The New York Rangers are still without their star defender Adam Fox, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Since Fox was placed on the LTIR, Zac Jones has entered the lineup as his replacement. Jones is currently slotted on the third defensive pairing with Braden Schneider, while Erik Gustafsson has moved up into Fox’s usual position.
With Fox being out for another few weeks minimum, the Rangers have time to test out different methods of filling the hole their top defender left with his injury. There are a couple of different options on the table, but none of them seem ideal.
Jones and Schneider have not been good together so far
In his three games played so far this season, Jones has not been a good fit alongside Braden Schneider. He’s managed to get on the score sheet, but more importantly, his defensive play is abysmal. He has a -3 rating on the year so far, and Schneider has been a -1 over the last two games played with Jones.
There is the possibility that head coach Peter Laviolette could look to experiment with Jones elsewhere in the lineup, but that would cause the separation of the other two solid defensive pairings. It would be impossible to move Jones without breaking up Erik Gustafsson and Ryan Lindgren or K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba. Because of this, it may be best to look at other options.
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The Rangers have a few options down in the AHL
With Fox on the LTIR, the Rangers have effectively cleared $9.5 million while he remains out of the lineup. This gives the Rangers a bit more flexibility to make roster moves and potentially call up another defender. If Jones continues to disappoint on the Blueshirts, there are a few other options to look at.
Ben Harpur is a veteran defenseman who has spent some time up in the big leagues with the Rangers. He’s currently playing down with the Hartford Wolfpack, but it’s possible the Rangers could look to utilize him while Fox is injured. Harpur is a -1 down in the AHL right now, but his performance has been much more solid than that of Jones.
Another potential, yet less likely option, is Matthew Robertson. The young prospect is in the final year of his ELC and has much to prove to the organization this season. He’s looked solid to start the season down in Hartford, but Robertson may still be too young and underdeveloped to be at the NHL level. If the Rangers were to go with any option other than Jones, Harpur appears to be the best fit.