With the NHL playoffs coming to an end very soon, the offseason is about in full swing. For the New York Rangers, they’ve been in offseason mode since the beginning of May and they have had plenty of time to figure out what the plan is moving forward. Now that they finally hired their head coach Peter Laviolette, their focus can now be turned to the NHL Draft and free agency.
Speaking of free agency, there is one player who might be available that fans have been wondering about possibly targeting on July 1st. The player is Jesper Fast. Fast was a fan favorite when he was here and everyone thought it was a mistake when they let him walk during the 2020 offseason. Now, the Rangers have the chance to fix their mistake and bring him back into the organization. The question is can they fit him in and if they can, what role will he play?
The previous Rangers’ management group decided to let Fast walk as a free agent because they were not willing to give him the three years he was asking for and wanted him to sign for two. He opted to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes for three years making $2 million per year. This deal would have been a bargain for the Rangers looking back as he was the perfect fit on the line with Artemi Panarin.
In three years with the Hurricanes, he played on a third line which was the shutdown line for the Canes. He normally played with Jordan Staal and he was excellent in that role. He scored a career-high 14 goals and 34 points during the 2021-22 season and this year, he followed it up by having a great post-season.
He scored 6 goals and 9 points in 15 games and scored two overtime winners, including the one that sent the Canes to the Eastern Conference Final. Following that performance, he will be looking for more money come July 1st.
If the Rangers want the opportunity to potentially bring him back, they are probably going to have to offer him around $3 million a season on a multi-year deal. Other teams might offer more money and term, but if the Rangers make him an offer, he would consider it. If he were to sign for that price, they would likely have to move the contract of Barclay Goodrow who makes around $3.6 million.
They can move him because they are players who play a very similar style of game and they would also need to move him because they need money to sign Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller. If it were up to the fans, they would want Fast back over having Goodrow stay around.
If Fast were to return, where would he play in the lineup? The answer for many would be to put him back with Panarin. They played great together on the line with Ryan Strome and Panarin also had his best season as a Ranger when he played on a line with those two players. The combination works because while Panarin is more of a play-making, east-west player, Fast can get to the dirty areas and play the north-south style game.
Even though he is a smaller player, Fast doesn’t play like one. He plays his heart out each shift and isn’t afraid to get dirty and play in the corners and force the pucks out so he can get to his teammates. Fast also doesn’t need to play with Panarin. If needed, he could play a shut-down role again. Put him on a line with Vincent Trocheck and Tyler Motte(if he resigns) and they could be the perfect shutdown line for the Rangers.
Letting Fast go was one of the last mistakes made by the previous regime. They could have easily given him the third year and everything would have been fine. They didn’t because they wanted the young players to get more ice time and after Fast was gone, they still weren’t given the ice time. Now that he is a free agent again, the Rangers could look to right the wrong and bring him back to the team where was drafted and where he made a name for himself. A reunion is not off the table by any means.