Filip Chytil signed a two-year extension today to remain with Rangers through the end of the 2022-23 season. With an AAV of $2.3M, he comes in around at what you would expect for a player at this stage of his career, where he spent most of his playing time as a third line center.
Where he goes from here is more of a question. The former first rounder feels like a Rangers veteran at this stage of his career with 186 games to his credit over parts of four seasons. This past year marked the first time he didn’t play some time down in Hartford, so you’d expect he’s getting near the point where he needs to make a jump.
Early last season he got on a roll and looked pretty good until he broke his arm in an inadvertant collision. By the time he returned, he’d also dealt with COVID, and just never got back to that same level, finishing with 8 goals and 14 assists in 42 appearances.
It wasn’t all bad, but for a player who figures to be more a top six than a bottom six player, the pressure is starting to mount. On the plus side, Chytil remains an affordable player and is still as young as most players who are making their NHL debuts. He also plays center, which is an area of weakness for the Blueshirts, and so if he can find the next level, everyone benefits.
On the other hand there’s some reasons to wonder if Chytil can make the leap. He’s predominantly an even-strength player with 500 of his 527 minutes this past season played at 5 on 5. He got only limited power play time under Head Coach David Quinn, who leaned heavily on his first unit, and did not play the PK other than returning to the ice following a penalty. His Faceoff percentage – 42.8, was the worst amongst those who regular took the draws.
Beyond that, you have to wonder where he fits. He’s more a shooter than a distributor, and is better off the rush than setting up in the offensive zone. He showed some decent chemistry with the likes of Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere when they formed a line together, and perhaps that’s where he’ll ultimately end up.
In the mean time though, where does he fit? With Zibanejad and Strome ahead of him, he’s relegated to third line duty right now. Even if the Rangers move out Strome, it seems unlikely they’d do so with the expectation that Chytil is ready to take that leap, after he failed to make the leap back in January.
The focus by Chris Drury on remaking the bottom six forwards, also begs the question of how does Chytil fit into those plans. It seems like a poor fit to combine a player like Chytil with the likes of Barclay Goodrow, if the intent is to create a pressure line, but right now without additional moves, that’s where he projects.
It also feels unlikely that the Rangers are going to trust Chytil as the soluition for the top two lines quite yet, and so perhaps you have to go into this season with a known poor fit and hope that he earns it, or make a move later in the year to change directions if it doesn’t pan out. Certainly his age, skills and contract would allow Drury a few options there.