the three-on-three by combining his superb skating with his ability to be both a passing and shooting threat. That was on display at MSG when he was directly involved in Mika Zibanejad scoring his franchise tying fifth goal of a game in a wild 6-5 overtime win over the Capitals. The best regular season game you’ll ever see.

DeAngelo works well with both Zibanejad and leading scorer Artemi Panarin. So, there’s even more reason to be excited about the future with top pick Alexis Lafreniere joining a young talented team that still includes Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.

The only question is will DeAngelo friend and teammate Ryan Strome be returning. There’s little doubt Brendan Lemieux will be back even if he winds up going to arbitration. He doesn’t have much leverage.

As for Strome, who’s a year away from unrestricted status, he had his best season. The center benefited by playing with Panarin on the second line where he achieved a career high 59 points (18-41-59) including 41 points at even strength with a plus-21. Unless the Rangers have a different solution, they might be wise to bring him back on a one-year deal for $5 million. Given that he made $3.1 million last season, that’s what it’s looking like.

It’s up to the organization to decide what they want to do. So far, they’ve wisely not overspent on free agents due to their commitment to core players. Instead, they decided to address depth with the additions of center Kevin Rooney and much maligned veteran defenseman Jack Johnson, who is only signed for a year. You’d think these misfits knew more than John Davidson or Jeff Gorton about hockey. They understand where this team is. I’ll trust them over anyone.

What about replacing Jesper Fast? Well, they can’t. He was a responsible two-way forward who was trusted by the coaching staff at five-on-five and penalty kill. A interchangeable player, who was a quiet leader for a group that doesn’t have enough grit. Hopefully, that void can be filled by guys like Lemieux, Brett Howden and Rooney, who is a diligent worker if you watched him with the Devils. There’s room for growth.

It’ll be imperative for kids like Chytil and Kakko to take steps in the right direction next season. There just isn’t enough room to do too much else. The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million, leaving the Blueshirts with slightly over $7 million to work with. That could mean penciling in Strome and Lemieux.

Maybe if they’re lucky, they can afford to give a proven veteran like Michael Grabner a pro tryout. He was bought out by the Coyotes. The speed and two-way capability of the ex-Ranger would be a good fit on the fourth line. He’s a strong penalty killer who’s totaled 11 shorthanded goals over his 10-year career. Grabner is 33 and could still be serviceable for a team.

I’m pleased with both Davidson and Gorton on getting both DeAngelo and Alex Georgiev done. They’re not screwing around. Only two players left to address.

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Rangers avoid arbitration, re-sign Alex Georgiev and Phil Di Giuseppe

In good news, the Rangers reached agreement with two restricted free agents on new deals. A couple of days ago, they re-signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, $700,000 contract.

The 27-year old left wing was called up from Hartford last season. In 20 regular season games, he had a goal and three assists with a plus-one rating and 35 shots. He registered 38 hits and 20 blocked shots while averaging 11:17 of ice-time. In the Play In Series against Carolina, Di Giuseppe finished a minus-three with no points while logging 8:15.

He’ll again have a chance to make the team in training camp. The 2021 season won’t begin until sometime next January.

In another important move, the Blueshirts re-signed goalie Alex Georgiev to a two-year, $4.85 million contract. The average cap hit comes out to $2.425 million thru 2022. Here’s the salary breakdown from Cap Friendly.

Originally signed by the Rangers as a undrafted free agent at age 21 on July 19, 2017, the 24-year old Georgiev developed well enough in a year with the Wolf Pack to be recalled during ’17-18. In 10 games, he had a 4-4-1 record while posting a 3.15 GAA and .918 save percentage. During ’18-19, he proved himself by going 14-13-4 with a 2.91 GAA, .914 save percentage and two shutouts.

This past season, Georgiev again was steady enough despite a crowded crease. Under a unique situation due to the emergence of starting goalie Igor Shesterkin with veteran Henrik Lundqvist losing playing time, the Bulgarian played well enough to earn the backup spot. He got into 34 games and won a team high 17 games with a 3.04 GAA, .910 save percentage and two shutouts.

