Boo Nieves has spent five seasons in the New York Rangers organization, but he might not see a sixth. Nieves, 26, did not make the team’s extended playoff roster and is a pending unrestricted free agent, which makes his future in New York uncertain at best.
In 2019-20, Nieves played in just four games with the Rangers after appearing in 43 games with the big club in 2018-19. Greg McKegg, Phil Di Giuseppe, Micheal Haley, and Steven Fogarty all played more games with the Rangers this season than Nieves. And like Nieves, McKegg and Fogarty are pending UFAs, and both were more productive — in the NHL and AHL, respectively.
Predicting what happens year-to-year with AHL rosters is a lot trickier than their NHL counterparts. Once players get the impression that they have gotten as far as they can in the AHL, many opt to continue their careers in Europe. In late July, longtime Hartford forward Vinni Lettieri was linked to SC Bern and Danny O’Regan was connected — by rumor — to Germany’s Fischtown Pinguins. In June, Wolf Pack defenseman Nick Ebert signed with Örebro HK in the SHL. The coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of when — or if — the AHL resumes play this year might make Europe an even more appealing option than it has been in years past for players like Nieves.
It’s also worth noting that Nieves had a 17.01 eTOI/GP, per pick224.com, in Hartford in 2019-20, which ranked third among the Wolf Pack’s forwards — behind Lettieri and Di Giuseppe and just ahead of Fogarty. He also saw only 7:32 TOI/GP in his four games with the Rangers this year.
There could be big changes coming to the Hartford Wolf Pack for the second consecutive season — we already know that Vitali Kravtsov will be in the KHL. Having a homegrown, experienced player with NHL experience like Nieves should hold plenty appeal to Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury, but it’s safe to say that window he had to put all of the raw abilities that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the 2012 Draft is now closed. With that being said, he still has the ability to be a competent fourth liner or 13th forward at the NHL level.
If this is indeed the end of the road for Nieves in the Rangers’ organization, it would be unfortunate and a prime example of just how hard it is for talented players to make it at the NHL level. Thus far, Nieves has played part of four seasons with the Rangers. He just wasn’t able to make a strong enough impression to hold onto a roster spot for more than half a season.