With Oscar Lindberg departing for the Vegas Golden Knights in last week’s NHL Expansion Draft, the New York Rangers are suddenly in need of a fourth line center. While they do have an internal replacement in Cristoval Nieves, there could be other attractive options in free agency and they could come relatively cheap.
At the moment, the Rangers are flush with cap space following the buyout of Dan Girardi, trading Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes, Kevin Klein leaning towards retirement, and the cap ceiling rising $2 million next season. Depending on what the Rangers do in free agency (and we know how they like to spend when they have a lot of money), they may be in need of a cheap fourth line center to fill out the rest of their lineup.
Let’s take a look at some of the cheaper options on the free agent market, and how they may fit into the Rangers plans moving forward.
Projected Value: $823,811 *
Last Contract: 2 years / $912,500 AAV **
Previous Team: Carolina Hurricanes/Charlotte Checkers
Nestrasil is coming off of a rather disappointing season with the Carolina Hurricanes where he appeared in only 19 regular season games. Prior to this season, he was recovering from a serious injury when he fractured a vertebra in his back against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 25, 2016. While fully recovered this season, he never appeared to regain his roster spot and spent the latter part of the season with the Charlotte Checkers.
When Nestrasil was consistently in the lineup for the Hurricanes, he was a tremendous shot suppressor and put up his fair share of points given his role. Over the last three seasons Nestrasil has averaged 7 goals, 12 assists and 21 points. Standing at 6’3” Nestrasil is on the taller side compared to the rest of these players, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. He would add more “size” to the fourth line, which some have clamored for, while also giving the Rangers a reliable option to lean on for defensive assignments.
Projected Value: N/A
Last Contract: 1 year / $650,000 AAV **
Previous Team: Philadelphia Flyers/Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Unlike Nestrasil, Weal comes in a bit on the smaller side but with that comes an immense amount of creativity and elusiveness. Weal was originally acquired by Philadelphia in the trade that sent Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier to the Los Angeles Kings, and at the time, was considered a smaller piece in the deal. This past season, however, Weal was given a chance in a 23 game stint with the Flyers and rose to the opportunity.
He was placed within the top-six on a Flyers team starved for offense at the time, and tallied eight goals and four assists during his stay. Depending on which direction the Rangers go with the fourth line, Weal would certainly be a guy who can add positive energy and puck possession within the bottom-six. He also proved in Philadelphia, although a small sample size, that he can be trusted with an increased role in the event of injuries.
Projected Value: $993,284 *
Last Contract: 1 year / $1,100,000 AAV **
Previous Team: New Jersey Devils
Jacob Josefson is an interesting option in the sense that he may be looking to re-establish himself after a change of scenery. Josefson never quite lived up to expectations after being drafted 20th overall by the New Jersey Devils back in 2009. That’s not to say Josefson has been awful by any means, in fact he’s been a relatively steady player during his Devils tenure. But again, given where he has leveled out and his draft position (which isn’t his fault), you can see why the Devils decided to move on.
While Josefson would likely come cheap, there are some red flags and they stem from his lack of production. He would certainly be a considerable drop off in terms of point production compared to Lindberg, but he definitely makes up for that with his defensive play. He has been a tremendous shot suppressor throughout his career, and that could be beneficial on a Rangers team looking to correct the defensive aspects of their game.
Projected Value: $1,071,221 *
Last Contract: 2 years / $1,550,000 AAV **
Previous Team: Arizona Coyotes
The water is a bit muddied when looking at Alex Burmistrov’s potential value on whichever team gives him another chance. He never really got a fair shake this season in Winnipeg before being claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes on January 1, 2017. The potential is certainly there still though, as he has put together three straight 20 point seasons (two of which were in the KHL) prior to this season. Despite the short stay in Arizona, Burmistrov had a rather impressive ending to the season by tallying five goals, nine assists, and 14 points during the final 26 regular season games.
His chart is hardly anything to boast about, and this likely comes with the territory of finishing out the season in Arizona. Arizona was one of the bottom feeders in the West this year, so that could skew his numbers just a little bit. But this is more about catching lightning in a bottle more than anything else. Burmistrov appeared rejuvenated after finally moving on from Winnipeg, and could make for an interesting option if the Rangers are looking to add a young and skilled center to the mix.
Projected Value: $1,373,466 *
Last Contract: 1 year / $1,300,000 AAV **
Previous Team: Colorado Avalanche
Finally, we make our way over to Mikhail Grigorenko who is probably the most intriguing of the bunch. Grigorenko is coming off of two 20+ point seasons with the Colorado Avalanche after being sent to the Mile High City in the deal for Ryan O’Reilly. He reached a career high in goals this year with ten, while also adding an additional 13 assists in 75 games.
Grigorenko’s chart is fairly even across the board, and at the young age of 23, there could still be plenty of untapped potential here. He was one of the more surprising subtractions from the Avs’ restricted free agent pool, so this could be a perfect buy low option for the Rangers. If they are truly committed to bringing in more young talent, the Rangers could a lot worse than taking a flier on Grigorenko.
* All projected contract values used are courtesy of Matt Cane’s 2017 Free Agent Projection model.
** Contract and salary information provided by CapFriendly.
*** HERO Chart visuals provided by Own The Puck.