Transaction: New York Rangers have found Erik Gustafsson's replacement

Hunter Bowman
July 6, 2024  (9:14)

New York Rangers
Photo credit: NHL.com

The New York Rangers are in desperate need of a 6th/7th defenseman after the Detroit Red Wings signed Erik Gustafsson.

Gustafsson signed for a two-year, $4M contract, with the Red Wings and that leaves GM Chris Drury with a mandate to fill the role.

While this 6th/7th Defenseman role is a pressing need, it is indeed a minor inconvenience.
As GM Chris Drury has to figure out how to sign Ryan Lindgren and handle the Jacob Trouba situation, while also finding a right-wing to slot in the 1st line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, this should be an easy problem to solve.
Ryan Lindgren however, elected for arbitration, and the team needs to figure out Braden Schneider's next contract as well.
Given Gustafsson's age, they figured they got their money's worth out of the UFA defenseman, after reuniting with his former coach Peter Laviolette this season.
At an $825K AAV, the Rangers got 31 points(6 G, 25 A) with 17:23 ATOI in 2023-2024. He would play in 76 regular season games, and play in all 16 playoff games, posting three assists.
Gustafsson's production would slip, until he was moved up the lineup playing 10 games on the top-pairing, he would score 11 points( 1 G, 10 A) and would be a significant contributor on the power-play.
Gustafsson was an bargain signing for New York, but the Rangers had an in-house idea in mind to replace him.

Zac Jones

The Rangers could utilize Zac Jones on the third pairing, as he is ready for consistent playing time and just needs the opportunity. The 23-year old defenseman played 31 games this season, and spent the entire year on the NHL roster. Playing ten-games while Adam Fox was injured and progressed in the absence of Fox, Lindgren and Gustafsson.
Jones isn't a big defenseman( 5'10", 176 LBs) but is smart with the puck, having 9 points( 2 G, 7 A) has offensive upside to tap into. The 23-year old needs to work on his defensive play, and how to handle a heavy forecheck, like the Panthers in the ECF. He appears to be the favorite to replace Gustafsson.

Ben Harpur

Harpur has been absent due to a pectoral injury suffered in November, it required surgery and would be out of the lineup as a result.
The 29 year old defenseman has one year left on his contract, with a $787K AAV, and his size( 6'6", 230 LBs) make him an excellent option for the 6th/7th D role, and whom Zac Jones will likely battle it out with for the role.
Harpur has 198 games of NHL experience, which makes him the next best option to Jones, and played 42 games for the Rangers in 2022-2023, when Lindgren was out with an injury in December.

Casey Fitzgerald

The Rangers signed a UFA defenseman this off-season in Casey Fitzgerald, at a league minimum $775K.
The 27 year old signed on for two-years with the Rangers, and has 63 games of NHL experience.
Fitzgerald played two playoff games for the Florida Panthers in 2022-2023, and has played in Buffalo as well.
Fitzgerald is the son of the New Jersey Devils GM Tom, and is a (5'11", 183 LBs) right shot-defenseman. He will have to compete for that slot in training camp.

Connor Mackey and Brandon Scanlin

Connor Mackey and Brandon Scanlin were both important players in AHL Hartford last season. Mackey is a bit older, and has 40 NHL games to his name, split between the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes. While Brandon Scanlin made his NHL debut on March 26th against the Philadelphia Flyers, and was a reliable defenseman in Hartford posting 16 points( 8 G, 8 A) in 64 games.
Both are left-shot defenseman, and towering( Mackey at 6'3", 204 LBs, and Scanlin at 6'4", 218 LBs ) and could be good fits for the blueline behind Jones.
They'll need to do their best to crack the lineup this season, as they'll be at training camp this year.

Adam Boqvist

Boqvist wasn't extended a qualifying offer by the Columbus Blue Jackets to retain his rights. The 23-year old defenseman, has 209 games of NHL experience between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, and was a 8th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Boqvist's troubles are that he's injury prone, where he only played 35 games in 2023-2024. But is a skille defenseman, producting 22 points in 52 games in 2021-2022, and 24 points in 46 games in 2022-2023.
He's a right-shot defenseman and could be had for under $1 M AAV.
Transaction: New York Rangers have found Erik Gustafsson's replacement

What player do you think would be the best fit for the New York Rangers?

Ben Harpur3815.3 %
Zac Jones15964.1 %
Connor Mackey and Brandon Scanlin3012.1 %
Adam Boqvist218.5 %
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