Part 5 of a series analyzing the New York Rangers.
Can we agree that the two most-guessed staff decisions of Alain Vignault’s five-year reign behind Rangers bench were: A) played Tanner Glass at all, and B) played Jesper Fast as a top-six forward?
So guess who David Quinn had locked in during the season as top-six forward to complement Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome?
Yes, it would be the same Mr. Quickie.
There is a reason why Fast – four times to run the team’s player players who were voted by their peers and who as easily as could not win it again this year if it is voting for club awards – has been entrusted with important assignments by Vigneault and Quinn.
It is because of the 28-year-old Swede’s unbelievable work habits, his dedication to details, his willingness to fight and his dedication to play on the defensive side of the puck. Do you know about glue guys in the room? Though has been a glue guy on the ice.
Finger recorded 12 goals in 69 games, a shy of the personal best he had set for 2017-18. Quinn led him 16:36 ice time per game, almost two minutes below his career average, when he combined with Panarin and Strome to form a unit that was on the ice for 28 goals scored by Rangers and 11 scored by the opposition in 450: 16 of five on five games.
For context, the unit Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich was intact for 283: 48 and was on in 18 goals scanned by Rangers and 10 made by the opposition. So, what would you identify as the first line and which one as the second, or are we in the 1A / 1B territory occupied by Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash and Benoit Pouliot-Derrick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello?
Panarin on the second line? Sergei Fedorov was once on the second line in Detroit, behind Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier was on the second line during a time in Edmonton behind The Great Gretzky, and either Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg was once a second line pilot for Colorado.
Still, the fourth senior Blueshirt, behind only Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Kreider in life after being the team’s sixth inning, is the 157th overall choice in 2010. The winger made the team out of training camp 2013-14 (while beating Kreider for a job) and played nine games in October before being sent to the AHL. When Fast returned the following year, he did it for good.
But No. 17’s future as the Ranger – the man, by the way, started at No. 12, switched to No. 19 after Brad Richards left and then changed Fast out of that shirt when the numbers were withdrawn in Jean Ratelle’s honor – are in doubt. The pending free agent might just wear another uniform next season.
The Post has been told that the management had preliminary discussions with Fast’s camp which led to the trade deadline on February 24 but could not agree on an extension, with the gap somewhat wide. The Blueshirts still refused to move quickly, instead retaining him for the run to the playoffs. If this season does not resume, this will represent the other side of the coin on which offers were made for rental.
In both cases, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The hood will almost certainly be lower for 2020-21 than expected. Rangers would still face a pinch. But it would be surprising if the team does not circle back on the wing when the fate of the year is decided. Because if Blueshirts will have less space to work with, everyone else will, and that increases the likelihood that there will be fewer dollars available for Fast around the league in the open market.
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Fast, who plays a grinding game that has charged a fee on his 6-foot, 180-pound frame, seems to have more value for a challenger than for a poor or rebuilding team. But basically, any legit challenger – maybe not Colorado – will resist it. And regardless of Sweden’s assets, it is unlikely that teams will line up to throw money at a 12-goal scorer.
So a divorce may not be inevitable.
Players have arrived – Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, et al. – and the players have been going – Nash, Stepan, Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, plus – for the past two plus years, so Fest’s departure in itself would not represent a trauma.
But it would create a hole in a team that certainly will not pass by the defensive forward.
That would create a hole in the room … and in the top six.
Place: Right wing
Contract status: Ended last season of contract with a cap hit of $ 1.95 million and is a pending unlimited free agent
Statistics 2019-20: 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points in 69 games