Before the 2013 NHL Draft began the Rangers sent a 2014 6th round pick and AHL forward Benn Ferriero to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for blueliner Justin Falk. Falk, 24, is a 6'5" 220 lb left-handed blueliner with 108 games of NHL experience spread out over four seasons as a professional. In 36 games with the Wild this past season Falk averaged just 13:12 TOI/G which was about six minutes down from the ice time he got two seasons ago. With limited ice time and being a healthy scratch for stretches of the season, it looks like Falk simply wasn't in the Wild's plans for the future so he became available for trade. According to Pat Leonard of the NYDN, Falk for the 6th was the foundation of the deal, Ferriero went the other way so that the Rangers didn't go above the limit of the 50 contracts each team is allowed.
Emilie from Hockey Wilderness summed up Falk as:
He's a decent 3rd pairing guy. He won't be a tremendous savior for the blue line, but he's got a big body that he uses to make plays. not slow, but not overly fast either.
What Falk Is:
Falk is a stay-at-home defensive defenseman that looks like he could play on the third pair or as the team's 7th defenseman. Falk may very well represent more reliable depth that has a much higher potential than Eminger or Gilroy and brings some size and potential physicality to the Rangers blueline which is something it has been sorely lacking of late. Falk is a very big body that has a lot of the tools that make scouts and coaches excited but wasn't able to put it altogether in Minnesota. Perhaps a change of scenery and a new system will bring out the best in his game.
What Falk Isn't:
Falk's skating is unremarkable and average for a player of his dimensions. He has been criticized for not using his large frame as much as he should though he is very capable of delivering the big hit. Here is a clip of him cleaning Taylor Hall's clock and getting called for interference despite making a fantastic play.
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Expecting offense of any kind from Falk is unrealistic, it just isn't part of his game. Despite being a big defensive defenseman Falk is far from a shut-down man, his metrics are unremarkable and given his TOI over the past few seasons one can infer that the Wild didn't want to trust him with major minutes.
Falk is currently an RFA and had a cap hit of $825,000 last season with the Wild. I don't expect him to make much more than that and if that is the case then it is bad news for anyone hoping for the return of Matt Gilroy and the right-handed Steve Eminger. The Rangers have made it clear that they are willing to trade the rights to Ryane Clowe but that still doesn't leave a lot of money to go around to the RFAs the Rangers have to sign as well as whatever moves they want to make in the free agency market.
Justin Falk is the fifth left-handed blueliner on the Rangers, the only two right-handers under contract are Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman (not counting Stu Bickel or Danny Syrvet). Whether or not the Falk move means that the Rangers are going to be comfortable moving someone remains to be seen but I wouldn't be surprised if the blueline gets a bit of a shake-up before the start of next season.
You can follow Justin Falk on twitter at: @juicerfalk
What do you think guys and girls? Like the Falk trade or don't think we'll get much use out of him? How important is blueline depth and is the Falk trade a step in the right direction towards achieving it? Have at in the comments.
Let's go Rangers.