What Does Matthew Lombardi Signing Mean for New York Rangers?

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IJuly 16, 2014

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 8:  Matthew Lombardi #19 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during the game against the Edmonton Oilers on April 8, 2013 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
Debora Robinson/Getty Images

The New York Rangers have been looking to add another center to the roster, and the team announced the signing of Matthew Lombardi, via their official website on July 16. 

The 32-year-old pivot last played in the NHL in 2012-13 with the Anaheim Ducks, but last year, he played in Europe. Lombardi tallied 20 goals, 30 assists and 50 points in 46 games last season with Geneve-Servette, and he was the top scorer for Switzerland’s National League A.

The signing appears to be insignificant, but how does this transaction impact the Rangers’ roster?

For starters, this means that J.T. Miller or Oscar Lindberg could both be starting the season in Hartford.

While both are skilled prospects that offer the Rangers significant upside, Lombardi is a forward with league experience, and he offers qualities that may pique the interest of bench boss Alain Vigneault.

Lombardi is a speedy center and an excellent penalty killer. He can generate offense when he is at the top of his game. The veteran center once tallied 53 points with the Phoenix Coyotes, but these days, he is more of a 20- to 30-point player when healthy.

It goes without saying that he isn’t going to be looked upon to put up points, but the Rangers will hope for him to be a solid defensive forward and a healthy one at that.

It would be remiss of me to not mention that Lombardi has played in 90 combined games over the past two seasons, and he is a player with a history of upper body injuries, including multiple concussions.

Chris Peters of CBS Sports offered this on Lombardi and his history with head injuries:

It is likely that Lombardi's concussion history is to blame for his NHL exile last season. His second concussion had such severe post-concussion symptoms that he missed all but two games in the 2010-11 season and that recovery stretched into the following season.

He managed 62 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12 before joining the Coyotes as a free agent the following year. He was then traded to the Anaheim Ducks where he appeared in just seven games.

While his history is a bit concerning, this is a low-risk situation for the Rangers.

The Rangers deftly inked Lombardi to a two-year deal with an $800K cap hit per season. This means that if he gets injured or doesn’t work well with the team, he can be removed from the team’s books.

This is a caveat of the “Wade Redden rule” that allows players with a cap hit of $925K or lower to be buried in the minors.

If Lombardi succeeds, both he and the Rangers will benefit. If he flounders, Miller or Lindberg will have an opportunity to step in, and there is a chance they would provide either similar or better production.

It is clear that this signing was made after losing out on Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro, as the Rangers had interest in him, according to Ryan Rishaug of TSN Edmonton.

While this signing is really insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it is the middle of July, and we are in the doldrums of the hockey season.

This isn’t a make or break signing for the Rangers, but it is an interesting one that could pay off.