With Lundqvist having moved on following a buyout by becoming a Capital, Georgiev is fully entrenched as the Rangers backup behind Shesterkin. The pair of 24-year old Russians will form a tandem entering next year. Keith Kinkaid was signed last week as insurance for the AHL.

Whenever the next season starts, it’ll be a different situation. The Rangers will depend on two young netminders moving forward. They’ll also hopefully have Tyler Wall developing in his first pro season at Hartford. This will be a change from the past 15 years when Lundqvist was the clear number one goalie entering play.

With still approximately 12 million left, the Blueshirts will turn their attention to RFA’s Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux. The first two due significant raises. We’ll see if they go to arbitration. The arbitration dates are as follows:

1. Tony DeAngelo Oct. 20

2. Ryan Strome Nov. 5

3. Brendan Lemieux Nov. 6

In other news, former Blueshirt Greg McKegg signed with the Bruins to a one-year, two-way contract for $700,000. In 53 contests, the 28-year old center played on the fourth line and killed penalties while putting up five goals, four assists and nine points. One goal came shorthanded and two of his nine points were on the penalty kill. He did a solid job in a small role.

The Keg Man will move onto his seventh NHL team. Name the first six.

Trivia Answer: McKegg has played for six teams. They are the Maple Leafs, Panthers, Lightning, Penguins, Hurricanes and Rangers.

In other free agent news, the Canadiens extended Brendan Gallagher for six years and an AAV of $6.5 million through 2027. A real good player at even strength, he will cost $3.75 million in 2021 before basically getting double in ’21-22.

The Senators opened the vault and splurged on unrestricted free agent Evgenii Dadonov by inking the ex-Panther to a three-year, $15 million contract. A interesting move for a rebuilding team that hinges on core pieces Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Colin White and Nick Paul. They recently added Austin Watson in a trade with Nashville and acquired former Pen Matt Murray to man the net.

We’ll see what those additions do for Ottawa.

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Lundqvist ready to be a Washington Capital

Coming Soon To DC: Henrik Lundqvist will go back to wearing his old number 35 when he plays for his new team as a Washington Capital. AP Photo credit Washington Capitals via Getty Images

It’s been a week since we learned Henrik Lundqvist would be joining the Washington Capitals. Since he made it official last Friday on Day One of the strange and ghostly October Madness, the 38-year old former Rangers legend seems to be getting accustomed to life as a Capital.

That’s included more of a social media presence via his Twitter account than New Yorkers were used to. He even greeted Caps fans with a brief video. Maybe it will be easier for Lundqvist to feel at ease now that he’s out of the spotlight in Manhattan.

Brought in by Washington to replace revered former starter Braden Holtby to play 1B behind 23-year old Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov, King Henrik has been very accommodating so far. As seen above where the official Caps Twitter posted superstar Alex Ovechkin’s 100th career NHL goals at his expense after the Great Eight undressed a Rangers defenseman, all has been forgiven by Lundqvist.

Kudos to the Capitals organization for paying tribute to Holtby for being a great Cap for a decade where he helped them win the Stanley Cup highlighted by a absolute robbery on Alex Tuch in Game Two that changed that series against the Golden Knights.

It will be interesting to see him and Ovechkin play for the same team. Almost like the time Jaromir Jagr joined the Devils and got to team up with legendary netminder Martin Brodeur. Both out of the classic 1990 NHL Draft class. The two best players were always interesting to listen to following games.

Having Henrik and Ovi pair up for at least one year will be like Perfect Strangers II. Although the original duo was when Wayne Gretzky reunited with former Oilers teammate Mark Messier in NYC, they’d played together and won four of five Cups in Edmonton. So even if their personalities were different, they knew each other well.

Perfect Strangers was a good show. Now, you’ll have the more low key Lundqvist and more quotable personality in Ovechkin providing interesting insights off the ice. Like Brodeur and Jagr, who was always had a keen sense of humor. It took him playing for both the Rangers and Devils for fans to understand him better.

