N.Y. Rangers: Team Signs Prospect Michael St. Croix to Entry-Level Deal

James Wrabel, Jr.Correspondent IISeptember 14, 2012

Some teams have been fairly active prior to the current CBA expiration set for this Saturday, not knowing what a new agreement could mean for free agents or prospects needing contracts. The Boston Bruins, as an example, recently locked up integral piece Brad Marchand and superstar Tyler Seguin to new, "cap-friendly" deals. 

The New York Rangers made a more low-key move today, signing prospect center Michael St. Croix to a three-year, entry-level deal, as reported by Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS.

St. Croix notched 45 goals and 60 assists in 72 games last year for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. He also had 19 points in 20 playoff games.

The 2011 fourth-round pick is still a ways from competing for a spot with the Rangers, but it's another step in the right direction of building a team from good drafting and scouting.

St. Croix projects to be a scoring center, but has the unique dexterity of being a playmaker along with a goal scorer.  He isn't the biggest pivot within the organization (5'11'', 179 lbs), but the Rangers have a penchant for drafting undersized offensive players—the organization boasts players like Christian Thomas and Ryan Bourque, who are 5'9'' and under.

The 19-year-old center told Andrew Echevarria of The Hockey News he looks at current Bruin Patrice Bergeron as a comparable player to his skill set. If St. Croix develops into anything close to Bergeron's talents (45th overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft, 401 points in 537 career NHL games), the Rangers will have an excellent two-way player found in the middle of the 2011 draft.

In a couple of seasons when centers Brian Boyle and Mike Rupp are UFAs, and depending on what happens with Derek Stepan's new contract next offseason, St. Croix's time could come if he's seasoned enough.

Here is Hockey's Future's evaluation of St. Croix:

Expected to spend two more seasons in junior hockey, St. Croix projects to be a second- to third-line player in the NHL. Reaching that level will require increased strength and physical development, more consistency in tactical play, and a greater willingness to play in traffic areas.

St. Croix looks to be another value draft pick by the Rangers scouting staff, led by Gordie Clark—the man primarily responsible for the blue-chip prospects littered throughout the organization such as J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and this summer's draft pick, Brady Skjei. 

Overall, the contract is good for both sides.

St. Croix has been rewarded for dominating the WHL, and continuing to do so will aid tremendously in his development and confidence. For the Rangers, signing a prospect that pans out to be a second- or third-line scoring center in a couple of seasons when centers will be needed, and players like Brad Richards will be on the wrong side of the 30, sounds right.