Late last night, several outlets, including Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, reported the New York Rangers and free-agent center Jeff Halpern have come to agreement on a one-year, $700k contract for next season. Halpern, 36, played in 69 games for the Washington Capitals last season, tallying four goals and 12 assists.
Thus far in the offseason, New York has addressed its bottom-six forward depth, also signing Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Michael Haley and now Halpern.
What This Signing Means for New York
The Rangers get themselves a quality depth player who will complement several areas.
Halpern's specialty is faceoffs—an aspect where the Rangers ranked 18th overall last season at 50 percent efficiency. The Washington, D.C. native finished the 2011-12 season winning 58.4 percent of his faceoffs.
If you put that number on last year's Rangers club, it's better than Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan combined.
Halpern is also a serviceable penalty killer, averaging 1:44 of short-handed time with Washington last season and 2:20 during the 2010-11 season with Montreal. New York lost two solid penalty killers in Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust to free agency. Bringing in Halpern replaces some of its PK time.
It's another good hockey move to assist the Rangers.
Is Another Move on the Horizon?
One look at New York's roster following this trade and an abundance of centers is on the roster. Halpern joins Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Artem Anisimov and Mike Rupp as the Blueshirt pivots. Could we see a center go in a trade for a big-time scorer now that it seems there's plenty of depth at the position?
New York lost several players to free agency and now has replaced them. John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust have been switched out for Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt and Jeff Halpern. The bottom-six depth has been upgraded.
It doesn't preclude a big trade.
Also, most of the centers on the Rangers play on the wings, namely Artem Anisimov and Mike Rupp. Coach Tortorella preaches versatility and has it with his current roster.
While a trade can't be ruled out, thinking Halpern makes Derek Stepan (rumored to be in a Rick Nash deal) now expendable isn't correct. Although, it is curious to see New York stock up on players, making it very tough to think something isn't close to happening.
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