Number 68 will always be in a class by himself. He could’ve challenged Gretzky’s scoring record had he wanted to. But he lost time due to lockouts and playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL before returning with the Flyers of all teams. Then, the Jagr Fan Club started following him around after he kept changing jerseys. There were the Stars, Bruins, Devils, Panthers and even the Flames which unfortunately didn’t work out.

So, what else to say on Lundqvist rocking the red? Well this. He’ll finally be able to wear his old number 35 as a Washington Capital. The number he wore while leading Frolunda to a championship in Sweden. Also the familiar number he wore when he won Olympic gold against Finland at the ’06 Winter Games in Torino. That included a quite memorable last second save on Olli Jokinen to preserve the one goal victory.

It’s funny how in that brief 13 second cameo, not a hair is out of place for the King. It’s uncanny. Did GQ call?

Whenever the start of the 2021 season is, it’ll probably begin in the saw fashion the ’19-20 season concluded. With life in the bubble. That’s how it looks like it could play out. Hopefully, we will be able to see our team play at MSG at some point. Especially for the introduction of Alexis Lafreniere.

Wouldn’t it be something if there is a Caps at Rangers game on the schedule by April that is on 33rd and 7th with fans in attendance? That would be a can’t miss.

Until the next time, it’s more posts on the continued unpredictable off-season. See you soon.

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Alexei Cherepanov passed away 12 years ago today

Remembering former Rangers 2007 first round draft pick Alexei Cherepanov 12 years later.

It was thirteen years ago that the Rangers had a very talented Russian scoring forward fall to them in the 2007 NHL Draft. With the number 17 pick, they were only too pleased to select Alexei Cherepanov out of Avangard Omsk from Russia.

Considered by TSN experts as a “top four talent” who only dropped due to questions about when he’d come over, it was like the Rangers knew he’d be there to be taken. They had the Cherepanov jersey ready when he was picked. What an exciting moment that was for the teenager. He looked thrilled.

A very skilled right wing who was named the Top Forward of the 2007 U20 World Junior Championships with five goals and three assists for eight points in six games, the future looked bright for the 18-year old from Barnaul, Russia.

A big admirer of Rangers superstar Jaromir Jagr, who returned to Avangard Omsk to play with him for the ’08-09 season in the newly formed KHL, Cherepanov had a dream come true. He was playing with his favorite player on the same line. It all must’ve felt like a dream. A teenage phenom on the same team as a legend. If only the story had a happy ending.

In ’08-09, Cherepanov was off to a promising start. He had scored eight goals and added five assists totaling 13 points. However, in the 15th game for Avangard Omsk, something terrible happened. It came in the same game he scored in. After finishing a shift with Jagr, Cherepanov passed out on the bench. Jagr signaled immediately for medical help.

For reasons only known to the new league, there wasn’t a functional defibrillator working that could’ve prevented a horrible tragedy. Even worse, the ambulance had left the arena and had to come back. By the time they got him to the hospital, it was too late.

Cherepanov had died of a heart condition. It was stunning news throughout the hockey community. How could a 19-year old athlete pass away? Apparently, he did have a heart issue the team physicians kept under wraps. They ruled the cause of death due to myocarditis. A condition where not enough blood gets to the heart. However, that was disputed by a regional investigator who claimed it was due to chronic ischemia.

Whatever the reason, on Oct. 13, 2008, Alexei Cherepanov died at only age 19. His final shift came with Jagr on a two-on-one before returning to the Omsk bench. While having a discussion with Jagr, that’s when he collapsed. It still remains a mystery.

A chemical analysis of his blood and urine concluded that Cherepanov had been blood doping for several months. They said he had taken the banned stimulant nikethamide hours before the game. The investigation found several Avangard Omsk team personnel guilty of criminal negligence for their roles in Cherepanov’s untimely death. That included the team doctors.

It’s shameful to think this actually happened. Even a dozen years later, I can still remember watching NHL Network when during a Rangers special on former captain Mark Messier, I saw the news flash across the screen. I did a double take. I didn’t believe it at first. But when it flashed again, I told my Dad and brother. It was hard to take. A kid that age and so young. Why?

