Now that all the signings and trades have concluded, can the New York Rangers fourth line work for Alain Vigneault?
After a whirlwind three weeks, the dust is beginning to settle down for the hockey team that resides at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York. Management can now have the opportunity to take a look at what the New York Rangers roster looks like and begin the process of getting this team ready for October.
We know what the Rangers still need to polish up the lineup, a center and another forward. With that, an unusual situation has now occurred, the team’s most reliable line over the past few years might be it’s weakest now.
Since coming to the Rangers, Alain Vigneault has always relied on his fourth line to play against the oppositions top players. They were loaded with speed, puck control and some had opportunities to score some goals. As it stands today, the Rangers new fourth line will be Matt Puempel, David Desharnais and Jesper Fast — not what you would consider being a dominant fourth line compared to the previous years.
If the Rangers can’t improve on the offensive side of things between now and October through free agency or a trade, these will be the men that make up AV’s fourth line.
Let’s take a look at what these players bring to the ice:
Matt Puempel was claimed off waivers from the Ottawa Senators in November 2016. He played in only 27 games for the Rangers. He tallied six goals and three assists. Of the six goals scored, three were on the power play and he averaged 10:10 of ice time.
David Desharnais signed as a free agent with the Rangers in July 2017 and last season played with Montreal before being traded to Edmonton. Desharnais registered six goals and eight assists. His average time on ice was 12:28. The Rangers signed him with the hope that he can continue to be an excellent center with who has a career face-off percentage of 50.8.
Fan-favorite Jesper Fast just signed a new three-year contract with the Rangers. The 25-year-old scored six goals and had 15 helpers in 68 games played. Fast also is a valuable asset on the penalty kill where his speed tends to create shorthanded scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, Fast had hip surgery this off-season and will be out until sometime in mid-November.
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It appears the Rangers have some questions with regards to their fourth line. Can Desharnais continue to be a center that can win the important face-offs with the game on the line? Will Matt Puempel be an effective defensive forward when he is playing against the Connor McDavids and Austin Mathews of the NHL? How long will Jesper Fast be out rehabbing hip? Important questions with no immediate answers.
A fourth line used to consist of three players who liked to hit, fight and provide their top players a little break. In today’s NHL, especially for the Rangers, the fourth line is as important as its first line. It has to battle the top players from the opposition, work well in their own end, get the puck deep in the opposition end of the ice and they need to put a few pucks in the back of the net.
So is the Rangers fourth line capable of playing this style of hockey? The preseason begins in September. The line will have to prove itself if the Rangers are hoping to have success in making the playoffs and a run towards the cup.