The NHL trade deadline is ten days away and the New York Rangers have yet to make a move. Of course most of the trade discussions have been focused on Chris Kreider and Alexandar Georgiev. To switch up the conversation, we are going to focus on alternate captain Jesper Fast, and why it would be beneficial for the Blueshirts to trade him.
Now please keep in mind, while Fast is an asset to the team that fans would be happy to see back on Broadway again next season, a team that is still in a rebuild period has to be careful on who they extend. When looking at the current roster, it is important to identify core pieces, and from there make decisions that will open up opportunity and money for other players.
Fast is one of eight pending free agents, and is in the final year of his three-year, $5.5 million deal ($1.85M AAV) per Cap Friendly. Taking into consideration his previous contract, it is more than likely that the forward will look to double his current salary in his next contract, or at the very least sign a long term deal that gives him financial security. Think Jay Beagle’s four-year, $12 million ($3M AAV) with the Vancouver Canucks as a potential starting point. Or as Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. pointed out, maybe Zack Kassian ($3.2M AAV).
Jesper Fast loves this Kassian contract.— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) January 30, 2020
The 28-year-old will only have so many opportunities to get a big pay day, and this July is a big one for him. Fast currently sits 11th in points among UFA-to-be wingers, and with him on pace to have a career year, testing the market on July 1 feels like a predetermined outcome.
A Fast trade would open up some cap room which could be used on other player raises, and the return on him could be useful in the future. While he is a great character guy, and useful player, the team will be able to replace his role either through free agency or from within the organization. Trading Fast could also make room for a younger player, like Vitali Kravtsov in the top-nine.
Through 55 games, the Rangers’ sixth rounder from the 2010 draft has recorded 24 points, 8 goals and 16 assists. Ten of these points have come in 17 games played in calendar year 2020, and this is something that can be used as a selling point to prospective teams.
Fast turned 28 this past December, and a rebuilding team like the Rangers needs to be careful about handing out contracts that reward players primarily for past performance, and offer little upside for the future. While he may not be an ideal fit for the team going forward, because of the salary he could command, the seven-year Blueshirt has proven to be a well-rounded forward, and one who’d be an asset to a playoff contender.
He’s a versatile skater who slides up and down the lineup playing whatever role is asked of him. Earning himself the nickname “Quickie” for his speed, he has also been great defensively and on the penalty kill. Since the 2015-16 season, Fast has been one of the Rangers forwards leaned on while shorthanded, and this year he’s averaging a career-high 2:23 per game on the PK as one of the team’s most valued penalty killers.
He’s also shown leadership to the younger players, has good relationships with his teammates on and off the ice, and has been awarded the Player’s Player Award four consecutive years. As Mike Murphy stated in his story two weeks ago, “It is those intangibles that should make him a tempting option for a team looking to add to its forward depth before a playoff push.”
There’s been a number of teams who have been bitten by the injury bug of late, so there’s bound to be interest in Fast. Maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets who will be without Cam Atkinson for the next two-to-three weeks? Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs who will be without Andreas Johnsson for a bit. There are bound to be others, but the fact remains that the Rangers have the opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity that could see more teams get involved as we get closer to the deadline.
Fast’s dependability as a Ranger is what makes him really appealing to other teams. His box score numbers may not always reflect the way he plays on the ice, but it is obvious that he is an unsung all-around hockey player. He’s shown the ability to play and keep up with skilled forwards, ie: Artemiy Panarin, so teams interested in him could look at him as more than just your average third-line forward.
The Rangers have benefited from Fast for the last seven seasons, and trading him could bring more value to the future and their goal as a rebuilding franchise than signing him to an ill advised extension. It will be tough to see him go, but the potential benefits are too good to pass up.