Rangers sign 10 players as Free Agency began on Saturday

Blake Wheeler, Rangers, NYR
Feb 11, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates his second period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury unveiled his vision for the Blueshirts’ lineup in October after a productive opening to free agency.

Drury wasted no time as Free Agency kicked off on Saturday afternoon, securing the services of nine players and adding a tenth on Sunday morning. None of the signed players will have a cap hit exceeding $825,000, demonstrating the Rangers’ commitment to building a strong team within budget.

The Rangers signed Blake Wheeler, Johnathan Quick, Tyler Pitlick, Riley Nash, Alex Belzile, Connor Mackey, Nikolas Brouillard, Nick Bonino, Erik Gustafson, and Mac Hollowell (announced Sunday Morning).

The New York Rangers’ latest acquisitions

Wheeler, 36, skated in 72 games for the Winnipeg Jets in 2022-23, recording 16 goals and 39 assists for 55 points. Wheeler added seven power-play goals, the second most of his career, and a career-high tying six game-winning goals. On the Jets, Wheeler ranked tied for fourth in goals, third in assists, and fifth in points.

Quick, 37, has appeared in 753 career games (740 starts) over 16 seasons between the Los Angeles Kings and Las Vegas Golden Knights, accumulating a 375-277-84 record, a career 2.47 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage. Among US-born goaltenders, Quick ranks second all-time in wins and fourth in games played. Quick split his 2022-23 season between the Kings and Golden Knights, tallying a 16-15-6 record in 41 games with two shutouts. He won his first four starts with Vegas and finished 5-2-2 with the Stanley Cup-winning club.

Pitlick, 31, skated in 61 games for the St. Louis Blues in 2022-23, recording seven goals and nine assists for 16 points. The 6-2, 200-pound forward recorded his 100th career point with a goal on March 12, 2023, vs. Vegas.

Nash, 34, spent the 2022-23 season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) as an alternate captain, recording 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 66 games. On Charlotte, he ranked first in assists and points while ranking tied for first in goals.

Belzile, 31, split the 2022-23 season between the Montreal Canadiens and Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL). He skated in 31 games for the Canadiens this past season, notching a career-high six goals and eight assists for 14 points. As captain of Laval, he notched 26 points (14G-12A) in 31 games.

Mackey, 26, compiled three goals and four assists for seven points in 30 games between the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes in 2022-23. He also recorded 61 hits and 29 blocked shots in those 30 contests.

 Brouillard, 28, notched six goals and 33 assists for 39 points in 72 games for the San Diego Gulls of the AHL in 2022-23. Among team defensemen, he ranked tied for first in assists and second in goals and points.

Bonino, 35, skated in 62 games in 2022-23, split between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, registering 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points. It marked the seventh straight season in which he recorded 10 or more goals. At the time of being dealt by San Jose on March 3, Bonino led all Sharks with 2:14 minutes of shorthanded time on ice per game, as well as 74 blocked shots.

Gustafsson, 31, notched seven goals and 35 assists for 42 points in 70 games and a plus-9 rating in 2022-23, split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals. His goals, assists, points, and plus/minus rating ranked second in a single season throughout his eight-year career. Gustafsson also skated in two playoff games for the Maple Leafs this past spring, scoring a goal.

Hollowell, 24, spent the majority of the 2022-23 season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL), recording 13 assists in 18 games with them. He skated in six games for the Maple Leafs last season after making his NHL debut on November 23 at New Jersey, notching two assists and a plus-3 rating.

The signings were not all made to benefit the NHL roster, but also to strengthen the club’s AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack.

How these signings impact the Rangers’ salary cap:

The Rangers started Free agency with a little over $11.5 million in cap space. They now have $6.175 million in cap space, with 21 players under contract, according to CapFriendly.

Alexi Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller, (who are both RFA’s) need to sign contracts this summer. Drury has stated that he has every intention of retaining both players.

“I’m not going to get into contract stuff, but we think the world of K’Andre,” Drury said of the 23-year-old defenseman. “He’s an extremely talented, terrific, young player who’s been in the organization since the draft and we hope he’s here for a long, long time.” The GM spoke highly of Lafreniere as well, “Real good young player that we think his best days are ahead of him. We’re thrilled he’s part of our team and hope he’s a Ranger for a long, long time.”

New York Post

Following the signing frenzy, it appears that Barclay Goodrow now has more of a fit within the roster despite his high AAV hit. A potential roster lineup could look like this barring any other surprises;

Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko

Panarin – Chytil – Wheeler

Lafreniere – Trocheck – Goodrow

Vesey – Bonino – Pitlick

Lindgren – Fox

Miller – Trouba

Jones – Schneider

Shesterkin

Quick

There is potential for a player or two to break this whole lineup. Brennan Othmann and Adam Sykora, who are both attending the club’s Prospect Development Camp, could have an impact that forces Drury’s and head coach Peter Laviolette’s hand.

Rangers Prospect Development Camp begins today

New York Rangers 2023 Prospect Development Camp will take place from Sunday, July 2 to Wednesday, July 5 at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, NY.

The two groups will scrimmage on Wednesday, July 5, 10:00 AM-11:30 AM.

Follow Frank on Twitter at @RangerProud