As rumored, the New York Rangers have signed KHL defenseman Alexei Bereglazov. Bereglazov had recently confirmed that he would be heading to North America after this season, and the Rangers have long been linked—originally by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. The (just turned) 23-year old defender will add another piece to the Rangers blueline and may step into the spotlight as soon as next year. His age means the entry-level deal can only be for two years, and it is likely that the deal starts next season since he would have to pass through waivers to be eligible for these playoffs.
Bereglazov is left-handed, but spend much of this season playing the right side for Magnitogorsk and could continue there for the Rangers. The big blueliner broke out somewhat this season, recording 19 points in 60 games, the most by a defender 24 years or under. His offensive upside is the big selling point, though he still struggles at times moving the puck quickly out of his own end. With the size 6’4″ to step into the NHL right away, he’ll likely break camp with the team and be given a chance to start 2017-18.
It is an interesting situation the Rangers find themselves in on defence, with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi still signed long-term but not performing well enough to deserve the $10MM+ hit their combined salaries cause on the cap. With the team seemingly wanting to go after Kevin Shattenkirk, and perhaps even re-sign Brendan Smith after his successful stint with the team, there isn’t enough money or ice time to go around. While Vegas could potentially pluck one of their problems away in the expansion draft—if they can get one of them to waive their NMC—it isn’t very likely. Instead, they may have to consider the very unattractive buyout option for at least one.
In any case, the Rangers have added some solid depth for nothing but an entry-level contract, bringing Bereglazov over away from the KHL. If he can have even a portion of the success that Nikita Zaitsev showed in Toronto this year, they’ve bought themselves another asset. At the very least, this shows the continued willingness of Russian-born KHLers to leave the league for the NHL, despite its recent Olympic decision. The pipeline continues to go both ways.