Latest NHL Moves: Rangers Sign Forward Brandon Pirri

by Michael Clifford on August 26, 2016

The New York Rangers have signed forward Brandon Pirri to a one-year contract.

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The rumours were swirling yesterday, but it was confirmed today that indeed, the New York Rangers had signed free agent forward Brandon Pirri to a one-year contract worth $1.1-million:

This likely ends what has been a fairly busy off-season for the Rangers, a team that has added Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, and both Mika Zibanejad and Nick Holden via trade. They also lost Keith Yandle on the blue line, along with Dan Boyle.

Signing Vesey was a curious move at the time. If there was a strength that could be pointed out among the Rangers skaters, it was the depth they had on the wing. Vesey added to that depth. New York continued to add to this depth with the signing of Pirri. Their blue line is still a disaster, but they do boast one of the deepest forward groups in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire league.

In that sense, the Pirri signing makes little sense for the Rangers. I suppose, however, that if you can’t realistically rebuild the aspect of your team that absolutely needs it, bolstering your strengths is the only chance at mitigating that.

Fantasy Impact – Positive

Assuming that Kevin Hayes lines up as the third line centre, adding Pirri should help him a fair amount. Pirri is a natural goal scorer – he’s tied with Sean Monahan and Brandon Saad in goals per 60 minutes over the last three seasons – and Hayes is a very good offensive player. Pirri can slot in the third line left wing position and give Hayes a trigger option immediately.

This is all said with a caveat, though. Outside of deeper leagues, third liners don’t have a lot of value in fantasy. So while this does help Hayes, does Pirri help push him to the 50-point plateau? I have my doubts.

Another player this helps is Vesey himself. I would assume that Pirri is signed to provide goal scoring depth in the Rangers’ bottom-six, specifically the third line. If they had designs on Pirri playing in the top-six, he probably would have been signed by now. So that would mean Chris Kreider on the top line, with Vesey locked into the second line. We won’t know for sure until training camp gets going, and there will probably be a lot of fluidity as the season wears on, but this likely cements a left wing pecking order of Kreider-Vesey-Pirri.

Fantasy Impact – Negative

As with Vesey, this is bad news for Pavel Buchnevich dynasty/keeper owners. There is simply too much depth now for the Rangers on the left side – either wing, really – for Buchnevich to get any significant ice time without a couple of injuries. At this point, the best that he’ll get to start the season is apparently fourth line minutes, and may even be bumped down to the AHL.

Though this signing should cement Vesey in the top-six, I don’t think he’ll have a long leash. Pirri is a player who can thrive offensively with reasonably soft deployment, and that’s probably how New York’s second line with Zibanejad will be used. If Vesey doesn’t prove himself capable to play on that second line early on, Pirri is a viable replacement for Vesey, who could then be bumped down the depth chart. So while this is initially a good thing for Vesey, it also applies a little more pressure.

In itself, this is a good signing. Pirri should easily return value on New York’s investment, and should Vesey not adjust right away to the NHL game, it gives them some insurance on the left side. This does absolutely nothing to address the real problem of the Rangers, though, but this team should be entertaining to watch as a non-Rangers fan, at least.

*Stats from Hockey Analysis