At least we didn't sign Matt Cooke. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
On Sunday, July 1st the New York Rangers agreed to a two-year deal with UFA forward Arron Asham. When I heard that news, like many Ranger fans, I looked up to the heavens and bellowed the foulest, most profane words in my vocabulary. Glen Sather, it seems, is convinced that the team could replace Brandon Prust by bringing in yet another player who excels at checking and punching people repeatedly in the face.
The problem with this logic, as we all know, is that Arron Asham can't be trusted to kill penalties the way Prust was and he certainly can't be trusted to do anything beyond grinding it out in the bottom six. Asham wasn't used at all by the Penguins on the penalty kill (can you blame them?) and was last on the team (out of players with at least 50 GP) in ice time with 9:14 TOI/G. Realistically, he was brought here to be an agitator and enforcer and eat up some fourth line minutes and may god help us if he ever called on to do more than that. Asham has also been criticized throughout his career for taking silly penalties and for poor defensive play, sounds like Torts is going to just love him.
Join me for more venting about Asham after the jump...
Like most of you, I really can't stand Asham. At first he was just a player that seemed to play for every single one of our rivals (which he has) and was a pest that knew how to handle himself in a fight. However, my loathing for him truly developed last October when he knocked out Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals and played up to the crowd by miming that he put Beagle to sleep. What a jackass.
Then of course there is Asham's crosscheck to the throat of Brayden Schenn on April 15th during last year's playoffs. After that he gave Schenn a punch to the back of the head. Again, what a jackass.
I've found a way to cheer for almost everyone that has pulled on the Rangers sweater. There have been a few exceptions, Donald Brashear comes to mind (can't forgive him for what he did to Blair Betts), but for the most part I try to give every single player the benefit of the doubt. I think Arron Asham is going to put that tradition of me giving everyone a second chance when they become a Ranger to the test. To this day I still struggle to say anything nice about Mike Rupp other than, "He seems like a great guy and a good dad," and, "He won us the Winter Classic... well, he and Hank won us the Winter Classic."
I am hoping that Asham, for his own sake, finds a way to tap into the energy of the Garden Faithful feed of it so that he plays above and beyond his game and rather modest dimensions. In short, I hope he can play a little bit like Brandon Prust when Prust wasn't nursing fifteen injuries at once. To be fair to Asham he has only been suspended once in his career (the Schenn incident) and is regarded as being a decent guy off the ice and is well-known for his fierce loyalty to his teammates. Asham is the kind of guy who drops the gloves or throws the big, punishing hit to send a message to the other team and their tough guys. However, it is hard to embrace him in that role when the Rangers already have Mike Rupp and Stu Bickel who both look like they'll be regular parts of the team for the time being. Even with the departure of Brandon Prust, it looks like the Rangers will still be among the league leaders in fighting majors this upcoming season.
Asham's greatest strength is that he is considered a tough guy who can play. I think it is safe to say that the Rangers probably enjoyed the one of the best "tough guys who can play" in the league over the past two and a half seasons in Brandon Prust but Prust priced himself out of New York. Asham's contract is $1.5 million less on the cap than Prust's deal with the Habs, that may not sound like a lot but it is very hard to justify a fourth line player getting paid $2.5 million a year over three years. The Canadiens were willing to pay that price for Brandon Prust, Glen Sather was not. Slats has been on his game lately with trades and even some free agent signings, I am hoping that the Asham signing proves us all wrong.
I'm not holding my breath though.
Asham, 34, will be a New York Ranger for the next two years. I am sure that Glen Sather had something in mind when he signed Asham. Maybe he had confidence in Tortorella getting the most out of a veteran like Asham or maybe Slats really just wanted to replace a tough guy with an older, cheaper, and less useful tough guy. Whatever the case, he'll be wearing a Ranger jersey sometime soon and I am sure I won't be the only one who just feels a little bit dirty about it. That being said, I hope you prove me wrong Asham, go bag 8 or 9 goals and take as few stupid penalties as possible. Let's go Rangers.