New York Rangers: Rick Nash retires from professional hockey by Nicholas Zararis

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 29: Jesper Fast #17 of the New York Rangers skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 29, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

For the past six seasons, Jesper Fast has done everything asked of him and more. He’s smart, quick, aggressive, plays a two-way game, and can score. If the New York Rangers are committed to rebuilding, they might need to look at potential suitors for the Swedish native.

It’s a conversation not many Rangers fans want to have, but it’s one that needs to be brought up. Through his tenure as a New York Ranger, Fast has become the Rangers most dependable player. Whether he’s playing a shutdown role on the third line or contributing on the stat sheet on the top unit, the Swedish native is the definition of a versatile player. He’s a coaches dream. Someone you don’t have to worry about on a given night because you can essentially plug him anywhere in the lineup and he’ll fit right in.

At 27-years old, Fast is currently under contract until the end of next season with just a $1.85 million cap hit before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He’s affordable, dependable, reliable, and would be an immediate help to any contending team.  He’s also a righthanded shot, a relative rarity in the NHL.

Each year since Fast came into the organization in 2013 he has been relied on for his defensive prowess, consistently seeing more defensive zone faceoffs than offensive. Through his six years his average offensive zone starts sit at 43.5%, meaning 56.5% of the time he takes a faceoff he’s in his own end.

Though he’s not known to light up the score sheet, he’s shown consistency and a willingness to get to the dirty area in front (not to mention hand-eye coordination that would make Ty Cobb blush).

He currently has 16 points (7-9) on a sinking ship, good for sixth on the team, and has a dead even +/-. This isn’t necessarily a situation like Kevin Hayes or Mats Zuccarello where the front office is most likely actively looking for the best offer, rather, Fast could be a make-or-break addition for a bigger deal, or possibly bring in a respectable haul on his own.

Possible Deals

For instance, if the Colorado Avalanche approach Gorton and are willing to deal their first-round pick (owned by the Ottawa Senators) which will most likely to be in the top-5, what would you give up? If they wanted Hayes, Rangers’ first, Tampa’s conditional first, along with Fast, would you do it? Maybe Hayes, Brady Skjei and Fast? Next years draft is suppose to be one of the most talented in a while. It may seem like a steep package but the rarity of these draft picks being moved result in costly acquisitions, even with no certain future.

In fact, in the salary cap era it’s only happened once and it was the #5 pick. Overall picks 1-4 have never been traded away (Colorado currently sits with the #4 pick). In 2008, the Toronto Maple Leafs had to trade away their own first and third round picks that year in addition to their second round pick the following year for the New York Islanders 5th overall pick (who turned out to be Luke Schenn). With the way the Senators have been playing, it’s more likely this pick with be in the 1-4 range than 5-10.

It’s tough to gauge what exactly it would take to pry away a pick like Colorado’s top-5 pick, but Fast has the mold of the perfect type of player that sweetens the deal. He’s not just a throw in, he’s the type of grinder a team needs in a deep playoff run.

If other teams such as the Calgary Flames are looking to unload a contract like James Neal from their books, Rangers should be clearing their phone lines. Neal is currently set to make $5.75 million every year through 2022-23 season. He also has nine points this year and sports a minus-12. Swap out Neal with Fast and your third line just became more productive, more reliable and much stronger.

If Calgary wants to add someone like Fast to their lineup to get ready to go to war with the likes of the San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators and other Western Conference juggernauts, the Rangers should take advantage by eating salary and continue adding prospects and draft picks to their improving pipeline. If adding Fast to a trade with, say, Zuccarello would bring back top defensive prospect Juuso Valimaki, you do it.

Next: Rick Nash retires from hockey

It’s not fun seeing fan-favorites depart from your team, but after a recent slump that have sent the Rangers crashing back down to earth, it’s time to see how their most valuable chips can help build the strongest future possible. Their 9-1-1 run in November was fun and showed a lot of character from a youthful lineup, but their recent play and five game losing streak is a reminder that this truly is a rebuilding year, and they need to stick to the plan.

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