The Rangers signed journeyman depth forward Greg McKegg on July 1, 2019 just after inking Artemiy Panarin for the GDP of Luxembourg. McKegg split the 2018-19 season between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Charlotte Checkers after stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and his draft team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On paper, McKegg represented a Band-Aid to apply to the bottom six — specifically at the center position —should the coaching staff want to call on the services of a veteran 13th forward to step into the picture if/when the kids weren’t hacking it. Although the former 3rd pound pick is a proven scorer at the AHL level, he is a 20-point guy in an 82-game NHL season.
McKegg, 28, was expected to provide some intangibles — read: “hustle” — and be responsible with and without the puck. He has been a part-time NHLer since he made his debut in the show in 2013-14 with Toronto and that is exactly what the Rangers were getting when they signed him to a one-year deal worth $750,000.
McKegg played in 53 of the Rangers’ 70 regular season games and picked up five goals, four assists, and 17 PIM. So he was an unproductive and somewhat regular forward in the team’s bottom six. He averaged 9:34 TOI/GP and more or less broke even on the faceoff dot — he finished fifth among Rangers forwards in draws taken (211).
The journeyman forward’s underlying numbers were definitely sub-par, even for a player in his role. McKegg finished the season with a -5.16 Rel xGF% and a -6.01 Rel CF% (both score and venue adjusted) — the second-worst among forwards who were regulars in the lineup, ahead of only Brett Howden (-7.77). His two most-frequent linemates at 5-on-5 were Brendan Lemieux and Howden, but that trio played only 49:15 together this year. Lemieux had a better xGF% away from McKegg, but that was not the case for Howden. As a result of line juggling and his being in and out of the lineup, McKegg played between 48 and 35 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey with Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Julien Gauthier, Micheal Haley, Kaapo Kakko, and Pavel Buchnevich.
To the surprise of no one, McKegg wasn’t shy about rattling the boards and finishing his checks. The only regular Rangers forward who threw more hits per-hour than McKegg (8.16) was Lemieux (12.95). However, he finished the season with a -3 penalty differential and infamously took a costly penalty against the Hurricanes in the postseason. He also got in a fight in November with Dominic Toninato of the Florida Panthers.
As a result of his play McKegg was a healthy scratch for 11 games; he missed another six games in late November due to a lower-body injury.
Banter Consensus: C
McKegg definitely fueled the feeling of ennui I had about the Rangers’ fourth line this year. Even when taking his ice time into consideration, he seemed to disappear for long stretches until he or one of his linemates made an error. That was hardly surprising, but when you combine his underlying numbers with the opportunity he had to prove himself capable of being more than a journeyman 13th forward, it’s not a stretch to say that McKegg was something of a disappointment.
It would be surprising to see the Rangers bring McKegg back given his shortcomings in the defensive zone and his ability to move the needle in terms of intangibles. He just didn’t bring enough to the table to justify giving him another swing at the piñata at the age of 29.