We all know about the other center the New York Rangers landed this offseason, we have read plenty of opinions and analysis about this Brad Richards kid. I think it is time for a look at the addition of Mike Rupp to the New York Rangers.
Right off the bat, I understand why almost nobody is talking about Mike Rupp. Rupp is going to be a bottom six forward on a team that has too many bottom six forwards and he still has that Devils’ and Penguins’ stink about him. Sometimes that stink just won’t wash off. It’s like getting blasted by a diseased skunk, sometimes there just isn’t enough tomato sauce to knock that stench off of someone. (Join me for further analysis after the jump...)
So what does Rupp add to the team and why were the Rangers so hungry to have him join the team? Clearly Glen Sather saw something in Mike Rupp’s game that made him lock-up Rupp to a three year deal with a $1.5 million cap hit per year. Rupp adds physicality and character to a team that already has an abundance of physicality and character. But Rupp’s real value to the Rangers is size and toughness. Mike Rupp is 6’5" and adds a big frame to a relatively undersized team.
Rupp dropped the gloves 12 times last year which would tie him for second on the Rangers last year with Avery (Prust led the team with 18 fights). Rupp was third on the Penguins in hits last year with 181 which would put him fourth on the hit-happy New York Rangers of last year. Rupp’s willingness to drop the gloves will likely take a lot of the heat off of Brandon Prust who dropped the gloves whenever his team needed him to. The less banged up Brandon Prust is the better it is for the team, if he isn’t hobbling around the locker room and playing through pain he can be out on the ice for the team shorthanded and forechecking like a pit bull. In the video below you can see what having a 6'5" reach will do for you in a hockey fight.
Rupp didn’t take many faceoffs last year for the Penguins (162) but he was 50.6% on the dot. With Chris Drury leaving the team the Rangers are going to need all of the potential faceoff men they can get. Rupp almost certainly won’t be playing center for the Rangers, but he may be an option to take the draw for his line. It isn’t exactly a strength of his but it is one more thing that Rupp brings to the table. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Rupp is going to be a bottom six forward that may move up to the second line if the Rangers have a key injury. But I feel that he is a very different signing than Donald Brashear and Derek Boogaard were for the club.
Mike Rupp is not a heavyweight goon, he is a monster-sized grinder that can use his big frame grinding it out in the corners, screening the opposing goaltender, or dropping the gloves to stick up for his teammates. Rupp can also put the puck in the net, which is something that Brashear and Boogaard didn’t bring to the team. Rupp has scored 22 goals in his last two years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In short, comparing the Rupp signing to Brashear and Boogaard’s contracts isn’t exactly fair. Mike Rupp is a guy who can be in the lineup every night for the Rangers. He fits into the chemistry and culture of the team very well.
Who is most impacted by the signing of Rupp? Other than guys like Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle who may find themselves not needing to drop the gloves as much as they did last year, Rupp’s addition to the lineup may very well push Erik Christensen and/or Sean Avery out of the lineup. The Rangers have added both Richards and Rupp to the team with no forwards (as of yet) that were here last year leaving the team. Erik Christensen has never carved out a place for himself on the team and doesn’t really do the team much good as a fourth liner. Sean Avery hit and scored less than Mike Rupp did last year. You can say whatever you want about Avery not being used "correctly" by John Tortorella but he underperformed last year for the Rangers. What Mike Rupp will almost certainly do is brew some healthy competition among the bottom six forwards who will all be competing for the same ice time. The signing of Mike Rupp adds size, toughness, and character to the New York Rangers… or in one word; it adds some more "jam" to the hockey club.