Ten days into free agency, the Rangers still don’t have their center situation fully figured out. David Desharnais was an incredibly smart, frugal signing. However, that still leaves one spot to fill. The current free agent market offers little in the way of help. Trades are always possible, but in practice are always difficult to pull off.
In what has already been a creative offseason for the Rangers, a creative solution could exist for filling the void at center. The Rangers have some history with poaching centers from the New Jersey Devils. Soon-to-be free agent Alex Kerfoot could perhaps be next on the list.
Kerfoot, who turns 23 in August, was the Devils’ fifth-round pick in 2012. Having just finished his senior season at Harvard, he could become a free agent on August 15th. Just as Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes did before signing with the Rangers. It appears that Kerfoot does intend to take that route.
The Harvard graduate was respectable for his first three college seasons but really took off in his senior year. Captaining the team, he registered 16 goals and 29 assists in 36 games. He played an important role in Harvard’s first Beanpot Tournament win since 1993, as well as their first Frozen Four appearance since 1994. He was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award (top NCAA player). As the numbers would indicate, he’s a skilled offensive center who skates well and has a knack for moving the puck and making plays in the offensive zone.
Athletes are autonomous figures who can have all sorts of priorities and preferences for where they want to play. That being said, despite no rumored link between Kerfoot and the Rangers, it seems like a logical fit. The Rangers need centers. Not just at the NHL level, but at all levels of the organization. Barring an insane training camp from seventh-overall pick Lias Andersson, Kerfoot’s only real competition for an NHL spot would be Boo Nieves, who was a mid-range prospect to begin with and is coming of a frustrating, injury-filled season. One would also think Jimmy Vesey, who won his Hobey Baker Award in 2016 with Kerfoot on his line feeding him pucks, would be able to do his fair share of lobbying.
Kerfoot is not on the level that Vesey or Hayes were in the same situation, but he is nonetheless a desirable commodity who will challenge for an NHL spot immediately wherever he does sign. Left without a superior option, perhaps adding Kerfoot and making it an open competition with Nieves and Andersson for the fourth-line spot makes sense, with J.T. Miller serving as the contingency plan if necessary. In the worst case, Kerfoot would start the year centering the top line in Hartford and be the likely first injury call-up. If nothing else, adding good prospects is always a worthwhile endeavor in itself. On Kerfoot’s end, he would get to join a contender with a gaping hole at center alongside his former college teammate. Not to mention that New York City and the Rangers tends to be very appealing to free agents; college free agents in particular.
Nobody has reported on the Rangers having interest in Kerfoot, or vice versa. But in theory there seems to be a fit on a number of levels. The Rangers still have time to add a more established center one way or another, but if nothing else develops soon this could be an option worth monitoring.