We went to the game that night at MSG. There was a moment of silence. I don’t recall anything else about that game. It didn’t matter. I was heartbroken. It was like being there after 9/11 for the preseason game versus the Devils. Except that was even worse due to the scary circumstances.

I was very excited for Cherepanov after watching highlights of him. He definitely looked like a impact player with the kind of finishing capability the Rangers lacked. They had good teams during that time. But never a young potential star who could become a game breaker post Jagr.

Maybe Alexei Cherepanov could’ve been that guy for the Blueshirts. Perhaps he may have helped them win a Cup during the Henrik Lundqvist Era. We’ll never know. Instead, we’re left to ponder what could’ve been.

But most importantly, I can only imagine how difficult this day must be on the Cherepanov family. Parents should never have to bury their kid. Were they ever fully compensated for the tragic loss of their son? Does it even matter? No amount of money can replace a loved one. He had a bright future and then it was over before it really started. Ugh.

Since the tragedy, the KHL has named their Rookie of the Year Award after Cherepanov. It’s the Alexei Cherepanov Award. A good way to honor his memory. They learned a valuable lesson. The league has survived and even expanded into other countries including China and Slovakia.

Here’s a final thought. Cherepanov was a rarity. He came from Siberia and made it. Not many players have to work that hard to become a good player. Ironically, he was nicknamed the Siberian Express. In a tribute, I named my fantasy hockey team that in our South River League. I would win the championship in ’09-10. Maybe it was fate. Or perhaps Cherepanov was smiling down. I got a little lucky. Sometimes, you have to.

How I wish Alexei Cherepanov was still around. What kind of player could he have been? It’s too hard to answer. I loved his speed, skating and goal scorer’s instinct. He knew where to go. Not only was he good on breakaways showing off that unique Russian speed, but Cherepanov wasn’t shy about going to the dirty areas to score goals like the hardworking rebound he scored on against Sweden. Or how about the dominant shift he had on the forecheck before going top cheese on Team USA.

Maybe it’s hard to believe he’s been gone so long. Twelve years today. We still remember him. God bless the Cherepanov family. 💛💜

Алексей Черепанов (15 January 1989 – 13 October 2008)

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Lafreniere signs his entry level contract with Rangers

The Alexis Lafreniere Era is ready to begin after the Rangers top pick got a late 19th birthday present by signing his entry level contract on Monday. AP Photo credit Newsday via Getty Images by Mike Stobe.

Yesterday, Alexis Lafreniere and the Rangers made it official. The recent top pick in last week’s NHL Draft signed his entry level contract (ELC) with the club who lucked into the first overall pick due to the unpredictable two part NHL Lottery this past summer.

The three-year ELC pays Lafreniere $2.775 million. That includes salary bonuses he can earn. As far as the Rangers salary cap structure, the young left wing will be a $925,000 cap charge over his first NHL contract. Here’s how the salary can break down:

Base Salary: $832,500 $832,500 $832,500

Signing Bonuses: $92,500 $92,500 $92,500

Total Salary: $925,000 $925,000 $925,000

Minors Salary: $80,000 $80,000 $80,000

Performance Bonuses: $2.85 million $2.85 million $2.85 million

AAV: $3.775 million $3.775 million $3.775 million

Basically, the performance bonuses can increase his salary. Something you see with most top picks. Assuming he performs up to expectations, Lafreniere will produce well enough for the Rangers to lock him up to one of those huge long-term deals we’ve seen with superstars such as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, etc.

Think of the signing as a birthday present for Lafreniere, who turned 19 on Sunday. Happy Birthday kid! He will wear number 13 for the Rangers. Hopefully, it’s a very lucky 13. Not many Blueshirts have worn it. The only good player I can think of is Stanley Cup winner Sergei Nemchinov. There have been others. Now, it belongs to our top pick. Wow.

The only conclusion I can make is hopefully, that number is never worn by another Blueshirt. A pretty simple wish.

Let’s take a look at some of Lafreniere’s best highlights.

I like not only his game breaking speed, but how quick he snaps it. Good usage of the wrist shot through traffic. A deceptive backhand which is always tough for a goalie to pick up. This kind of high skill player comes around very rarely. He’s unselfish and will help improve Kaapo Kakko, who could benefit if they play together.

