New York Rangers: Grading the extension of gritty forward Brendan Lemieux

The New York Rangers have retained some much-needed grit after re-signing Brendan Lemieux.

As first reported by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the New York Rangers avoided arbitration by signing the lionhearted Brendan Lemieux to a two-year, $3.1 million with an AAV of $1.55 million.

It completes the Rangers roster for the 2020-21 NHL season and it also brings back a real presence in Lemieux, who plays a hard-nosed game for the Blueshirts.

And it comes just a day after New York re-signed second-line center Ryan Strome to a two-year, $9 million contract, with there being a feeling that the forward was slightly overpaid.

But, for now, let’s revert our attention back to Lemieux and what this contract means for both player and franchise…

Heart & Soul

The New York Rangers are in the final stages of their rebuild and they will begin the 2020-21 season with a talent-laden roster boasting exciting talent in the likes of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox and goalie phenom Igor Shesterkin.

However, while skill and speed is incredibly important in today’s National Hockey League, there is still room for size and brute force.

Brendan Lemieux certainly ticks both of those boxes for the Rangers and he brings an abundance of grit and tenacity to the table for this young roster.

Built very much in the same image as his famous dad Claude Lemieux, Brendan is a fearless competitor on the ice and he’s very much a throwback in terms of how he plays the game with heart and soul.

Able to hit like an absolute train, battle hard in the corners, make big plays at both ends of the ice and drop the gloves when needed, Lemieux is very much the protector of this young Rangers team despite only being 24 himself.

Granted, he can be guilty of the odd cheap shot but he’s a pest in the best sense of the word and he does a stellar job of getting under the skin of his opponents.

Lemieux can also contribute offensively and he carved out a career-year in 2019-20, putting up six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 59 regular season games.

He racked up 111 penalty minutes while averaging 12:52 of ATOI, and he also accumulated 164 hits, which was a career-high in that category.

You can make a strong argument that Lemieux will have an even bigger role to play for the Rangers in 2020-21 after Jesper Fast signed for the Carolina Hurricanes in Free Agency, and the Blueshirts will be relying on Lemieux to play the physical brand of hockey that his family name is built upon and takes so much pride in.

Brendan Lemieux, #48

Brendan Lemieux #48 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Grading The Contract

This can be considered a good deal for both team and player right out of the gate for a couple of key reasons.

Firstly, Brendan Lemieux plays a certain role and he does a job that very few players on the New York Rangers can carry out.

As such, Lemieux will continue to be the main physical wrecking ball for the Rangers, while he could have a bigger role on the penalty kill now Jesper Fast is no longer a member of the organization.

Secondly, Lemieux is still young at 24 and could dramatically improve over the next two years, putting the player in line for a potential rise while making this deal look even more of a bargain for the Rangers.

As already mentioned, Lemieux’s role could grow in 2020-21 given that the Blueshirts lack a lot of size and strength, so they will be relying on the hard-nosed left winger to continue to play the type of brute force game that is his bread and butter, while also growing as an offensive contributor who can chip in with secondary scoring.

The contract itself – two years with an AAV of $1.55 million – leaves the Rangers with $4,829,367 in cap space according to CapFriendly, which could lead to a couple of depth moves although the franchise are on the hook for a boatload of performance bonus penalties for Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Igor Shesterkin.

Overall, this is a fair deal for both the New York Rangers who need to get tougher to play against, and for Brendan Lemieux who will certainly help his team be just that with his physical style of play.