Last year two of the Rangers key acquisitions to help propel the Rangers to "Cup contender" status was Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins. Higgens--who was acquired from the Scott Gomez to Montreal trade--was penciled in to score between 20 and 30 goals, and would help take advantage of the Rangers newest weapon in Marian Gaborik. Kotalik--who was signed to a three-year deal from free agency--was supposed to be a potent weapon for the power play, and add a shootout specialty.
In the end, neither of those players worked out. Higgins scored 6 goals in his 55 games with the Rangers, and was one of the most invisible players on the ice day in and day out. Kotalik was an even worse experiment, being the worst five on five player the Rangers had to offer last year; and was impotent on the power play as well.
So with the season winding towards the trade deadline, Glen Sather found a way to remove the dead weight and trade Kotalik and Higgins for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. Prust seemed to be the throw-away portion of the deal.
As it turned out, the 25-year-old bruising winger turned into one of the best Rangers on the ice down the stretch ate in the season. Prust ended up scoring 4 goals and adding 5 assists for 9 points in his 24 Ranger games, and his presence on the ice as an enforcing (not enforcer) player was nice as well.
While one can't view Prust as a vital cog to the Rangers success, he is certainly a valuable one. His ability to drop the gloves while also having solid hockey skills is an intangible that the Rangers like players on their hockey team to have. While not a true heavyweight Prust can hold his own in the fighting circle, and he does a good job protecting teammates in scrums and in the corners. He's also good for a huge hit during games.
But aside from all the skills that he has as a bruising player he does have some offensive upside, and that's one of the main reasons why the Rangers wanted to keep him around. So as free agency approached the Rangers signed Prust to a two-year $1.6 million contract; which equates to an $800K cap hit.
This is yet another can't miss contract from Sather, locking up some young talent for a very cheap price tag. Prust, who played his best while he was playing with Artem Anisimov (and in truth brought the best out of Anisimov as well), will be a nice piece to this year's New York Rangers puzzle.
Depending on how John Tortorella decides to utilize him Prust might see some quality third line minutes this year. Prust might also see some time on the same line as Derek Boogaard, which would be a scary line for other teams to match up against. I am also personally expecting to see a Prust-Anisimov-Sean Avery line, but we won't know about any of those until the season begins.
Regardless this was a good signing by Sather. There was no better guy on the market to fill Prust's role on the team, and it will be interesting to see how the Rangers utilize him this year; and see how effective Prust can be for this team.
Glen Sather's final grade on the Brandon Prust re-signing: A