In last week’s interview with the legendary Sam Rosen of MSG, we get to see a different side of Lafreniere. He’s a very mature and well spoken young player who understands the expectations of becoming a professional hockey player. It’s going to be a transition for him, but he wants to get better and made certain to point out that his goal is not only to improve, but help the Rangers win the Stanley Cup. The ultimate dream for any Canadian kid.

Here, we see the unique speed and skill of Lafreniere on display. He picks up seven points in a Rimouski Oceanic win over the Quebec Remparts. Two goals and five assists. When you’re that good, sometimes the puck magically finds you as it did on one of his goals. He had three cracks at it. My favorite goals were off the rush where he used his game breaking speed to back up opponents and find the seam for open teammates. That’s the makings of a great player. It sure will be exciting to watch him play in NYC. Even if it’s in a bubble (rumored) for the first part of next year.

Lafreniere wore number 11 for Rimouski. That’s not possible as a Ranger due to some guy named Mark Messier. So, it’ll be number 13 selling out quickly. There’s much to look forward to. We will be waiting in anticipation for January 2021.

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Golden Knights break the bank on Pietrangelo

Alex Pietrangelo has found a new home. The former do everything captain of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues is headed to Vegas. As had been widely reported, the right defenseman is signing with the Golden Knights. They had to clear room. After trading Paul Stastny back to Winnipeg, they moved defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Canucks for a third round pick.

All this for a team that doesn’t care how much it spends. Even with the flat salary cap holding steady at $81.5 million, the Golden Knights are all about winning. They have no loyalty either. Just ask Marc-Andre Fleury about that after Robin Lehner replaced him as the starting goalie and was re-signed for five years at $25 million. Fleury remains in limbo with Vegas trying to find a taker. But most of the goalie market has been covered. They may wind up keeping Fleury as a quality backup to Lehner.

The issue for Vegas is they’re still over the cap by less than a million. According to puckpedia.com, they’re currently at $82.47 million. So, they still have to subtract another player after signing Pietrangelo to a seven-year deal worth $8.8 million per year. That’ll be the cap hit for the 30-year old veteran defenseman, who’ll play top pair.

Of course, the Knights handed Pietrangelo a full No-Movement Clause over the seven years. Yikes. He’s going to be in his mid 30’s by Year Four of that contract. He’s a very good player who plays good defense and can supply offense. In 70 games last season, the steady defenseman had a career high 16 goals with 36 assists for 52 points and a plus-11 rating. A dependable player, he averaged 24:11 of ice-time per game. For his 12-year career, he’s averaged 24:38.

In 758 games spent in St. Louis, Pietrangelo registered 109 goals with 341 assists for a total of 450 points and a plus-77 rating. The biggest highlight coming last year when he helped lead the Blues to their first ever Cup. During that run which included a close call in the second round over the Stars and stunning the Bruins to win Game Seven in Boston for the Cup, he tallied three goals and 16 helpers for 19 points over 26 games.

He’ll go down as one of the best Blues ever. That’s how much Pietrangelo meant to that team. Unfortunately, he had to move on once St. Louis decided to sign former Bruins defenseman Torey Krug for seven years at an average cap hit of $6.5 million. It’ll certainly be strange to see Krug in a Blues jersey while Pietrangelo will wear Golden Knights colors.

That’s what happens in a cap era. There’s so much player movement that it’s impossible to keep up with everything. I’m still shocked Taylor Hall chose the Sabres for only a year at $8 million while leaving money on the table. But it allows him to keep his options open while betting on himself. Buffalo is banking on it to end a nine-year playoff drought.

In a cap cutting move, the Islanders unloaded defenseman Devon Toews to the Avalanche for two second round picks. Not what I would’ve done. But that’s what they’re facing due to the restricted status of Mat Barzal. He is due a significant raise. Plus Ryan Pulock is a Group II free agent. They also would like to re-sign unrestricted free agent Matt Martin. The Isles don’t have a lot of room.

