Photo Via @mpissottphotography
The NHL offseason this year was bound to be hectic. As soon as the Stanley Cup was handed out, teams scrambled to make deals before the trade freeze and expansion draft. After the Vegas Golden Knights chose their team, made up of at least one player from each of the already existing 30 teams, trades commenced once again. However, many fans of the New York Rangers were left disappointed after Vegas left their mark on the league.
The Rangers lost center Oscar Lindberg, a left-handed shot. In his rookie season (2015-2016), he tallied 13 goals and 15 assists (28 points) in 68 games. In this past season (2016-2017), he put up 8 goals and 12 assists, 8 points under the previous year’s total, in 3 less games. Regardless of point production, Lindberg was an asset to his team and a solid player throughout his time on Broadway. This rang true especially during the 2016-2017 playoffs, with Lindberg recording a faceoff win percentage of 52.6% and 3 goals and 1 assist (4 points). But, unfortunately, the Rangers did not protect the 25-year-old, and the Golden Knights selected him.
There was a range of different reactions across the board, from relief, to utter shock, to total disappointment. Many fans have argued that the NYR would have been better off if the VGK took right wing Jesper Fast. Fast is similar to Lindberg in many ways, including the fact that their point production doesn’t represent their true value. Both players usually play on the Rangers’ third or fourth line. Additionally, they’re the same age, and they both put up around 20-30 points per season. But, there is definitely something to be said for keeping Fast and losing Lindberg.
Fast is what some would call a “hardhat and lunchpail” kind of player. He’s an extremely hard worker and knows exactly what his role is on the team. He comes to every game and gives his all. What more could a fanbase ask for? A lot of Fast’s abilities are things that the scoresheet doesn’t show, as well. He played on the team’s top penalty kill unit for the majority of the 2016-2017 season. He played over 100 minutes, and was only on the ice for 11 goals against. These are the numbers that truly show how valuable Fast is to the team. Because of the kind of player that Fast is, it’s just as great (if not greater) to see him flourish offensively. In the 2016-2017 playoffs, he really broke out of his shell. The winger recorded 6 points (3 goals and 3 assists) in 12 games (6 against the Montreal Canadiens and 6 against the Ottawa Senators). His best performance unfortunately came in one of the worst games of the Blueshirts’ campaign, as he was able to score a goal and add an assist in their second round, Game 5 loss to the Senators. Seeing an offensive edge in Fast is something that many Ranger fans longed for throughout the entire season, and these 12 games of the postseason hopefully satisfied them.A rare quality that Fast possesses that many players do not have is the utmost trust and admiration from his head coach. Alain Vigneault has praised him many times, like in this quote; “He’s just a real dependable player…he knows where to be when he doesn’t have the puck, he’s a real good penalty killer, probably one of our best shot blockers on the team… he just goes out and works hard, and gives you everything he has all the time.” AV has even placed Fast on the first and second lines in “emergency” situations, showing the level of trust even more. But, what about the players? Captain Ryan McDonagh, when asked for his thoughts on the statement that Fast is underrated, once said, “I think our forwards, he sets a pretty good example for us. We go back and watch tape of games- he’s standing out a lot. He’s consistent in his game, too. Versatile guy that can play a lot of different positions for us when we’re up or down in a game.” As if that’s not enough, Fast has received the Rangers’ “Players’ Player” award for two consecutive seasons (2015-2016 and 2016-2017). The award has been given out by the organization every year since the end of the 1958-1959 season, and it is given to the Blueshirt who “best exemplifies what it means to be a team player.” The players on the team vote on it every year, and they have selected Fast for 2 straight years.
He’s not the flashiest of players, he isn’t a superstar sniper, and, chances are, he won’t outscore other more offensively minded players on the team. But the Rangers can count on Jesper Fast to block shots, be responsible and think quickly with the puck, and be ready to leave it all on the ice for his team, no matter what line he plays on. So, fans who bleed blue, be grateful that Fast is still on your team after the expansion draft this year. His grit and loyalty to the team would have proven to be very hard to replace.