Player: Jesper Fast
Cap Hit Outlook: One year left on a 2 year/ $1.9 million contract (950K Cap Hit)
Status: Bottom Six Forward
2015-2016 G-A-P: 10-20-30 in 79 games
Jesper Fast has become an extremely reliable work horse in the Rangers lineup. Splitting most of his time between the third and fourth lines this year, Fast has been able to instill trust in AV’s eyes as a quality, hard working forward. While Fast may never be able to produce big minutes as a top 6 player he adds a vital fourth line component, grittiness. Jesper knows how to get into the dirty areas of the ice, force the opposition to make plays, and produce secondary scoring that can make a difference over the course of a season, or in a long playoff run.
In his current deal, with one year left at $950K per, Jesper Fast is a steal to provide stable fourth line minutes, and an essential player on the penalty kill. His young legs, energy, and diligence have given him the opportunity to fill in with more skilled players on the third line, and occasionally with some injuries, the second line. Fast is a responsible player in his own defensive zone, and is aggressive on the forecheck and back-check. If he can continue to produce 10 goals a year, or improve to closer to 20 goals, Fast could become an invaluable player to the Rangers bottom lines.
Fast will undoubtedly be back to finish out the remainder of his contract. In his last year with the Rangers he will need to prove he can remain a key member of the PK, while also showing he can produce greater offensive numbers. Pending his 2016-2017 statistics, the Rangers should take a long hard look at Fast and think about extending his contract for 3-4 year at around $1.5 million. This deal can provide long term stability on the bottom 6 and ensure the PK will remain hard working.
Jesper Fast reminds me of a young Dominic Moore. He knows his role and tailors his play towards being responsible on the ice but also knows how to score goals. He possesses an above average set of skills and can add flash his set of hands when need be. If the Rangers play their cards right, they can ensure a strong, young, player core for the future. With the current roster, I slate Fast on the fourth line wing, more so than a third line pairing. With the likely exit of Dom Moore, we will be looking for free agents, or talent from Hartford who can be called upon to play the same gritty, non-stop energy hockey Fast supplies. Some notable UFA’s that would compliment Fast but also be light on the wallet are Dale Weise, Paul Byron and Mike Santorelli. The Rangers can also stay in house and recall Jason Megna, who was impressive in his NHL games this season. Whichever way the Rangers decide to go, hopefully they infuse some youth, energy, and grit to a fourth line that can contribute in all facets of the game.