The other significant signing was made by the Canadiens. After striking out on Hall, they inked Tyler Toffoli for a four year contract worth $17 million. A good move for a solid two-way forward that can play at five, power play and penalty kill.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. That’ll do it for now. I’ll have more later on Rangers top pick Alexis Lafreniere signing his entry level contract.

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Devils trade Joey Anderson to Leafs for Andreas Johnsson

In a interesting move yesterday, the Devils added some scoring depth by trading Joey Anderson to the Maple Leafs for Andreas Johnsson. Johnsson is a 25-year old left wing who had been a good secondary scorer in Toronto.

Signed through 2023, his average cap hit is $3.4 million. The Leafs needed to free up salary. Similar to when they dealt Kasperi Kapanen to the Penguins, they found a taker for Johnsson. A late bloomer who was originally a seventh round pick in 2013, his best season came in ’18-19 when he achieved career highs in games played (73), goals (20), assists (23) and points (43).

The past season wasn’t as kind to him. In 43 games, Johnsson’s production dropped off to eight goals with 13 assists for 21 points. He only took part in one game during the Play In Round when the Leafs lost in five games to the Blue Jackets. The reason he was limited was due to a knee injury sustained on Feb. 13. He returned for Game Five when they were shutout by Joonas Korpisalo.

If he does return to form, Johnsson is a good skating forward with solid puck possession numbers. For his three-year NHL career, he’s a 53.8 CF. However, he was used more offensively with 56.8 percent of his zone starts in the offensive zone in ’19-20.

If he pans out, Johnsson could be a good addition to a Devils lineup that needs more offense in support of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, assuming he stays. He’s a year away from unrestricted free agency. The 29-year old right wing will earn an AAV of $4.65 million in 2020-21. It’ll be interesting to see what GM Tom Fitzgerald decides to do with the consistent finisher who has averaged a shade over 25 goals a season since becoming a Devil.

This far, the big moves have been trading for defenseman Ryan Murray from Columbus and adding Johnsson. They also made a wise decision in signing proven veteran goalie Corey Crawford to share the net with Mackenzie Blackwood.

Prior to dealing away Anderson to Toronto, the Devils had been rumored to be interested in Vladislav Namestnikov. However, he agreed to a two-year contract with the Red Wings for $4 million. A similar deal that ex-Ranger Jesper Fast received from Carolina. The only difference is he got an extra year.

In the biggest free agent news of the day, Taylor Hall reached agreement with the Sabres on a one-year contract for $8 million. It’s interesting that the former Devil who won the Hart Trophy a few years ago, decided to go short-term with Buffalo. He has a moderated no-trade clause. So, he’s willing to bet on himself by playing with Jack Eichel for the next season. Who would’ve thought that was possible?

The Sabres have quietly added pieces including Cody Eakin and Tobias Rieder to improve their secondary scoring depth. Along with the trade for veteran center Eric Staal, the Sabres are banking on Hall, Eichel and Jeff Skinner to lead the team to its first postseason in a decade. They’ve gone nine consecutive years without the playoffs. The longest active NHL streak.

That’s it for now. I’ll have more tomorrow.

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Rangers say goodbye to Jesper Fast, who signs with Hurricanes

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.

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Lundqvist moves on to division rival Capitals

When the October Madness officially began yesterday, Henrik Lundqvist found a new home. As had been reported by Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic in a translation of a story from a Swedish publication, Lundqvist made it official by joining the division rival Capitals on Friday.

He signed with Washington for one year, $1.5 million. After getting bought out by the Rangers, who have moved on from the Lundqvist Era to the young 24-year old Russian tandem of Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev, the 38-year old veteran goalie will likely be the backup for the Caps behind another young Russian netminder in Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov is 23 and coming off a good rookie campaign.

It took a while for Lundqvist to let go of the only NHL team he’s ever known. The all-time Rangers franchise leader in wins (459) and shutouts (64) knew his time was up once he was relegated to third string duty behind Shesterkin and Georgiev. Even if they gave him two final starts with Shesterkin hurt in the Play In Series versus the Hurricanes, by that point he realized it was over.

