Jeff Gorton took a chance on free agent Brandon Pirri on August 25th, 2016. But it was the sort of late offseason gamble that many praised. Pirri was two seasons removed from scoring 22 goals in 49 games with the Panthers. He could play center, he had a hell of a shot and he was still available late last August.
In preseason and October Pirri looked like a huge steal. He had four goals and two assists in his first nine games with the Rangers. Pirri’s big shot was a weapon the Rangers power play. He was key cog to the Rangers new “four scoring lines” design.
But the good times didn’t last.
Through November and December Pirri scored just two goals on 46 shots in 28 games, and both of those goals came on the power play. The even strength production just wasn’t there for the former Blackhawks second round pick.
Pirri managed the puck well in regards to turnovers and giveaways and was great on the faceoff dot, but when his offense faltered he lost his regular roster spot. It wasn’t long before he was watching games from the press box. Alain Vigneault’s confidence is a difficult thing to regain after it has been lost.
Curious to see how Pirri fares after 9 games as a healthy scratch. Has ability to be a real marksman, liked his PP chemistry with Zibanejad.— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) February 23, 2017
Pirri had four points in his final 23 games with the Rangers and failed to register a point in the five games he played in March and the three games he played in April. A healthy Oscar Lindberg helped to transform Pirri’s role into a superfluous 13th forward. According to Larry Brooks, he was scratched 20 times in a 29 game span before dressing for the final three games of the regular season.
Final Grade: C-
What have you done for me lately?
In many ways Pirri was a victim of the Rangers having more bottom-six forward depth than Vigneault knew what to do do with. But there’s no escaping the fact that he didn’t score enough to keep his roster spot, especially at even strength.
Pirri’s big shot was a welcome addition to the Rangers power play and fourth line, but he was and is very much a one-dimensional player. His time with the Rangers was brief, but he did score five power play goals as a man advantage specialist. Only Rick Nash and Chris Kreider had more and they both had six goals.
The Rangers chose not to qualify Pirri and as a result he became a UFA. He’ll be playing hockey in Switzerland next season, but he may have more NHL hockey ahead of him.