Jeff Gorton had a nearly flawless off-season for the New York Rangers, but his team will face off against one of his blunders tonight. Rather than signing Sam Gagner, Gorton opted to ink Brandon Pirri to a one-year deal this off-season. Let’s take a closer look at the mistake.
Jeff Gorton recognized the New York Rangers needed a power-play trigger-man in the off-season, signing Brandon Pirri to fill the void. Pirri, famous for his 22 goal, 2 assist season in the 2014-15 campaign, joined the team as the power-play specialist.
24 days earlier, the Columbus Blue Jackets agreed to terms with the player Gorton should have signed. Sam Gagner joined the Metropolitan Division rivals on a one-year, $650K deal to be their own power-play specialist. At the time both Gagner and Pirri were available, but Columbus taking Gagner off the board handed the Rangers Pirri.
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It’s important to acknowledge the various unknown factors in the equation. Perhaps Gagner’s price was misrepresented to the Rangers, or Jeff Gorton heard negative reviews about Gagner. Regardless, if Gagner was a legitimate option, he was the correct option until the day he signed elsewhere. Now, Gagner thrives for a team the Rangers are battling for positioning with.
Brandon Pirri has not been a total disaster for the Rangers, but he has not lived up to expectations. Pirri, a left-handed shooter, has often looked out of place on the power-play. His shots are predictable due to his obvious role as a trigger-man, and he does not provide any additional traits to help the team.
New York cannot set up Pirri to the best of his abilities either, as they already own an abundance of left-handed shooters. Realistically, the key should have been to sign a right-handed shooter.
Sam Gagner is a right-handed shooter. Gagner’s scored 28 points in 34 games compared to Pirri’s 14 points in 37 games. Gagner’s six goals and seven assists on the power-play leads Pirri’s four goals and four assists on the man advantage.
Gagner ranks 11th in the NHL in points per 60 minutes on the power-play, 14th in goals per 60, and 39th in assists per 60. He would rank first, second, and second in those categories on the Rangers. Brandon Pirri ranks 83rd in points per 60 ,55th in goals per 60, and 145th in assists per 60. His value has not remotely matched Gagner’s.
It’s impossible to tell if Sam Gagner’s success would be the same with the Rangers. However, Gagner’s right-handed shot provides the Blue Jackets with much needed firepower on the fourth line, the only area at forward the Rangers are lacking. Gagner is cheaper than Pirri, and was available for the plucking at the time the Rangers were looking.
If Jeff Gorton looks back at the off-season to find a mistake, signing Pirri over Gagner is the leading contender. Gagner’s right-handed skill on the fourth line would have worked wonders for the Rangers this season. Instead, New York will witness it first-hand tonight.