There are few players on the New York Rangers roster who will be the subject of interest from other teams this summer. One of those that could be seen frequently in the NHL Rumors section of this website is Brandon Prust.
Prust was essentially a throw-in by the Calgary Flames that saw Olli Jokinen head to New York for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins on February 1, 2010. However, it is Prust who the Rangers re-signed to a two-year deal following the 2009-2010 season. Prust is coach John Tortarella’s kind of player. He kills penalties, can fight, can disrupt opposing team’s top lines, and can score on occasion, especially on the penalty kill. In 2010-11, Prust had 5 short-handed goals. This past season, he added another two.
Prust won’t command a lot of money and has already had talks with the Rangers, although the two sides are not yet on the page financially. He won’t command a ton of money, even if tests the free agent market. However, Prust has become an integral part of the New York Rangers and losing him would hurt the Rangers more than another team would gain by adding him. It’s no coincidence that Prust has enjoyed his two best seasons in the NHL with the Rangers under Tortarella. Eighteen of his 24 career goals and 28 of his 39 assists have come as a Ranger. Sure, he could improve a new team’s penalty kill but at what cost?
The Rangers biggest competition might be from the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs lack size and gritty players like Prust and Toronto GM might see Prust as an upgrade for his fourth line and might be willing to pay a little more than the Rangers would be willing to. However, it is believed that Prust’s priority is to stay with the Rangers. However, during the NHL Draft, GM Glen Sather stated it didn’t look likely that Prust would be in a Rangers sweater next season. It is believed the Rangers and Prust are about $1-1.2 million off on a three-year contract. Sather’s words could be nothing more than posturing through the media to force Prust’s hand. Or, Sather could be telling the truth and focusing on someone else in the free agent or trade markets. However, I think the Rangers are a better team with Prust than without. I understand the Rangers wanting to have some money to spend elsewhere in free agency to fill bigger needs like a top-line forward. I also understand Prust’s desire to earn as much money as possible during what is the prime of his career.
There is a reason Prust saw his ice time dramatically increase once he put on the Rangers sweater, he is their type of player. If the Rangers want to make it to, and win, a Stanley Cup Final then they will need Prust on their fourth line.