Blake Wheeler

Quick, Wheeler Signed…Quickly

Less than 30 minutes into free agency, and Chris Drury and the Rangers have also gone some ways to addressing a couple of needs for the team. With his first two moves resulting in the addition of a top six right wing and a backup netminder.

After playing much of last year short a right wing, and then losing their two main trade deadline acquisitions – Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane – to free agency, the Rangers GM appears to have taken advantage of a unique time in the history of the Cap, picking up veteran Blake Wheeler on a bargain contract.  Wheeler is certainly much closer to the end of his career, but did manage 16 goals and 55 points last season in 72 games, which is actually 6 more points than Tarasenko had last year between the Rangers and Blues.

That Wheeler was even available is a bit fortunate.  The Jets elected to buy out his remaining contract year, which gives the player the opportunity to play where he wants on a virtual minimum value, while still getting paid on his former deal.  The fact that it happened just yesterday, also opened up a late opportunity that Drury apparently jumped on immediately.

Averaging 17:03 of ice time last season, Wheeler is a couple of minutes a game lower than his career average, but immediately gives Peter Laviolette another option on a right wing that only has Kaapo Kakko in the top nine.  As a former captain (and team mate of Jacob Trouba), he also potentially provides some additional leadership on a team that seemed to struggle at times last year.

With that said, Wheeler’s stay in Winnipeg – particularly near the end – saw him stripped of the captaincy, causing questions to be raised in the media.  Now that he’s parted ways, he’ll have the opportunity to perhaps help the Rangers pursue a Cup as a low-cost addition with much lower expectations.

In Quick, the Rangers added the veteran presence they were hoping for in net.  The one year term ensures the team isn’t committed if Quick’s recent trajectory continues to go downward, but gives the 37 year old a chance for another run closer to where he grew up – Connecticut.

The Los Angeles King stalwart did finish the 2021-22 season with a 23-13-9 record to go along with a respectable .910 Save Percentage and 2.59 GAA, but saw his numbers drop last season where hs split time between the Kings and Golden Knights, earning a more modest 16-15-6 record to go with a .882 SP and 3.41 GAA.

The Rangers will be hoping they perhaps can get somewhere in between and get a goaltender who has been a starter for most of his career, put together a record at least a game or two over .500.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, Drury also announced the addition of forwards Tyler Pitlick and Riley Nash.  Pitlick has largely played on the wing throughout his career, and has been used as a bottom six forward who can kill penalties.  The Rangers are his 8th franchise, and he has managed double figures in goals just once in his career – 14 back in 2017-18 with the Stars – so figure him to be a fourth line option in the vein of Tyler Motte, though with even less offense.

The 34 year old Nash did not play in the NHL last year,  playing on an AHL contract.  He does have 627 NHL regular season games to his name, as well as 42 in the playoffs.  The first year of his two-year deal is a one-way contract, and it switches to a two-way in year two, guaranteeing him the higher salary for at least one season.  He’s likely heading to Hartford given the departure of Ryan Carpenter, Tim Gettinger and others, but could also provide some depth in case of injuries.

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