New York Rangers should go after Joel Ward in free agency

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 31: Joel Ward #42 of the San Jose Sharks waits for the play during an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on January 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout. (Photo by Jennifer Hefner/NHLI via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 31: Joel Ward #42 of the San Jose Sharks waits for the play during an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on January 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout. (Photo by Jennifer Hefner/NHLI via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The New York Rangers have barely done anything in the first week of the NHL’s free agency period. Could they bring in a veteran leader on a cheap, one-year deal?

I think we all expected the New York Rangers to be relatively quite in free agency, but not this quite.

Through one week, the only UFA the Rangers have brought on board is depth defenseman Fredrik Claesson who will compete for a top six role in training camp.

They have let young and promising, but to this point dissapointing, forwards like Anthony Duclair and Tobias Reider slip away to the Blue Jackets and Oilers, respectively. Even Nail Yakupov couldn’t muster an offer from the Blueshirts, which was a factor in his path to signing a KHL contract.

But the Rangers still have plenty of roster spots that need to be filled out. According to CapFriendly, The Rangers have 11 forwards at the NHL level including their RFAs. Yes, Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson are not included in that 11, but Peter Holland and Matt Beleskey are, so they cancel out. So the Rangers will likely need to add another forward or two to round out their lineup.

If they are looking to bring in “character” free agents like general manager Jeff Gorton suggested, Joel Ward may be a viable option.

Ward is not the same player he once was. In just 52 games last season, Ward tallied five goals and seven assists before suffering a season-ending upper-body injury in February.

When you look at the North York, Ontario native’s advanced statistics, the picture gets a bit uglier. According to Hockey Reference, Ward’s 5-on-5 CorsiRel was an ugly -2.6.

Related: What exactly defines a culture change?

At the end of the day, though, the Rangers are not competing to win a championship this season; they are trying to develop their young players. Throughout his career, Ward has earned a reputation as a leader in the locker room. He’s 37-years-old now and he’s had tons of experience in the league.

If the Rangers were to somehow make the playoffs, he would be able to help the team tremendously. He has a total of 62 playoff points in 83 playoff games. That’s .75 points per game.

It won’t take much money to acquire Ward at this point. The Rangers could probably throw a one-year deal at the veteran wing with around $3 million. The team has $23 million in cap room. As long as it’s a one-year marriage, the cap hit wouldn’t even matter that much.

The Rangers could also wait till the end of the summer and give Ward a PTO in hopes that he forces the team to give him a contract in training camp. This is assuming that nobody else adds him in the meantime.

The Sharks have about $7 million in cap space left and still need to sign Chris Tierney. They will probably take the rest of that cap space into the season, where they could use it in a trade. With that said, Ward won’t be back in the Shark Tank this upcoming season.

Next: Should Gorton be a 3rd party in a Karlsson trade?

But for the Rangers, it’s a no risk move that they should consider while they continue to sit on their hands this offseason –which, by the way, is not a bad thing.