Last Wednesday saw the free agency market open for the National Hockey League. With teams who are trying to build and become contenders, fans saw multiple big signings and trades. However, in our own backyard, the New York Rangers made quite a few quiet and simple moves to add depth to the team and to try and replace the open spots of Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin.
Former defenseman, who had a solid year as a seventh blueliner for New York Matt Hunwick, was quickly signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. In order to add more depth on the backend, the Rangers went and brought back an old face, Raphael Diaz. The twenty-nine year old is returning for his second stint with the Rangers. He was first traded over from Vancouver in the 2013-2014 season at the trade deadline.
In his first season as a Ranger, he only played in eleven regular season games and had one goal and two points. During that same campaign, he only played in four playoff games, and was held off the scoresheet for all four. He then moved on to Calgary to get more playing time where he was used in fifty-six regular season games with two goals and four points. In Calgary, he only played three playoff games and was a plus one.
Next, New York signed Matt Lindblad, a twenty-five year old center from the Bruins organization. He’s played in a total of four NHL games with Boston and has yet to register his first NHL point. He played forty-seven games in the AHL last year and tallied nine goals and twenty-two points. Lindblad will add forward depth to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Jayson Megna also signed as a free agent coming from the Penguins organization. Megna is another twenty-five year old center and split last season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
In the AHL, he played in sixty-three games and recorded twenty-six goals and thirty-nine points. While in the NHL, Megna played in twelve games and recorded one point. However, he does have an NHL total of 48 games with five goals and ten points between two seasons. He also adds more center depth to the team and can be used as a spare in case of injury during the regular season.
While adding more forward depth, the Rangers added Brian Gibbons from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He played in forty-one NHL games in the 2013-2014 season with the Penguins and scored five goals and seventeen points. He then signed with the Blue Jackets in the 2014-2015 season and split time between Columbus and their AHL-affliate, the Springfield Falcons. In the twenty-six games with the Falcons, he recorded three goals and eleven points. While in Columbus, he played in only twenty-five games and had five assists.
In need of goaltending depth with Mackenzie Skapski hurt, the Rangers signed Swedish goalie, Magnus Hellberg, from the Nashville organization. Standing at 6’6″, Hellberg is a big goaltender who played for the team Henrik Lundqvist was apart of before joining the Rangers organization, Frolunda. Hellberg is 42-36-7 in his AHL career, while going 15-10-6 last season with a 2.33 goals against average.
Perhaps the biggest name that the Rangers signed during free agency was Viktor Stalberg. He signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal on July 1 with New York. The big twenty-nine year old left winger from Sweden has played in a total of 328 NHL games with sixty-two goals and 132 points. He was originally drafted in 2006 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since then, Stalberg has played with the Chicago Blackhawks for three seasons and won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013.
After winning the cup, Stalberg signed a four-year deal worth $12 million with the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately, he was not able to play up to the standards of the organization and was demoted to their AHL-affliate. On June 30, 2015, he was placed on waivers and then was finally bought out by Nashville. This signing shows that the Rangers believe he can bring success to the team and can contribute to the third line.
While none of these signings are blockbuster or involve big names, it adds depth to the organization and hints that they want some young guns to step up and make the jump from Hartford to the NHL.
Despite already being in a tight spot with cap space and still needing to come to terms with Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and other free agents, the front office made the necessary moves to their belief as what will get the job done.
With new General Manager Jeff Gorton taking over for Glen Sather, the Rangers may not be done making moves yet. Whether it be a trade or a free agent signing, there are still some players out there who can easily contribute on a nightly basis and can be drawn in for a low price. While the regular season is still a bit away, this summer may be the most important time for the Rangers who still believe they are missing that one final piece in order to bring home the Cup after coming so close in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.