Should the New York Rangers Re-Sign Jesper Fast?


The New York Rangers must make a decision this year on whether or not to extend Jesper Fast‘s contract. At the close of the 2014-15 season, the forward will be listed as a restricted free agent and the front end will be faced with an important question: Has Fast performed well enough to stay? It’s too early to put a definite answer to that now, but there are already three surprising reasons why Fast could possibly remain in New York.

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The Rangers acquired Fast as a 6th round draft pick (157th overall) in 2010. For the next three years, Fast continued to play hockey in Sweden and spent one game with the AHL Connecticut Whale (now the Hartford Wolf Pack).

Then in the 2013-14 season with the Wolf Pack, Fast posted 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points over 48 games. Seeing that he scored a goal every other game and then some is remarkable. And to add to that, Fast was +14 and excellent on the power play with eight PP goals. Meanwhile, his shooting percentage was an incredible 22.4%, a lot better than that of Rick Nash‘s current 17.3 S% for comparison. However, Fast’s success in the AHL did not translate well into the NHL. He played 11 games with the Rangers that same year, recording no points whatsoever along with a grim -5 plus/minus rating. Despite the letdown, head coach Alain Vigneault gave him another chance, as is the Vigneault way.

After 31 games with the Rangers this season, Fast is at a -1 and has put up 3 goals and 3 assists. His last point was a goal against the Buffalo Sabres on January 3rd, putting him at an eight-game points drought. Fast’s stats are still looking quite grim from last season, yet his shooting percentage has gone from nonexistent to 11.5%. That S% places Fast eighth amongst Rangers, above Chris Kreider (11%), Carl Hagelin (9.4%), and Lee Stempniak (9%) most interestingly.

Stempniak, also a bottom-six forward on the right wing, will be an unrestricted free agent after this year. He has three more goals than Fast, yet also has a ton more shots on goal. Where Fast has only 26 shots to his name, Stempniak has 67. What does this mean? If Fast were to shoot the puck nearly enough as Stemp, Fast would surely have more goals than his fellow teammate. And that may justify the Rangers keeping Fast over Stemp if it ever came down to that.

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So there’s one reason why Fast could re-sign with the Rangers. The next is more of a shocker.

The Swedish native is 6’0″ and 185 pounds, a bit on the daintier side for a hockey player. In spite of that, he’s 7th amongst Rangers for hits with 59. That’s at least ten more hits than Marc Staal, Hagelin, and Stempniak. And let’s not forget that Fast has played in fewer games than all three of them. Fast may be small, but he’s got real physical presence on the ice.

What’s even more surprising?

Fast is very difficult to knock off the puck, keyword being very. In fact, it is so difficult that the New York Knicks would have an easier time trying to win a basketball game. And it’s been a rough season for the Knicks to put it lightly. But I digress. Fast has only had two giveaways this season. Only two! To put that in better perspective, check out how many giveaways his line mates have had. Kevin Hayes (center) had 12 giveaways while Hags (left wing) had 29. They seem careless with the puck compared to Fast. Only one other Ranger has had fewer giveaways than Fast. However, that Ranger is completely irrelevant since he’s been in one game. So while Fast isn’t posting such great numbers offensive-wise, at least he’s keeping the puck within the Rangers’ possession. And that’s definitely one thing you want from a bottom-six forward.

Well, there you have it. Three reasons the Rangers could keep Fast in the next season. And if Fast gains more confidence with the puck, he could very well be on this team in the long run.