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New teammates Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt, who were then on opposing sides of the puck
The Rangers made some significant changes to their bottom six forwards. Gone are popular pugilist Brandon Prust (signed by the Canadiens to a four-year, $10 million deal) and veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko (Flyers, one year at $1.75 million).
Taking their place will be former Coyote Taylor Pyatt (two years, $3.1 million), well-traveled winger Arron Asham (two years, $2 million), and veteran faceoff specialist Jeff Halpern (one year, $700,000).
Gritty winger Brandon Prust posted career highs in 2010-11, with 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points, to go along with 160 penalty minutes. He finished third in the NHL with five short-handed goals.
Offensively, Prust's performance dropped by nearly half last season; he netted only five goals and 12 assists for 17 points. On the other side of the puck, his defensive efforts helped the Rangers to a fifth-ranked penalty kill (86.2 percent).
Prusts's standout year from the season before was a clear example of him playing over his head. It's unlikely that he'll replicate those numbers, but Montreal is overpaying him, at $2.5 million a season for the next four years, with hopes that he can. Prust is a valuable player who excels at a key role, but he'll be hard-pressed to live up to his new contract.
Fedotenko, going into his 12th NHL season, has been steadily slowing down over the last three. He scored 39 points with the Penguins in 2008-09, only two points off of his career high. From there, though, his point totals have steadily declined.
Last season was Fedotenko's lowest-scoring NHL campaign, with only nine goals and 11 assist for 20 points. While only 33, injuries are starting to take their toll on the winger; he's played fewer than 70 games in three of his past five seasons. Fedotenko's veteran presence and playoff performance will be welcomed in Philadelphia, but the Flyers would be wise not to count on his scoring output.
Coming to New York to fill in on the bottom-six forwards are Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham.
Pyatt, 31, will step into the role vacated by Fedotenko. Pyatt had his strongest performances from 2005-07 with the Vancouver Canucks, where he posted back-to-back 37-point campaigns. The 6'4", 230-pound winger has averaged 23 points a season over the past four, but showed flashes of his offensive upside in last year's playoffs, when he was third on the team in scoring, with four goals in 16 games.
Another note that will certainly please John Tortorella: Pyatt led all Coyotes forwards in shot blocking during the postseason, showing that's he's not afraid to give up the body. Statistically, his numbers are comparable to Fedotenko's, but his potential and his size make this a good swap for the Rangers.
Asham, 34, joins his fifth Atlantic Division team, having already played for the Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Penguins. His best season, statistically, came with the Isles in 2002-03, when he scored 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points. He's averaged just over 20 points a season over his last eight.
While he doesn't drop the gloves as much as Prust—he had eight fighting majors last season as opposed to Prust's league-leading 20, he's still a willing combatant and plays a tough game on the ice. He won't replace Prust's penalty-killing, but he will bring the same kind of physical play and does have the ability to put in an occasional goal.
Halpern, 36, comes to the Rangers with one specific task—win faceoffs.
He finished fifth overall in the league in faceoff percentage, at 58.3 percent. The Rangers, 18th overall in draws last year, will benefit from Halpern's skills on the ice as well as his ability to help coach some other their younger centers. Derek Stepan (44.5 percent) and Artem Anisimov (46.7 percent) should be able to learn from the 12-year veteran.
Halpern's presence as fourth-line center should also free up Brian Boyle a bit, hopefully allowing him to return to his 2010-11 levels, when he netted 21 goals.