James Sheppard: Deadline Deal Solidifies New York Rangers Fourth Line?


There is no questioning that the New York Rangers biggest trade deadline acquisition was getting defenseman Keith Yandle.  However, also going out and acquiring a bottom six forward for depth, in James Sheppard, could prove to be the more important move that the Rangers made before the March 2nd trade deadline.

Now I am not going to lie.  When the trade was announced that the Rangers acquired Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks, I had absolutely no idea who he was, or even what position he played.  After I found out though that Sheppard is a bottom six forward, I immediately researched him, and with what I found out about him, I have to say I really like this move for multiple reasons.

One, Sheppard can play both wing and center.  Two, this season he has a faceoff winning percentage of 50%.  Three, he is considered to be a gritty player.  Four, he has 5 goals and 11 assists on the season.  Five, Sheppard being in the Rangers’ starting lineup means that Tanner Glass will be the odd man out.  Six, Sheppard is only 26 years of age.  And seven, the Sharks are paying some of his $1.2 million cap hit.

All of that seems nice on paper, but you still have to see him in action.  As of right now, we have only seen Sheppard play one game as a Ranger, and unfortunately it was in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, in Detroit.

Despite the loss though, from what I saw out of Sheppard, he played a good game and I was really impressed with his skating ability.  One play in particular, Sheppard was able to control the puck and skate out of trouble, bringing the puck out of the Rangers’ defensive zone and into the neutral zone.  After I saw that, I immediately realized just how much more skill Sheppard has over Glass.

But while Sheppard definitely is an upgrade in skill over Glass, what about the physical aspect that Glass brings to the lineup?  That I cannot answer right now because we have only had a one game sample size, but in my honest opinion, I always felt the physical game Glass brought to the Rangers’ starting lineup was overrated.  I mean he only throws his body around occasionally and I have not once seen Glass deliver a bone-crushing hit that sparked the Rangers and helped them win a game.

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In my opinion, Sheppard’s speed and skill upgrade over Glass can help solidify and lead to more offensive zone time for the Rangers’ 4th line.  Plus, with Sheppard in the starting lineup, it gives the Rangers another option in the faceoff circle, and while he will mostly likely always start on the 4th line wing, during the course of any game, Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault could move Sheppard to 3rd line center for some shifts, if Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller are both struggling to win faceoffs on a given night.

We will see as time goes on, however, I feel the Rangers acquiring Sheppard at the trade deadline could turn out to be the more important move, solidifying their 4th line and the depth in their bottom six.

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