A prideful and passionate man who loved living in the big city and all that comes with being a Ranger under the spotlight, Lundqvist enjoyed his time here. He loved the way the fans supported him from the very beginning. Who knew that a seventh round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft would become such a star for an Original Six franchise? Give the European scouts credit.

It’s ironic that he’s going to join former adversary Alex Ovechkin in DC. A electrifying superstar who beat Lundqvist 24 times, tying Sidney Crosby for the most goals against him. A great goalie who after losing to Ovechkin twice in the playoffs, led his team to three straight wins over those Caps in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The final one being the most memorable.

Even more ironic, this is Ovechkin’s final year of that long-term contract he signed over a decade ago. He will earn $9.54 million at age 35 as he continues his chase of Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals. The Great Eight will enter 2021 with 706 career goals. A nine-time Rocket Richard winner with three Harts and a Stanley Cup, Ovechkin still has the desire to win another championship. Something Lundqvist alluded to when discussing why he chose the Caps. His drive to win a Cup continues. Only it’ll be in those red and navy blue colors with stars representing the nation’s capital.

He won’t wear the familiar number 30. Instead, he’ll be rocking the red with a new number 35. How many fans will buy the new Lundqvist jersey? When Martin Brodeur left the Devils and signed with the Blues, his number 30 sold plenty in St. Louis. You have to think the same will be the case for King Henrik. He’s always been very popular with hockey fans, who love his intensity. He truly wants to win and feels it can happen playing on a still talented team of Caps that features Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller, old friend Carl Hagelin and newest Capital Justin Schultz.

I hold no ill will against Lundqvist. Even if it’s a hated division rival, he’s doing what’s best for him. That’s how divorces work. Undoubtedly, he will be very motivated to prove he still has something left. Especially with how the last two seasons went in the Big Apple. The team he’ll play for is better, deeper and more proven. They’ll also be coached by former Stanley Cup winner Peter Laviolette. That in itself will be strange to get used to.

The question for the Caps is how much of a window do they have left. After finally winning the Cup in ’17-18 under the guidance of current Islanders coach Barry Trotz, they’ve been eliminated in consecutive first rounds by the Hurricanes and Islanders. Similar to Lundqvist, they should have something to prove. Are they still a serious contender or have teams like the Flyers, Islanders and Hurricanes passed them by?

What about Lundqvist possibly returning to Madison Square Garden as an opponent in an arena he once owned? How will it feel if by that point, there are fans allowed in the building? You have to know he’ll get a tremendous reception from his former team, who does things with class. They never forget recent former Rangers. If only they recognized Frank Boucher.

With the addition of the older Lundqvist, who can help Samsonov develop, the Caps said goodbye to former Cup winning goalie Braden Holtby, who signed with the Canucks to replace Jacob Markstrom. He will have a similar role in Vancouver due to Thatcher Demko. They paid tribute to Holtby. A former Vezina winner like Lundqvist, who went save for save with him in the 2015 second round series.

Sadly, that’s the nature of the salary cap. Where good players on championship teams are let go due to teams being forced to cut costs. If it were a softer cap, you wouldn’t see as many players switching jerseys.

It’ll be different seeing Henrik Lundqvist in a Caps jersey. Plus he’ll be wearing a different number. No. 35 with Lundqvist on the back will take some getting used to. However, he’s at peace with the decision and grateful to the Rangers organization for how well treated he was. For 15 years, fans chanted, “Hen-rik, Hen-rik, Hen-rik!” Now, they’ll chant “Ig-or, Ig-or, Ig-or!”, and “Geor-gie, Geor-gie, Geor-gie!”

The “Hen-rik”, chants will come from Capital fans. How weird that will be. Maybe it’s the whole strange year of 2020. Even if hockey isn’t expected to return until the following calendar year, it’ll take some getting used to.

For the disappointed crowd who are upset he chose a rival, get over it. You root for the logo on the front. That includes if Lundqvist is in net versus the Rangers. It’s the players who represent the team. Lundqvist did it proudly for 15 years.

Like a classic song from Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A Changin’.”

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