The New York Rangers are set to begin training camp in just a couple of weeks, with preseason and regular season play beginning shortly thereafter. At the moment, the roster seems to be set in stone and the necessary pieces are where they need to be. But not entirely, as there are a few players left to be signed.
One of those players is forward Brendan Lemieux.
Re-signing Lemieux is a crucial event that needs to happen before the start of training camp. He was acquired in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 25, in the trade that sent veteran Rangers forward Kevin Hayes packing. After coming to New York, Lemieux showed up in each game with the right amount of tenacity and grittiness.
Obviously, the Rangers are in a salary crunch. Alongside Lemieux, defenseman Tony DeAngelo is also unsigned. On top of that, longtime Rangers forward Chris Kreider is set to become a free agent at the end of this season.
The Spark the Rangers Need
Since coming to the Rangers, Lemieux has been nothing short of a spark. He has been whatever the team needed him to be, and it was truly a pleasure to watch him play each night. His skill with the puck might not be breathtaking, but he excelled in all of the other areas.
In 19 games last season with the Rangers, he was able to have positive production despite a limited number of minutes on the ice. He averaged 12:50 of ice time over the 19 games, which was a definite increase from when he was in Winnipeg at 7:25.
With the uptick in minutes, he was able to net three goals and add three assists in those 19 games with the Rangers. Lemieux finished the season with 30 shots on goal, added 48 hits and blocked 16 shots.
The Rangers are full of young talent and the focus is on skill over grit. In years past, Cody McLeod, Tanner Glass and Derek Dorsett have taken the role of enforcer. Of course, there has always been Jesper Fast, who always seems to find himself aggravating the opposing team. But, aside for Fast, Lemieux is the only available option to fill that role.
Lemieux offers that kind of push-and-shove play style, but can also contribute so much more from the fourth line. He showed an offensive prowess to go along with the knuckle-chucking. This young, inexperienced, skill-driven squad needs a guy that isn’t going to back down from a fight.
The Rangers are stuck in a number crunch at the moment. This comes after signing Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba to massive deals at $11.642 million and $8 million average annual value (AAV), respectively. With both Lemieux and DeAngelo looking for new deals, a choice will likely have to be made.
That choice should be Lemieux.
Lemieux just finished his entry-level contract at the end of last season. His performance so far in his young career has not been earth-shattering, and neither will his next contract. He will likely only get a one or two-year deal, and it would be shocking if it exceeds $1 million AAV.
This is a contract that the Rangers can manage and can afford. DeAngelo will likely seek a lot more money, and he rightfully deserves to. He showed great offensive ability on the back-end, and was one of the best defensemen on the roster in 2018-19. But, if it comes down to signing him to a lucrative deal, and the chance at retaining Kreider at the end of this season, the obvious choice should be the latter.
Overall, this is the Rangers best move. The defense needs DeAngelo, but they need to protect their young forwards even more. Lemieux can offer that and much more. With a low-risk contract, it makes sense to give him another shot in New York.