Rangers’ top 3 acquisitions from a busy Saturday

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at San Jose Sharks, new york rangers, Nick Bonino (New York Rangers)
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

NHL free agency started yesterday, and Rangers general manager Chris Drury spent little time beginning to construct next year’s roster.

Drury signed nine players on Saturday, all with a cap hit under 825k, as he looked to add depth and grit to a lineup already full of star power.

Here are the top three acquisitions from a busy Saturday.

Blake Wheeler

With top-six wingers Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko unlikely to return, the cap-stricken Rangers needed an affordable replacement, and the Winnipeg Jets did the Blueshirts a favor.

On Friday, the Jets placed Blake Wheeler on an unconditional waiver to buy out the final year of his 5-year $41.25 million contract.

This made Wheeler an unrestricted free agent and willing to take a cheaper contract in hopes of resetting his market in 2024. The Rangers swopped in and signed the 36-year-old to a one-year $800k contract with up to $300k in bonuses.

Wheeler had a solid 2022-23 season playing in 72 games while scoring 16 goals and 39 assists. He was also a significant factor on the power play, scoring seven times, his second-highest total in a single season.

The Minnesota native has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, with 10 seasons scoring more than 50 plus points, and should be a solid contributor for the Blueshirts this season.

Erik Gustafson

With Niko Mikkola heading to the Panthers on a three-year $7.5 million deal, the Blueshirts had an opening in their defensive core.

The Rangers signed Erik Gustafson to a one-year $825k contract to fill that hole. Gustafson played 70 games in 2022-23, splitting time with the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 31-year-old scored seven goals and had 35 assists while also scoring one goal in two playoff games for the Maple Leafs.

Gustafson is an excellent offensive defenseman, and his familiarity with new head coach Peter Laviolette makes this a sneaky good signing for the Blueshirts.

Nick Bonino

A flaw in the Rangers 2022-23 roster was a lack of grit and playoff scoring from their bottom six forward group, eventually leading to their elimination by the New Jersey Devils in the first round.

The Rangers have looked to change that this offseason, and one of those moves was signing Nick Bonino to a one-year $800k contract.

In 62 games last season split between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bonino scored 10 goals and nine assists. However, where the 35-year-old’s real value lies for the Rangers is his playoff pedigree.

Bonino has played in 133 playoff games notching 19 goals and 29 assists while winning two Stanley Cups.

Bonino’s veteran presence and extensive playoff experience should greatly help the Rangers pursue their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

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