Puempel, 23, was a first-round pick of the Senators in 2011. A speedy winger with a quick shot and notable passing ability, Puempel produced decent numbers in junior hockey and the AHL but has struggled to really turn his talents into productivity at the NHL level. In 54 career games he has just four goals and two assists.
The Rangers' exact plan for Puempel isn't clear yet. A generic, reasonable assumption for now is that, with Zibanejad out long-term and Buchnevich's immediate future unclear, the Rangers wanted to add a skilled player to fill out the depth chart.
Puempel is pointless in 13 NHL games this season, but there are reasons for some optimism.The Senators are an uninspiring team lacking skill, and Puempel has mostly played a depth role on a line with Chris Neil and Chris Kelly. Puempel has posted solid underlying numbers despite the sub-optimal conditions, albeit in a small sample. The Rangers, a high-tempo team with lots of playmakers and lateral movement, fit Puempel's skillset much better,. Also, virtually anyone the Rangers line him up with would be an upgrade from the aging grinders he was grouped with in Ottawa.
It's a risk-free chance to see if a change of scenery can ignite a player with some quality tools at his disposal. If nothing else, the Hartford Wolf Pack have gotten off to a rocky start to the season and could use an infusion of talent. If the Rangers could get him through waivers successfully then he'd be a big boost on offense. Nonetheless, Puempel's addition is a confirmation that the Rangers plan to continue to build a forward group that's based in youth, speed, and skill on the puck. A strategy that has paid dividends so far this season.