On this 6th day of Free Agent Frenzy 2012, almost all the big names in this year’s UFA pool have been signed. Alexander Semin is almost surely the biggest name left, and I think most Ranger fans would agree that Semin, while talented, is not someone who would fit well into the Rangers’ organization (not to mention the heavy price tag he would carry). There are certain specific areas that the Rangers need help in; there is one player left in the free agent pool whom I think would be a perfect fit: Winnipeg Jets center Kyle Wellwood.
Wellwood is not a big name or a flashy player, and his NHL career has been up and down. But when it comes to style of play and the areas in which the Rangers could use the most help, the 29-year-old Windsor, Ontario native might fit the bill nicely. Wellwood’s faceoff percentage with Winnipeg in 2011-2012 was 54%; the Rangers found themselves in a situation late last season and into the playoffs in which 4th line center John Mitchell (who signed with the Avalanche as a UFA on July 1st) was their best performer.
Wellwood also had a career season points-wise in 2011-2012, netting 18 goals and adding 29 assists for 47 points on a Jets team that was mediocre at best. He is also an intelligent and disciplined hockey player, having garnered only 34 penalty minutes in 450 career NHL games.
On top of all this, Wellwood would seem to be a bona fide John Tortorella kind of guy: a crafty, hardworking player with a ton of heart and a high hockey IQ who can kill penalties, work the power play, and is able to play all three forward positions. At 5’10″, 180lbs he isn’t a big guy, but the Rangers have plenty of size, especially after the FA signing of Taylor Pyatt. Nor does he fight, but on a team featuring Arron Asham, Mike Rupp and Stu Bickel, he shouldn’t have to.
Still not sold? Consider this: Wellwood’s salary last season was only $700,000, meaning that even if given a substantial raise, he would be an affordable addition to the Rangers’ roster. As of today, there has not been much buzz surrounding Wellwood, and it might be a good time for Glen Sather to strike and offer the center a multi-year deal on Broadway.