New York Rangers mainstay Jesper Fast is set to become a free agent.
The New York Rangers are heading into this offseason with several question marks surrounding important players. Jesper Fast is one of them. The Rangers alternate captain is one of the most underrated players in the NHL with his all-around play. The question Rangers’ fans find themselves thinking is, should we keep him or let him go?
Fast, 28, is coming off the final year of a three-year deal that has an average annual value (AAV) $1.85 million. As a popular and valuable player, there is no doubt he will be looking for a bigger payday and longer term.
He finished the shortened season with 12 goals and 29 points in 69 games. But it is the hard work and determination that Fast brings in game in and game out the Rangers would miss if he is not re-signed.
Let us take a look at some pros and cons when it comes to Jesper Fast.
Looking around the league, the roles of captain and alternate captains are usually handed to their top players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, or Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. But in New York, Jesper Fast is an alternate captain not known for his offensive skill but for his all-around play on the ice. Fast always gives 110 percent every game.
For that effort, Fast has been awarded the Players’ Player award for five consecutive seasons. This award, which is voted by his teammates, is given to the player who “exemplifies what it means to be a team player.” That is hard to find around the NHL. Fast brings the type of energy a team needs every night.
Pro: Importance of the team
If there was any question about his importance to the team, it was answered in the Stanley Cup Qualifier. Unfortunately, Fast was injured by former New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei in the first game. The result was a three game sweep that saw the Rangers leave Toronto with no wins. Losing Fast just seconds into the first game already put the Rangers on the wrong foot.
Pro: His defense
It is no secret Fast is one of the Rangers best penalty killers, but, his defensive awareness on a line with Panarin allows the Breadman to be creative around the ice knowing “Quickie” will be there to cover him. Though he does not put up the points on the score sheet, Fast’s defensive stature gives Panarin and Strome the ability to be creative and put the puck in the back of the net.
Summing up the pros
“Quickie” will not be known for his skill and goal scoring, but the leadership and determination qualities are irreplaceable considering where the Rangers are in their rebuild. The good news is the Rangers kept the 28-year-old past the trade deadline knowing he wanted to be a Ranger and did not want to go anywhere else.
Con: Money, money, money
When it comes to keeping Fast, it’s not because of the type of player he is, but the position the Rangers are in financially.
The Rangers find themselves in a tough position with the cap space this season. It was previously thought the cap would increase but due to the circumstances, the cap will remain flat for at $81.5 million. This will force Blueshirts’ management to make tough decisions on players like Fast.
There is no doubt Fast will be asking for more than his $1.85 million. This upcoming season, the Rangers will owe former Ranger defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk over six million dollars because of his buyout.
They also have players who are restricted free agents like Tony DeAngelo, who had a breakout season this year with 15 goals and 53 points and Ryan Strome, who also had a breakout season of his own setting personal highs in assists and points this year. Both players will be asking north of five million, giving the Rangers little wiggle room to keep players like Fast. Unless, Henrik Lundqvist decides to retire, or the Rangers buyout Marc Staal or Brendan Smith, to save some cap, Fast might be skating in a different jersey next season.
Being 28-years-old in the NHL now is seen to be as the mid thirties of the NHL of several years ago. It is a young man’s league. Now, I’m not saying Fast is old and he doesn’t have it anymore, but the Rangers have their cheaper options in their system. Vitali Kravtsov is still in his entry-level contract and he can push for a starting position opening night in December.
The Rangers also had the luck of the draw as they received the first overall pick in early August. They will have the chance to pick Alexis Lafreniere which will help them move along the rebuild.
The Seattle expansion draft will take place after next season. Signing Fast to the multi-year contract he will probably seek could present major headaches if he also asks for a No Movement Clause. It means the Rangers will have to expose a younger player, something they will not want to do.
Losing Fast will bring heartache to Rangers’ fans. It will hurt just as much as when the Rangers traded away fan favorite, Mats Zuccarello to Dallas at last year’s trade deadline. It is not impossible that the Rangers will figure out a way to keep him, but the real possibility is that Fast will be wearing a different colored jersey come December.