The 2021-22 season was over before it started for Sammy Blais. He was injured 14 games into the season after being tripped by New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban. Blais had four assists in those 14 games after coming over from the St. Louis Blues in the Pavel Buchnevich deal. The 26-year-old got a one-year contract and a Sammy Blais is a smart, low-risk investment for the Blueshirts.
Blais isn’t a goal-scorer, but he’s a solid part of the middle to bottom-six. He led the team in hits with 37 before tearing his ACL against the Devils. The team that needs low-cost options to fill out the lineup and general manager Chris Drury got the young forward at $1.525 million.
Sammy Blais Deal is Smart Move
There were many questions about Drury after he took over for Jeff Gorton after the Tom Wilson debacle. Drury decided to give the Rangers a little bit of muscle so the team wouldn’t get pushed around. Moves like adding Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow gave the Rangers some nastiness.
Trading Buchnevich for Blais was another big step in changing the team’s direction. Buchnevich was a beloved Ranger and was a proven goal-scorer. He was part of the KBZ line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad that provided lots of goals for the team.
New York could score with the best of teams in the last few seasons. However, they weren’t able to keep up with teams that were able to put a body on them. In the makeshift Eastern Division, the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals were able to push around the more-skilled Rangers.
Making Dollars and Sense
Drury’s mission was to give the Rangers some more muscle, but there was also cost involved in trading Buchnevich. The winger was set to become a restricted free agent and that was a worry of a long, drawn-out arbitration battle. The Rangers also wanted to have money to pay Zibanejad and Adam Fox, who needed new contracts.
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The Rangers certainly couldn’t keep Buchnevich, so Drury got a younger forward that fit the team’s new identity. Blais was a low-cost option that would give the Blueshirts more cap space to make the other deals happen.
Blais’ deal was $1.5 million for last season and he gets a small raise with his new contract. This deal works out well for both sides.
Why the Contract Works – Management Side
The Rangers like this deal because it adds another depth forward at a low price. It’s the second low-price deal of the week as the Blueshirts inked disgruntled forward Vitali Kravtsov to an $875,000 deal for the next season.
These small deals will help keep the cap number down as they would like to re-sign Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano and Tyler Motte to new deals. The trio were big assets at the deadline and added forward depth that was desperately needed. All of those forwards are unrestricted free agents and could command some decent contracts.
New York also has Ryan Strome as a UFA, but many feel he won’t be re-signed. Kaapo Kakko and Alexandar Georgiev are restricted free agents and the Blueshirts would like to avoid a Kakko offer sheet if they can help it.
However, these small deals give the Rangers flexibility. This will be explained in just a few seconds.
Why the Contract Works – Player Side
Blais and Kravtsov are both seeking bigger contracts down the road and are betting on themselves. The former was limited in options for where he could sign, so it makes sense to come back to Broadway to give it another go. A solid season for Blais could open up a bigger payday at the end of next season.
Kravtsov is in the same boat as well because he’s been itching for a chance with the main club. The youngster has spent most of his time in Russia with his fate unknown about being part of the Rangers’ future. However, it seems he’s going to fight for his place in the lineup. The former top 10 pick could have someone take a chance on him via trade or could solidify a place in the Rangers’ lineup.
Both came about these prove-it deals in different manners, but both are looking for a good season in 2022-23. It’s a win-win if both can produce and the Blueshirts would reap the rewards.
What it Means
Blais wants another chance to prove himself as a key forward on a Stanley Cup contender. He’s been on contenders before and wants to figure into a Stanley Cup run. New York was two games away from reaching its first final since 2014 and Blais missed out on it.
Head coach Gerard Gallant said he felt terrible for Blais when his season ended. Gallant had him pencilled into the lineup last season and figures that Blais will be a vital component to the bottom six. A strong season will be a boon to both Blais and the Rangers. The Sammy Blais deal just works.